CNN this morning made an announcement about some of its internal affairs. In introducing a discussion of the 2016 presidential race, host Alisyn Camerota turned to CNN political commentator Corey Lewandowski and said, “Now, in previous appearances, we have told you that Corey was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign, but that is no longer the case, we are told.”
She then asked Lewandowski whether he was “done” with those payments. “Amazing, right? Everything comes to an end, everything comes to an end,” said Lewandowski. “Forty days to go in the election and now this is the breaking news of the day.”
Camerota issued a mildly editorial remark: “I didn’t think those would ever run out.”
Such has been the attention on Lewandowski’s clear conflict of interest: He joined CNN shortly after his June firing as campaign manager with the Trump campaign. In July, CNN started disclosing his severance payments, and those disclosures turned into a running charade. Campaign finance reports revealed that Lewandowski’s Green Monster Consulting received payments of $20,000 from the Trump campaign in both July and August. As this blog noted, the arrangement contradicted any number of journalistic principles. CNN, after all, was essentially paying a key source — and the severance payments ensured that Lewandowski would never utter a word that veered from Trump campaign talking points. It’s apparent, too, that Lewandowski has labored under nondisclosure/nondisparagement clauses with camp Trump.
A CNN source tells the Erik Wemple Blog that Lewandowski “came to CNN and let us know that he and the campaign came to an agreement that his severance payment would be paid out to avoid future distractions. Corey and the campaign came to a private decision.”
Bolding added for a very good reason: When news of Lewandowski’s August payment emerged, the campaign issued a statement noting that Lewandowski would be paid through the end of the year. From the sound of things, Lewandowski is now just getting those payments in a lump sum. When we posed this question to our CNN source, we got this reply: “Yes his severance was paid out.”
So this is just a PR stunt. No longer will CNN and Lewandowski and the Trump campaign have to answer questions every time a campaign finance report emerges, yet the final payment will surface in next month’s batch of campaign-finance filings. That sounds like a “future distraction.” In any case, the conflicts underlying the pay arrangement remain.
We’ve asked the Trump campaign for comment on this matter and will update. Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells the Erik Wemple Blog,”The campaign has paid the remainder of its residual contractual obligations to Mr. Lewandowski. This final payment will be noted in the next FEC report.”
Updated with Trump campaign statement