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Corey Lewandowski says Trump might not replace his chief of staff, John Kelly, if he leaves

The president’s former campaign manager says Trump is more comfortable managing his own staff.

Corey Lewandowski at Trump Tower in 2016.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski suggested Sunday that the White House might decide to scrap the position of chief of staff if John Kelly leaves. Speaking with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, Lewandowski affirmed Steve Bannon’s assertion last week that Trump would rather manage his own staff than find a replacement for Kelly.

Lewandowski said Trump is more comfortable getting input from a small group of four or five people, just like he did at the Trump Organization — and those people would then be responsible for implementing the president’s agenda.

I think that’s a scenario that could very well play out. We know that John F. Kennedy didn’t have a chief of staff his entire presidency; he had it for a period of time. Jimmy Carter, to a lesser extent, the same thing. But the difference with this president is he is the decision-maker and he loves to have all of the information brought to him. I see him as the hub with a number of spokes coming out. I’m not advocating for Gen. Kelly to leave; I think he should stay. But if he were to go, I don’t think there’s one person that is the chosen one to step in and fill that role.

White House insiders have been saying for months that Trump is unhappy with Kelly and has been thinking about firing him — which the White House denies. But the recent staff shake-ups at the White House, including Trump’s firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, have reignited speculation that Kelly will soon get the boot or choose to leave.

Lewandowski remains a close confidant to the president. He did not, however, say anything Sunday about possibly working again for Trump. The former campaign manager took a few minutes to defend his role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, saying he turned down proposals from the political consulting firm three times as the head of Trump’s campaign.

“I never approved Cambridge Analytica’s contract,” Lewandowski told Todd. “They did not work for the campaign when I was the manager. We have to be clear about that. They pitched me three times; three times, I said no. They did not come to the campaign until after I left.”

Cambridge Analytica, which is partially owned by Bannon, has come under fire after reports that it wrongfully used the data of about 50 million Facebook users to help the Trump campaign. The firm’s work with the campaign was first reported in June 2016, around the time Lewandowski was fired by Paul Manafort. Last week, the Guardian and the New York Times published details about how the firm harvested Facebook data to influence voters.