CAUGHT ON CAMERA?
Police charged Donald Trump’s campaign manager with simple battery Tuesday as a videotaped altercation with a reporter transformed what was another messy campaign sideshow into a criminal court summons. Trump decried the charges.
Jupiter, Fla., police determined that probable cause existed to charge Corey Lewandowski, who has served as Trump’s most trusted political adviser for much of the past year. Police on Tuesday morning issued Lewandowski a notice to appear before a judge on May 4 for the misdemeanor charge, which carries up to a year in jail.
Speaking to reporters on his airplane in Wisconsin on Tuesday, Trump said Lewandowski has been “very seriously maligned,” vowing to stand by him.
“I can’t just stand by and watch a man’s life be destroyed,” Trump said. “I’m sticking up for a person because I’m not going to let a person’s life be destroyed. No jury, in my opinion, would convict a man and destroy a man’s life over what you witnessed.”
This injects a court battle into an already contentious Republican primary season just a week before a high-profile election in Wisconsin.
The Trump campaign released a statement declaring Lewandowski “absolutely innocent of this charge.”
“He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court,” said the statement. “He is completely confident that he will be exonerated.”
Police charged Lewandowski after reviewing a surveillance video of the incident, obtained from security at the Trump-owned property where the incident occurred. Police determined that the video shows Lewandowski grabbing Michelle Fields, who worked for Breitbart News at the time, as she tried to ask Trump a question during a March 8 campaign event.
Trump cast doubt on her claims, telling reporters that he doubts her claims that she suffered bruises from Lewandowski.
“How do you know those bruises weren’t there before? She said she had a bruise on her arm. Take a look at her facial expression, her facial expression doesn’t even change,” he said. Earlier Tuesday, Trump released a series of tweets reversing a previous position that the incident never happened, hinting instead that he feared for his safety.
“Why is this reporter touching me as I leave news conference? What is in her hand??” Trump tweeted along with a picture that appears to show the reporter holding a pen.
“Why is she allowed to grab me and shout questions? Can I press charges?” he wrote, calling Lewandowski “a very decent man” and saying Fields “changed her tune.”
Fields shot back on Twitter: “My story never changed. Seriously, just stop lying.”
The New York businessman’s rivals seized
Donald Trump, on the news, which comes a week before a Wisconsin primary contest that could give Trump an insurmountable delegate lead or give his opponents new hope of a contested national convention.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the incident is “the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign—the abusive culture when you have a campaign that is built on personal insults, on attacks and now physical violence.”
“That has no place in a political campaign, it has no place in our democracy,” Cruz told reporters as he campaigned in Wisconsin, suggesting that “it helps clarify for the voters what the Trump campaign is all about.”
Cruz asked his senior aide, Rick Tyler, to resign in February for spreading a story that falsely alleged that former rival Marco Rubio insulted the Bible.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he “probably would suspend somebody” depending on the evidence available.
“When we see things that we think are inappropriate, we take action, and that’s what I would do,” Kasich said while campaigning in Wisconsin.
Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski GETTY IMAGES