President Donald Trump all-but endorsed a potential Senate run by his former campaign manager ahead of a campaign rally in New Hampshire where Corey Lewandowski is expected to join Trump on stage.
Lewandowski has been huddling with New Hampshire political operatives and confidants in recent weeks – joined in some meetings by his wife – as he mulls a potential Senate bid in the Granite State, multiple sources familiar with the discussions said. He now appears to have his former boss’s blessing, a voice that could help sway Republican primary voters.
Lewandowski never joined the White House, but has remained an influential voice in Trump’s ear, serving in his kitchen cabinet of informal outside advisers.
“I think he would be fantastic,” Trump said of his former campaign manager in a radio interview on Wednesday. “I don’t think he’s made that decision yet. I will say this – if he ran, he would be a great senator. If he ran and won, he’d be a great senator. He would be great for New Hampshire. He would be great for the country.”
But a Lewandowski candidacy would also exhume a slew of controversies.
Lewandowski was charged with battery after he grabbed a female reporter who was attempting to question Trump after a news conference during the 2016 campaign, though the charges were later dropped.
One New Hampshire Republican operative also noted that Lewandowski would be forced to reveal the sources of his income over the course of the Trump presidency, a disclosure he has closely guarded while serving as an adviser to various clients and alongside lobbyists even though he did not register as a lobbyist.
Lewandowski also features prominently in the investigatory report by special counsel Robert Mueller, which reveals that Trump sought to curtail the Mueller investigation by directing Lewandowski to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, Trump told Lewandowski, was to declare the investigation “very unfair” to the President and to announce that he would meet with Mueller and “let (him) move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.” Lewandowski never delivered the message.
The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena on Thursday demanding Lewandowski appear publicly before the committee. The subpoena did not come as a surprise as Lewandowski was one of 12 officials the committee authorized subpoenas for last month.
The committee is interested in speaking to Lewandowski about episodes related to obstruction of justice from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, including the incident involving Sessions.
It’s not clear whether Lewandowski would comply with the committee’s subpoena or answer questions about that episode but the White House is already exploring the possibility of invoking executive privilege even though Lewandowski never served in the administration.
Other former White House officials have refused to discuss matters that occurred during the Trump administration under direction from the White House, and Lewandowski did not answer questions about anything beyond the 2016 election when he testified last year before the House Intelligence Committee.
Stage is set
Lewandowski is scheduled to meet Trump at the airport ahead of the rally on Thursday and White House and campaign aides said they expected Trump to invite Lewandowski on stage during the rally. Lewandowski is also expected to be joined at the rally by his wife and children, a rarity that is fueling rumors that Lewandowski is on the precipice of announcing a Senate bid.
In recent days, Lewandowski also met with National Republican Senatorial Committee officials in Washington, a source familiar with the matter said.
But the possibility of a Senate run by the hard-charging, sharp-elbowed political operative has provoked a backlash from some Republican officials and strategists who worry that Lewandowski – who cashed in on his connection to Trump through a lucrative and opaque consulting business over the last two years – would struggle to defeat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and could drag down Trump’s chances of capturing the state’s four electoral votes.
“Corey Lewandowski is a shadow lobbyist with a nefarious client list that includes foreign interests, which is why New Hampshire Republicans and even Gov. Chris Sununu have been keeping their distance,” said Josh Marcus-Black, a New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman.
Lewandowski allies, meanwhile, insist a bid by the longtime Trump adviser would help drive up enthusiasm among Trump’s core voters in the state and make Trump more invested in winning the state, which Trump lost by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2016, one Lewandowski ally said.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Herb and Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.