In a phone call last month, President Donald Trump pitched his ousted 2016 campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on the idea of coming to the White House to work for him again.
The timing seemed ripe for a reunion after all. Nearly one year into the Trump era, Lewandowski had not become the massive power broker in Washington, D.C., that he’d set out to be, and was itching for an administration position. The president, meanwhile, was besieged by scandal, furious with those around him, and wanting more loyal voices and familiar faces nearby.
But despite the apparent alignment, the pitch didn’t work.
Four knowledgeable sources in and outside of the White House tell The Daily Beast that Lewandowski turned down what Trump had floated, in part because of ego. Trump had asked if he wanted a job that would place him in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, across the way from the West Wing, sources in and outside the administration say.
According to two people who spoke with Lewandowski, he “strongly” considered taking the gig, in hopes of getting to serve Trump in an official capacity once more. However, he came to the conclusion that the job wasn’t senior enough, telling friends that it was “beneath him.”
The White House would not confirm that a job offer was extended, let alone what job it was. But those close to Lewandowski say he told friends in October that he had been offered a senior post in the Office of Public Liaison, a unit that focuses on interest-group outreach and where another Trump loyalist, former Apprentice co-star Omarosa Manigault, currently serves as communications director. The office’s director position has been vacant since August, when it was announced that George Sifakis was leaving and an interim director was chosen.
Manigault said she could not speak to any offer as she was not involved in personnel matters. But one associate said that Lewandowski smirkingly called it “chump change” compared to what he wanted and thought he deserved.
Others apparently agreed. Last month, Lewandowski sought the advice of Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who encouraged him to tell the president thanks-but-no-thanks on OPL, according to a source familiar with their interactions.
Reached for comment on this story, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders simply replied: “No personnel announcements. Will let you know if we have one.” Lewandowski did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week from The Daily Beast. Following publication of this story on Friday, Lewandowski finally responded to The Daily Beast’s repeated inquiries, texting that “your story is false and not accurate” and that there was “no job offered or turned down. that’s a fact.” The Daily Beast stands by its reporting.
Had Lewandowski accepted the president’s proposal, he would have encountered considerable internal pushback inside the administration. Few besides Trump seem eager for a reunion, sources confirm, and some of the president’s closest advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, absolutely do not like and do not trust the former campaign manager.
“[I] had heard that the president was talking about offering another job [in October to Corey] and I just kept thinking, ‘Please, God above, let this not happen,’” one senior White House official said this week.
Over the years, Lewandowski has earned a reputation for infighting and also for behavior in the office that would make an H.R. manager’s face go pale.
When Trump came to the White House, he didn’t go with him. Instead, Lewandowski tried his hand at mastering the “swamp” Trump had repeatedly pledged to drain. Lewandowski co-founded a lobbying firm, Avenue Strategies, with fellow Team Trump operative Barry Bennett. But he parted ways over differences with Bennett and others at Avenue, whom Lewandowski claimed “had used his name without his authorization and signed up clients of whom he disapproved,” according to a May report in GQ.
Around that time, Trump actively considered signing Lewandowski on as a “crisis manager” to help him handle the flood of Russia-probe-related fallout. Multiple White House officials said they were “dreading” his potential return. Lewandowski stayed away, or was kept away, albeit while remaining in direct contact with the president.
Instead, he started up a new firm, Lewandowski Strategic Advisors, and brought with him at least one Avenue client, payday-lender Community Choice Financial. Lewandowski is not a lobbyist and his company is not a lobbying firm. Instead, Lewandowski Strategic Advisors provides more general political advisory services that allow him to work his Trump-era political connections without meeting the threshold for direct policy advocacy that would require him to disclose his clients, how much they pay him, and who he is contacting on their behalves.
Lewandowski’s other professional opportunities over the past year have petered out. In late July, he was fired by One America News Network, a conservative cable-news channel and Fox News wannabe that brought him on as a contributor shortly after the new year.
Lewandowski angered OANN leadership with his frequent appearances on Fox News and other competitors, which one former OANN employee described as “a big no-no” with the channel’s leadership.
His former OANN boss was not nearly as forgiving a superior as President Trump has proven to be.
In July, Robert Herring, One America’s chief executive, declined to comment directly on Lewandowski’s status with the channel save to note that the one-time Trump campaign manager was spending an inordinate amount of time on-air with OANN’s competitors. Asked if he had any reason to deny The Daily Beast’s reporting on Lewandowski being unable to hold down yet another job, Herring replied: “I have none whatsoever.”
—With additional reporting by Gideon Resnick and Sam Stein
Updated 11/3 at 1:06 pm to add comment from Lewandowski