Ever since Corey Lewandowski landed a commentator’s gig at CNN shortly after being dumped as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, rumors have abounded that Lewandowski is still working for the Donald. Well, the strongest evidence yet that Lewandowski is still on Trump’s payroll came this weekend, when Lewandowski was spotted trying to slink off Trump’s campaign plane.
Politico’s Ben Schreckinger was on the tarmac in Newark when Trump’s plane arrived, and was surprised to see Lewandowski scurrying off–while trying to hide his face from cameras.
Lewandowski just got off Trump's plane with a hood pulled down way over his face pic.twitter.com/l9bgU1sPpC
— Ben Schreckinger (@SchreckReports) October 15, 2016
The temperature in Newark at the time was in the 70s, so there was no reason for Lewandowski to even have a hoodie on in the first place.
It turned out that a number of political reporters spotted Lewandowski traveling with the Trump campaign up and down the East Coast that day. One of the first to notice was ABC’s John Santucci.
Just saw Corey Lewandowski jump into the Trump motorcade. Must have come along from NH. It's like the old days.
— John Santucci (@Santucci) October 15, 2016
NBC’s Sopan Deb chimed in, pointing out that Lewandowski was now working for CNN.
That's CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski, by the way. https://t.co/AOgmK3sjim
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) October 15, 2016
This raised a lot of eyebrows. For one thing, media personnel normally don’t accompany Trump’s inner circle. More seriously, concerns have been raised that Lewandowski is still working for Trump. When he signed on with CNN, he was still taking severance pay from Trump (which supposedly ended in late September). Due to this, Lewandowski’s hiring was roundly criticized, since CNN had previously stated that it would not hire commentators who were on a campaign’s payroll. He was also reportedly advising and even traveling with the Trump campaign for much of the summer. Additionally, he is still bound by a non-disclosure agreement that bars him from disparaging Trump on-air.
On September 21, Lewandowski had a planned appearance on “New Day” canceled amid reports that he had another line on Trump’s payroll besides the severance payments. This briefly led to reports that Lewandowski had been suspended, though Lewandowski appeared on CNN later that day.
Now it looks like Lewandowski is going to have some more explaining to do. Former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien thinks this is curious at best.
This is pretty unusual. Generally speaking, a networks's Standards and Practices team would not be okay with this: https://t.co/NEmPhgXJyP
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) October 16, 2016
CNN has gotten deservedly reamed for giving airtime to a number of Trump surrogates who try to mainstream Trump’s hot air. On Friday, Media Matters’ Carlos Maza put out a blistering critique of the “professional Trump supporters” on CNN’s roster of contributors. Watch it here.
But CNN could potentially have a situation that is many times worse than that–a commentator who may be, for all intents and purposes, a Trump campaign staffer. Unless Lewandowski has a very good explanation for this, he has to go.