CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — One by one, the political operatives sitting around the table at Harvard’s campaign managers conference Wednesday afternoon explained why they thought their candidate could win — even though he or she ended up losing.
And then came Corey Lewandowski.
Lewandowski explained how he joined Donald Trump’s team in January 2015, and helped run “the most unconventional race in the history of the presidency” before his eventual firing 18 months later.
“Embracing Mr. Trump’s wealth and not running from it,” Lewandowski said, “was a strategic decision that we made early on.”
He continued: “The reason we did that is because he looked at the Romney campaign from four years ago and loves to tell the story that Mitt would drive somewhere and get out of the car, get in a Chevy, take a truck and pull up in a Chevy and pretend he wasn’t as rich as he really is.
“And he [Trump] said, no, no. I’m gonna pull up in my 757 and I’m gonna make sure everybody sees the giant Trump plane. If I can’t get that one, I’ll pull up in a private plane somewhere and we’re gonna have the most expensive cars. And I’m gonna do it so everyone understands what this country’s all about.”
Over the two-day session, Lewandowski dropped several tidbits about the Trump campaign’s internal deliberations, and offered some of his own controversial opinions.
- He suggested that Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, “should be in jail” for publishing Trump’s tax returns.
- He bragged that newspaper endorsements (which Trump got so few of) were “basically irrelevant this cycle.”
- He said that Trump was already “fully convinced that he was running for president” as far back as January 2015, when he got the job as campaign manager.
- He said that Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim immigration “took multiple days to vet internally,” and involved the campaign consulting several outside advisers, as well as thought about the “visuals” (“in South Carolina, on the back of a ship”) and the “timing” (Pearl Harbor Day).
Lewandowski complained that the media “took everything Donald Trump said so literally”
When asked whether Trump really believed that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in JFK’s assassination, as Trump infamously suggested, Lewandowski said on Thursday, “Look, he said this is what’s on the cover of a, you know, news outlet [the National Enquirer]. And the media decided to run with that.”
He continued with a pretty remarkable defense of Trump’s regular factual inaccuracy:
“See, this is the problem with the media. You guys took everything Donald Trump said so literally. And the problem with that is that the American people didn’t. And they understood it. They understood that sometimes when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s at the dinner table or whether it’s at the bar, wherever it is, you’re gonna say something and you don’t have all the facts to back that up. But that’s how the American people live!”
Lewandowski claimed Cruz’s campaign manager gave the Trump campaign advice on how to win New Hampshire — advice they took
The previous day, Lewandowski had explained that shortly after the first 2016 primary contest — the Iowa caucuses, which Ted Cruz won — he got a phone call in which Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, gave him advice on how to win New Hampshire.
“After Iowa, someone at this table, Jeff Roe, called me,” Lewandowski said. “He said, ‘You know, in New Hampshire your numbers are dropping like a rock. John Kasich is gonna catch you if you don’t fundamentally change the way you’re running your campaign and go out and be positive.”
Why would Roe offer this advice? As Lewandowski put it: “Cruz wasn’t playing in New Hampshire.” It seems that Roe was engaged in a too-clever-by-half effort to block Kasich, Bush, or Rubio from catching on. But Lewandowski says the Trump campaign took Roe’s advice, stayed positive, and won big in New Hampshire — and the rest is history.