Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who has been with Trump since the beginning, has been ousted from the campaign.
The decision to part ways with the loyal aide was Trump's and he told Lewandowski Monday morning in a "direct conversation." Trump's top strategist, Paul Manafort, will be moved into the campaign manager role, two sources tell NBC News.
While Trump and Lewandowski are close, Trump made the decision because of systemic problems in the campaign that had spilled out into the public, leaving Trump's campaign floundering amid sinking poll numbers and image problems, multiple sources from inside the campaign said.
"The Donald J. Trump Campaign for President, which has set a historic record in the Republican primary having received almost 14 million votes, has today announced that Corey Lewandowski will no longer be working with the campaign," spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement. "The campaign is grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future."
Lewandowski's firing is a significant move that will have major implications on the campaign just one month before the Republican Party's nomination convention. It also appears to be a surprise as Lewandowski was with Trump at campaign events and fundraisers as recently as this weekend.
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Lewandowski's exit comes at a time when Trump's poll numbers are slumping, he's struggling to implement an organization to run a national campaign, criticism from Republican officials continues to mount, and efforts to deny Trump the nomination emerge.
After the primaries concluded, Lewandowski had been assigned internal management of major portfolios, including Republican outreach, the running mate search and liaison to the transition team. But a reservoir of mistrust existed in the fragile relationship between Lewandowski and the Republican National Committee. Lewandowski told associates he did not feel the RNC had been fully transparent in early meetings after Indiana's primary. There was concern about whether the party would fully get behind Trump or focus more on preserving a majority for Speaker Ryan and Senate Republicans, according to concerns.
Lewandowski remained loyal to his former boss. In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Lewandowski said he is "honored" to have been able to work with Trump and that he will continue to support the nominee in his role as head of the New Hampshire delegate chair. He also offered to play a role in the campaign in either a "formal or informal" role.
The Trump campaign had been in internal turmoil as Lewandowski clashed with Manafort, a seasoned campaign operative who has attempted to polish Trump and employ a more traditional campaign structure. Lewandowski is known for letting "Trump be Trump," a mantra that some within the campaign say has caused serious, unnecessary errors. And the two have blocked each other from hiring top aides.
Trump's children, especially Ivanka, have been unhappy with Lewandowski, according to campaign sources. She has been unnerved "for months," especially after Lewandowski was accused of physically assaulting female reporter, Michelle Fields. But Trump had remained loyal to his campaign manager. When asked if Trump would dump Lewandowski in March after, Trump said, "I don't discard people. I stay with people."
Much of Lewandowski's power was reinforced by his access to the candidate. He was almost always at Trump's side and able to deflect his own detractors.
That strategy has, until now, worked.
After Trump's drop in the polls, his children were able to make the case that Lewandowski was no longer fulfilling a need. Ivanka and his other children, Donald Jr. and Eric, attended the meeting Monday morning when Lewandowski was let go.
Sources say this move is intended to be a signal that Trump wants to win and knows he must act quickly. "It should give Republicans some comfort that he gets it," said a Trump insider.
"He knows that it hasn't been working," said another source.
For those in the GOP establishment and more broadly who have asked and even pleaded, "Is he willing to do what is necessary?" Lewandowski's firing is a signal that Trump is willing to do what it takes to win.