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Donald Trump and his band of operatives

The real estate mogul hired Paul Manafort, a Washington lobbyist with ties to previous Republican administrations, a few months ago

The circle of advisors around Donald Trump has been broken. The strongest link in the chain, Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, was fired on Monday after making his mark on this presidential run thanks to his aggressive approach and several incidents, including one that resulted in a journalist filing a lawsuit against him. Lewandowski had been fighting to maintain leadership within his camp since the arrival of a new heavyweight advisor, Paul Manafort. He may now be the man to take the reins.

Paul Manafort on NBC's Meet the Press.
Paul Manafort on NBC's Meet the Press. Getty Images

“It is very clear that Paul has taken control of this campaign,” one Trump worker told New York Magazine several weeks ago. Another one said the tension at their Manhattan headquarters was like “a civil war.” Several staffers said they found out about Lewandowski’s departure on the news.

So far, everything fits in with what has become normal in this Republican campaign. Only one candidate could, after a major electoral victory, put the spotlight on a campaign manager who has been accused of assaulting a female reporter at an event. Trump is that candidate. Lewandowski and his defiant style were on display as he escorted his boss to the podium for a victory speech in Florida.

Before working for Trump, Lewandowski had helped Charles and David Koch build up the conservative lobby Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire, one of the most important states in the primaries. His $20,000 monthly compensation included an apartment in the Trump Tower in Manhattan. Politico has described Lewandowski as an “intense, Red Bull-chugging operative [who] has been accused of bullying and other inappropriate behavior.”

‘Slate’ says Manafort “made a career out of stealthily reinventing the world’s nastiest tyrants as noble defenders of freedom”

Lewandowski has confronted attendees at Trump campaign events. Michelle Fields, a journalist, filed a lawsuit against him for assault but the prosecutor has dropped the case. Besides organizing the campaign and making statements on behalf of his candidate, Lewandowski was in charge of the search for Trump’s running mate.

That task may fall to Manafort now. The experienced lobbyist was first hired to design the strategy for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and he worked directly under Trump. Manafort has advised candidates such as Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan’s rival in 1976, and he is a well-known expert on Republican conventions.

Manafort is a familiar name in Washington, where he runs an international lobby. Slate says he “made a career out of stealthily reinventing the world’s nastiest tyrants as noble defenders of freedom.” The magazine listed his previous work for political leaders such as deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Somali President Siad Barre in 1989. A lobbyist who worked for him during that period said in her autobiography that Manafort tried to apply a “mercenary” strategy in Washington in order to defend the interests of his foreign clients, including government officials in Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and the Philippines.

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The K Street lobbyist has ties to the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. In 1992, the Center for Public Integrity featured his firm on its report “The Torturers Lobby” as one of the top five American companies representing the interests of dictators and foreign presidents accused of human rights violations.

Lewandowski’s departure may also put the campaign’s political director, Michael Glassner, at risk. His former boss was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. After that fiasco, he became a Tea Party advisor and lobbied for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He has worked for several Republican candidates over the last three decades, including George W. Bush in 2000.

After Trump tapped him as his political director, Glassner said he was “proud” of the opportunity and described the Republican candidate as “the very definition of the American success story.”

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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