In his first appearance as a CNN contributor, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski showed an unsurprising reverence for his ex-boss. Appearing last night with host Erin Burnett, Lewandowski was careful to refer to “Mr. Trump,” the proper honorific for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He leveled no criticisms of the candidate. And he said this, too: “I am fully committed in my private time with my family and my friends and telling everybody that I know that Donald Trump is the only person that is going to save this country for my children and hopefully their children someday.”
This is the quality of input that CNN is securing with its high-profile hiring of Lewandowski, who was fired from the Trump campaign on Monday.
In the interest of journalism, Burnett started out by asking Lewandowski whether he’d signed a non-disclosure agreement with Trump, an issue that this blog highlighted yesterday. “My confidentiality agreement is such where information I would be privy to — private conversations that take place between family members that are not meant for the public audience are going to be held in the closest and strictest of confidence with me,” replied Lewandowski, in part. Unsatisfied with that carefully circumscribed response, Burnett noted that Trump’s standard non-disclosure agreement binds people from saying negative things about Trumplandia. Did he sign such a thing?
Deciding it was time for a sports metaphor, Lewandowski replied, “I’m a guy who calls balls from strikes.”
The hiring of Lewandowski, accordingly, has reduced CNN to this pitiful reality: A true journalist like Burnett is forced to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised. Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes.
Yet there are other possible sources of taint for Lewandowski and his former boss. These two fellows worked together on a presidential campaign for a year, gathering some enemies along the way. One of them is Cheri Jacobus, a Republican consultant and PR adviser. After Jacobus commented on the Trump campaign in TV appearances, Lewandowski and Trump hammered her. For instance, a Feb. 2 tweet from Trump said this: “Great job on @donlemon tonight @kayleighmcenany @cherijacobus begged us for a job. We said no and she went hostile. A real dummy. @CNN.” A few days later, the candidate tweeted a similar sentiment: “Really dumb @cheriJacobus. Begged my people for a job. Turned her down twice and she went hostile. Major loser, zero credibility.” In an appearance on “Morning Joe,” Lewandowski said this about Jacobus: “She [Megyn Kelly] had Cheri Jacobus on yesterday, who…wanted to talk about Mr. Trump. This is the same person, I’ll just tell ya, who came to the office on multiple occasions trying to get a job from the Trump campaign, and when she wasn’t hired she went off and was upset by that.”
A defamation suit filed by Jacobus in New York County claims that those representations are false. It was the Trump camp, contends Jacobus’s complaint, that wooed her. She’s seeking $4 million in damages, just for starters.
Why mention this suit in the context of Lewandowski’s work for CNN? Because both he and Trump are named as defendants in the civil action. And according to court documents, a single law firm — LaRocca Hornik Rosen Greenberg & Blaha — is representing both of these men. Defending a defamation suit can cost significant sums. This blog has asked the Trump campaign as well as Lewandowski how the pay arrangements are proceeding. Is Trump footing the bill? Is Lewandowski? Have there been any changes in how the costs are handled since Lewandowski left the campaign?
Inquiries to Lewandowski, the Trump campaign, CNN and the
law firm haven’t yet fetched a single response.*
Little extrapolation is required to appreciate how this entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty to call balls and strikes on CNN. If Trump is paying for legal representation, for instance, why would Lewandowski call a bunch of balls and imperil the arrangement?
Those considerations stand apart, of course, from another set of considerations: That Lewandowski, with a big assist from his boss, slimed someone who dared to criticize Trump — and comes away with the reward of a CNN contributor gig.
*Update: Lawrence S. Rosen has responded to an inquiry and confirmed that he is the counsel of record to all the defendants in the case. He declined to comment on how the defendants were financing his services.