Remember, Trump's entire justification for (a) threatening to exploit Heidi Cruz's past struggles with depression and (b) retweeting a mean-spirited image ridiculing her physical appearance is that Lyin' Ted "started it" by releasing an ad highlighting a racy photo of Trump's wife, Melania. Setting aside the juvenile nature of this explanation ("with all due respect, sir, that's the argument of a five-year-old.") it's always been factually false. The original photo that Trump says triggered his impulse-control-challenged histrionics surfaced because of a $300 Facebook ad buy from Make America Awesome, an anti-Trump SuperPAC with no affiliation to Cruz. Ignoring facts to the contrary, Trump continues to publicly accuse Cruz of approving or knowing about the ad, which would be a federal elections crime if true. He offers zero substantiating evidence, of course. Meanwhile, Cruz has alleged that Trump is behind a separate National Enquirer smear piece, even though those bread crumbs haven't been connected either. Sure, there's plenty of circumstantial evidence: The tabloid has endorsed Trump, who is very close with its CEO -- who, in turn, has reportedly instructed his "journalists" to lay off the celebrity billionaire. Plus, the only person quoted in the story is former Trump campaign aide and longtime confidante Roger Stone. But all of that still doesn't represent definitive corroboration that Team Trump planted the story, even though they've aggressively highlighted and circulated in an exceedingly unseemly manner. Which brings us to Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager who has been arrested for simple battery against a female reporter. Here's how he pushed back against Cruz's contention that the unsourced, evidence-free Enquirer smear was a Trump hit job:
Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that Ted Cruz’s campaign was not involved in an attack ad on Trump’s wife, Melania. Lewandowski’s comments contradict his own candidate’s repeated claims the Cruz campaign was responsible. Lewandowski made the comments on the John Fredericks Show, where he denied the Trump campaign had any involvement with a National Enquirer story alleging Cruz had affairs with five different women. Roger Stone, a long time Trump aide who is no longer affiliated with the campaign, was quoted in the story. “I have no control over what Roger Stone does, doesn’t work for the campaign. He’s an independent individual who has no relationship with the campaign in any way, shape, or form,” said Lewandowski. “For them to intimate otherwise is completely inaccurate and it’s a narrative that they want to continue to perpetuate. The bottom line is Roger Stone is as much tied to this campaign as the super PAC that leaked that is tied to the Cruz campaign.”
Stone is actually much more explicitly tied to Trumpworld than Make America Awesome is to Cruz, but the point his well taken nonetheless. Last night on CNN, Trump claimed that "everybody knows that [Cruz] sent [the Melania ad] out." Lewandowski is saying exactly the opposite -- and correctly so, as it happens. The embattled campaign aide is under renewed fire today, as a group of conservative-leaning female media figures signed a letter requesting that Trump fire his campaign manager over the now-famous Florida incident and subsequent arrest. Former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields alleges that Lewandowski grabbed and yanked her, leaving her bruised and shaken, an account that has been confirmed by video, audio and eyewitness evidence. At the time, Lewandowski claimed he never touched Fields, whom he called "delusional" -- now a proven lie. Trump still insists that she's lying, stating repeatedly that he will not dismiss Lewandowski because, in part, "I don't discard people, I stay with people." But as I briefly mentioned earlier today, that wasn't the case just a few years ago when a different aide was unceremoniously canned for the sin of unintentionally causing embarrassment to Donald Trump:
BuzzFeed political reporter McKay Coppins spent 36 hours schlepping around New Hampshire — and then Palm Beach — with Donald Trump for a story that would expose the billionaire’s hot bluff of a gubernatorial run as precisely that. But the piece went one further. Padded to the gills with prime snippets of Trump’s political posturing and pandering, it cost The Donald’s top advisor and political consultant, Sam Nunberg, his job. Nunberg’s crime, it seems, was simply letting Donald Trump act like Donald Trump — in the presence of an enemy combatant. The aide, as Trump told the New York Post, had vouched for Coppins’ loyalties, assuring his boss that the reporter “is a friend of mine” whose story “will be fair.”
Coppins' lengthy article, which almost reads like satire, was hilarious and almost unremittingly unflattering (simply by conveying Trump's own words and actions over the course of a 36-hour visit). Nunberg was promptly "discarded," as Trump would put it. One might argue that Donald Trump takes personal ego bruises more seriously than physical bruises on women's arms. But now that Lewandowski has exploded his boss's weak excuse for his "utterly stupid" Heidi Cruz nastiness, maybe he should start to sweat a little. Unlike other foibles, making "Mister Trump" look bad will not be tolerated.