Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged Tuesday morning with misdemeanor simple battery, several weeks after allegedly grabbed the arm of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields at a Florida campaign event.
Lewandowski turned himself in to Jupiter, Fla., police just after 8 a.m. ET, and according to the Trump campaign he will fight the charges. “Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge,” the campaign said in a statement. “He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated.”
According to the affidavit filed by detective Marc Bujnowski, surveillance video of the incident "parallels what Fields had told me, in that Trump was walking towards the exit of the ballroom, taking questions and signing autographs. Fields is seen on video, holding her phone up to Trump, appearing to ask him a question... Lewandowski then grabbed Fields left arm with his right hand, causing her to turn and step back. This motion cleared a path for Lewandowski to walk past Fields, allowing him to 'catch up' and get closer to Trump, who was walking during this entire incident."
Following the March 8 incident, however, the campaign waged a coordinated war on Fields's character, accusing her of having previously accused officials of manhandling her at rallies and political events.
Lewandowski outright denied the accusations, calling Fields “delusional,” and declaring, “I never touched you.” The newly released surveillance footage proves he lied.
Trump himself made a point to bring Lewandowski on stage during a primary victory speech and congratulate his campaign manager for doing a “great job.” The Republican frontrunner "had no idea about the full facts about the incident," a Trump campaign insider told The Daily Beast. "Corey didn't show him the pictures. Corey was trying to hide it from him."
"I do believe that Donald has a blind spot for Corey," the insider added. "[Campaign spokeswoman Hope] Hicks is complicit in this as well—she does whatever [Lewandowski] wants."
Breitbart, for its part, offered only a mild-mannered defense of Fields following the incident, avoiding any rebuking of the Trump aide's behavior in its initial statement.
Several days later, the site's editor-at-large Joel Pollak published an article doubting Fields's and her colleague Ben Terris's account, and leaked internal chats showed Pollak ordering staffers to cease publicly defending Fields, despite protests from several writers. Fields eventually resigned from Breitbart, leading to an exodus of her fellow colleagues who felt the publication had become a proxy for the GOP frontrunner.
—Additional reporting by Olivia Messer