Police charge Trump campaign manager with assault

Steve Peoples
Associated Press

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – — Florida police have charged Donald Trump’s campaign manager with simple battery in connection with an incident earlier in the month involving a reporter.

After examining the evidence, Jupiter, Florida, police determined that probable cause existed to charge Corey Lewandowski, who has served as Trump’s top political aide for his entire presidential run. 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.

A surveillance video released by the police appears to show 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.

The Trump campaign said Lewandowski “is absolutely innocent of this charge” in a statement released Tuesday. “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.”

Trump himself called Lewandowski “a very decent man” on Twitter: “Look at the tapes — nothing there!” And late Tuesday at a Milwaukee town hall, Trump vigorously defended his aide when questioned by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The New York businessman’s rivals seized on the news, which comes a week before a high-profile contest in Wisconsin and in the midst of a messy Republican primary season.

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’s top aide, Rick Tyler, resigned in February for spreading a story that falsely alleged former rival Marco Rubio insulted the Bible.

“If he worked for John Kasich he would be fired,” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to the Ohio governor. “Campaigns though always reflect the values of the candidate. I know ours does.”

Critics also cast it as another example for why the brash billionaire would struggle to attract women in a prospective general election matchup against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The charge, a first-degree misdemeanor, carries a potential sentence of up to 1 year in prison or up to a $1,000 fine, according to Florida statutes.