Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign manager won’t be prosecuted after he grabbed a reporter last month as she questioned the billionaire at a Florida press conference, authorities said Thursday.
Corey Lewandowski was charged with simple battery by police in Jupiter, Florida, after a video showed him grabbing the arm of Michelle Fields, who has since parted ways with Breitbart News, at Trump National Golf Club on March 8. Fields later tweeted a showing bruises on her arm and attributed them to the episode.
“As state attorney I made the decision that this office will not be filing charges against Corey Lewandowski for battery,” Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg said at a news conference. “Law enforcement arrests are based on probable cause. State prosecutions, however, rely upon a good-faith basis that sufficient evidence exists to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Aronberg, an elected Democrat, supports Hillary Clinton for president and said he wouldn’t let politics interfere with his decision about whether to prosecute, Politico reported April 8.
Trump has stood by Lewandowski. In the days after Fields alleged the manhandling, Lewandowski called her “totally delusional,” and Trump suggested the journalist was lying about being grabbed.
After Lewandowski was charged, Trump said he was actually grabbed by Fields, said he wouldn’t fire his aide, and questioned whether Fields’ bruises were really from the episode and why she didn’t scream. He also suggested she changed her story, a claim that Fields denied and that the fact-checking website PolitiFact rated false.
A Washington Post reporter who witnessed the encounter backed up Fields’ story, and police said surveillance footage “parallels” her account.
Fields may still pursue a defamation complaint against the campaign manager, Politico reported Wednesday, citing an unidentified source.
Fields, the Trump campaign, and Lewandowski’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Prosecutor’s office told me they would inform me of decision tomorrow,” Fields tweeted Wednesday after reports that Lewandowski wouldn’t be prosecuted. “If reports true, guess they decided to leak to reporters first. Ugly.” She also tweeted: “For those asking, office of prosecutor asked 2 weeks ago if I’d be ok with an apology from Corey. I said ya but haven’t heard back about it.”
Lewandowski, a longtime tea party operative, helped Trump win the New Hampshire primary and go on to amass a delegate lead over Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump is now campaigning to win a delegate majority before the Republican National Convention in July and secure the nomination outright.
Lewandowski has a hard-edged reputation, and Trump critics say the campaign has done little to discourage violence at his rallies, such as last month when a 78-year-old white supporter sucker-punched a 26-year-old black man in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The puncher was charged with assault, battery, and disorderly conduct. The county sheriff’s office decided against charging Trump with inciting a riot in connection with that event.
The campaign manager’s charge was the same week that Trump feuded with Cruz over the treatment of their wives in the race, and that Trump said women should be punished for having abortions if the procedure is outlawed. He later reversed the abortion position.
There are some signs that Trump’s political trouble with women has begun to take a toll. He lost the group by 13 points in the Wisconsin Republican primary on April 5, according to exit polls, and a Bloomberg Politics survey this month of married women likely to vote in the general election found him with a 70 percent unfavorable rating nationwide.
(c) 2016, Bloomberg · Terrence Dopp