The first rule of West Wing fight club: You do not talk about fight club — until several months later and to the press.
The New York Times, citing half a dozen sources, reported that an altercation in February between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Corey Lewandowski turned physical, requiring the Secret Service to intervene in the episode outside the Oval Office.
According to Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers, the near-brawl happened after a joint meeting between the men and President Trump. After a shouting match, Kelly grabbed Lewandowski by his collar and tried to push him against a wall. Lewandowski did not get physical, and the two men agreed to move on after Secret Service agents appeared on the scene.
The event occurred the day that families of the Parkland high school shooting victims were invited to the White House. Lewandowski, who served as Trump’s first campaign manager, had a scheduled meeting in the Oval Office shortly after, during which Kelly accused him of profiting off the president through his Super PAC contract and of making negative remarks about Kelly on national television.
The brawl is a result of both Kelly and Lewandowski’s fiery temperaments and the generally chaotic atmosphere that Trump allows within his administration.
Kelly has a reputation for being confrontational. As Haberman and Rogers point out, he had a recent shouting match with National Security Adviser John Bolton that involved yelling profanities. Last year, he got into a physical scuffle with a Chinese official who “was seeking access to the nuclear football, the briefcase that includes the president’s mobile nuclear-missile command center,” according to the Wall Street Journal at the time.
Lewandowski made national headlines in the spring of 2016 when security camera video showed him yanking a Breitbart reporter by the arm as she tried to ask Trump a question following a news conference in Florida. Trump defended his then-campaign manager in the aftermath of the event, and opted to shift the blame to the reporter.
“She bolts into the picture, she hits me on the arm and then he goes by and maybe he touched her a little bit,” Trump said at a Wisconsin rally. “It was almost like he was trying to keep her off me, like he was trying to help her.”
Lewandowski was charged with one count of simple battery but was not prosecuted. He was eventually fired from Trump’s campaign team but remained in the president’s orbit: In May 2018, he joined a PAC for Vice President Mike Pence. The latest report indicates that even before that, he’d had at least one memorable Oval Office meeting.