Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s Former Campaign Manager, Leaves CNN

Michael M. Grynbaum
Corey Lewandowski
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Donald J. Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, resigned on Friday from his role as a CNN political commentator, ending a television deal that had attracted scrutiny and harsh criticism about the cable channel's journalistic ethics.

Mr. Lewandowski, who joined CNN as a paid contributor days after being fired by Mr. Trump in June, has expressed interest in a senior adviser role in the White House, according to a person briefed on discussions within the Trump transition team.

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His name has also been mentioned as a potential chairman of the Republican National Committee, this person said. Mr. Lewandowski has been frequently spotted this week at Trump Tower in Manhattan, chatting with senior aides and attending meetings.

Even as he defended Mr. Trump in front of millions of viewers on CNN talk shows, Mr. Lewandowski stayed in regular contact with the candidate and flew on the Trump campaign jet. He also received tens of thousands of dollars in severance from the Trump campaign, payments that were set to continue through the end of the year.

The arrangement raised concerns about whether CNN was effectively paying a Trump campaign strategist to spin its viewers. Other networks, including MSNBC, regularly invite campaign representatives onto shows, but do not pay them.

CNN and its president, Jeffrey A. Zucker, steadfastly defended Mr. Lewandowski's hiring, saying that the network wanted to regularly provide viewers with on-air voices representing both candidates.

But CNN's critics saw in Mr. Lewandowski another sign of television news accommodating a candidate who was a ratings magnet. Because of a nondisclosure agreement, Mr. Lewandowski was limited in what he could discuss about Mr. Trump on the air.

As recently as two weeks ago, Mr. Lewandowski traveled aboard the Trump campaign plane to his home state of New Hampshire. Onboard, Mr. Lewandowski discussed strategy with Mr. Trump and his top advisers, including Stephen K. Bannon, his campaign chief executive.

After the flight was reported in The New York Times, a spokeswoman for CNN, Allison Gollust, said Mr. Lewandowski's status at the network remained unchanged. "We were aware of his trip and granted our permission," Ms. Gollust wrote in an email this week.

Mr. Lewandowski, who last appeared on CNN on Wednesday morning, did not respond to a request for comment. On Friday, he was seen arriving at Trump Tower around 9:30 a.m.