Donald Trump's campaign manager has been charged with simple battery of a former Breitbart reporter
The Jupiter, Florida, Police Department has also released new video that shows the alleged incident
The Jupiter Police Department told CNN that Lewandowski was arrested Tuesday morning after turning himself in on the misdemeanor charge of simple battery.
They said Lewandowski has been released and his initial court appearance is scheduled for May 4. The department also released new video that shows the alleged incident from an overhead angle.
Campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks and one of Lewandowski’s lawyers, Scott Richardson, both released a statement Tuesday saying Lewandowski is “absolutely innocent of this charge,” and will plead not guilty.
“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,” the statement said.
The arrest of Lewandowski, known for his brash style and for being fiercely loyal to Trump, immediately raised fresh questions about his future with the Trump campaign. Trump currently has a sizable lead in the delegate race and is hoping to clinch the party’s nomination outright. With a “Never Trump” campaign effort aimed at stopping the GOP front-runner from gaining steam, the latest development will only fuel Trump’s critics and serve as another distraction for the New York billionaire, who has moved from one controversy after another to this election cycle.
In a gaggle on his private plane Tuesday afternoon, Trump told reporters that Lewandowski was a “fine person,” and suggested he would not part ways with his campaign manager.
“I don’t discard people,” Trump said.
Speaking later Tuesday at a town hall event in Janesville, Wisconsin, Trump said, “I’m not going to destroy a man for that,” adding that it would have been the “easiest thing” to say “you’re fired.”
In a series of tweets, Trump suggested that Fields physically touched him following the March 8 press conference. “Why is she allowed to grab me and shout questions? Can I press charges?” he wrote, with a blurry screen shot of himself and Fields from the evening.
He then tweeted a photo zoomed into Fields’ hand near his arm, and posed this question: “Why is this reporter touching me as I leave news conference? What is in her hand??”
CNN tried to contract Fields multiple times on Tuesday but could not reach her.
The police report states that Fields came to the Jupiter Police Department on March 11, three days after the alleged incident at a Trump campaign press conference. According to the police officer who interviewed Fields that day, she indicated that after she asked Trump a question, she “felt someone yank her left arm” and that she “fell back but caught herself from falling.”
“Fields showed me her left forearm, which revealed bruising from what appeared to be several finger marks indicating a grabbing type injury,” the officer wrote.
On the plane, Trump raised questions about the bruises.
“How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” Trump said. “Wouldn’t you think she would have yelled out a scream or something if she had bruises on her arm?”
After Fields went public with her allegation against Lewandowski, but before she went to the police, the campaign forcefully denied her claim, with Trump himself saying that he thought Fields “made the story up.” He also said that Secret Service officers who were present told him that “nothing happened.”
At the time, Lewandowski called Fields an “attention seeker” and called her “totally delusional,” adding in a tweet to her, “I never touched you.”
Hicks had also challenged Fields’ credibility, saying in a statement, “We leave to others whether is this part of a larger pattern of exaggerating incidents, but on multiple occasions she has become part of the news story as opposed to reporting it. Recall she also claimed to have been beaten by a New York City Police officer with a baton.”
The campaign has faced widespread criticism for not taking an allegation of violence seriously. Hicks previously said no camera captured the incident, when in fact a surveillance camera in Trump’s building did record it.
Trump’s remaining Republican opponents quickly responded to the charges.
Ted Cruz told reporters that there was an “abusive culture” on the Trump campaign.
“This is the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign,” Cruz said. “The abusive culture, when you have a campaign that is built on personal insults, attacks and now physical violence, that has no place in our campaign, it has no place in our democracy.”
John Kasich went as far as to suggest that Lewandowski should be fired, calling the circumstances “totally and complete inappropriate.”
“It could’ve been one of my daughters, for that matter,” the Ohio governor told reporters in Waukesha, Wisconsin. “If it was me, if I was in this circumstance, I would take some sort of action, either suspension or firing.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was not letting the incident go unnoticed either.
“It is a very serious charge the Trump campaign will have to answer for and obviously every candidate is responsible for the culture they create in their campaign,” campaign spokesman Brian Fallon told CNN.
Lewandowski is being represented by Scott Richardson of The Law Office of Scott N. Richardson, P.A. in West Palm Beach and Kendall Coffey of Coffey Burlington in Miami.
Fields, a regular guest on cable news, was working for Breitbart News at the time of the incident. The website, a favorite of Trump’s supporters, eventually defended Fields, but was widely criticized for a tepid initial response to the alleged assault.
The following week, Fields and several other staffers resigned from Breitbart. She said, “I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways.”
She responded to Trump’s Tweet Tuesday saying that the statements had changed in a tweet of her own.
“Because my story never changed. Seriously, just stop lying,” she wrote.
CNN’s Dylan Byers, Ashley Killough, Cassie Spodak, Shawn Nottingham, Jeremy Diamond and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.