Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has spoken with a pro-Vivek Ramaswamy super PAC about coming on board — and ran the idea by the former president before doing so.
Lewandowski has talked with American Exceptionalism PAC, an outside group that has been set up to bolster the candidacy of Ramaswamy, according to three people familiar with the discussions. The longtime GOP operative, who for a time led Trump’s 2016 campaign and has remained an ally of the ex-president, approached Trump within the last several weeks to tell him about the prospect of him joining the organization.
Trump did not raise any objections, according to those people familiar with the talks.
The discussions come amid a seemingly growing alliance between Trump and Ramaswamy, a wealthy businessman and conservative activist who is also seeking the Republican nomination. Ramaswamy has largely refrained from criticizing Trump. Just this week, he defended the former president after a New York City jury found him liable for sexually abusing and defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll.
Ramaswamy has also emerged as a persistent critic of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s chief primary rival.
Trump last week released a statement praising Ramaswamy, saying: “The thing I like about Vivek is that he only has good things to say about ‘President Trump,’ and all that the Trump Administration has so successfully done.”
Spokespersons for the Trump campaign and American Exceptionalism PAC declined to comment. Lewandowski did not respond to a request for comment. It is not clear whether Lewandowski will ultimately join the Super PAC and, if so, what exact role he would have.
Super PACs are prohibited by federal law from directly coordinating with campaigns. And the people familiar with the discussions say Trump simply did not raise any objections to Lewandowski joining the pro-Ramaswamy group, not as a means of placing him there to help his own election effort.
Still, Lewandowski’s presence at American Exceptionalism PAC could have the effect of bolstering Trump. With Lewandowski involved, top Republicans believe it would be inconceivable that the super PAC would target the former president, and would most likely focus its fire elsewhere.
American Exceptionalism PAC filed papers announcing its formation with the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 17, just a few days before Ramaswamy launched his campaign. Since then, the organization has reported spending a little under $90,000 to bolster Ramaswamy, in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Lewandowski has a long and complicated history with Trump. After serving as Trump’s campaign manager, he was fired in June 2016, as the then-candidate ramped up for a general election against Hillary Clinton. But Lewandowski remained a close ally and prominent surrogate of Trump’s throughout his administration. After Trump left the White House, Lewandowski was tapped to spearhead a pro-Trump super PAC.
But in Sept. 2021, Lewandowski was cast out of the former president’s political orbit following allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a major Trump donor during a charity dinner at a Las Vegas hotel. In Sept. 2022, after being charged by prosecutors with misdemeanor battery, Lewandowski agreed to a deal in which he underwent eight hours of impulse control counseling, served 50 hours of community service and paid a $1,000 fine. Lewandowski did not have to admit guilt, and under the agreement, the charges were to be dismissed once the conditions were met.
Lewandowski remained an ally of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and during a Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando, Fla., last November, he was spotted in the governor’s entourage. Noem had for a time been mentioned as a prospective 2024 candidate herself, though top Republicans no longer regard her as a likely candidate.