Understanding the Mind of President Trump

GW College Republicans sponsor a conversation with the man who managed much of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

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Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski during his visit with GW College Republicans. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
September 22, 2017

By B. L. Wilson

Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s campaign manager turned Washington lobbyist,  spent more than a year observing Mr. Trump the candidate up close. Mr. Lewandowski now bills himself as someone who has a handle on the workings of a mind that mystifies many in the nation’s capital and around the world.

“I know the president exceptionally well. People will tell him, ‘You can’t say X,’” said Mr. Lewandowski, referring to multiple White House personnel changes of people who’ve tried to manage the president. “About a week into, it’s, ‘Welcome to the major league, general. Here’s a tweet I just put out.’”

The president, he said, is not going to change.

The appearance, sponsored by George Washington University College Republicans, packed a room in Funger Hall Tuesday night. For many in the audience, listening to Mr. Lewandowski engage in a lively discussion with School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno was the next best thing to hearing Mr. Trump. 

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Lewandowski as campaign manager about one month before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. By that time, Mr. Trump was the presumptive GOP nominee for the presidency.

Mr. Sesno asked about the president’s speech to the United Nations in which he said, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself and its allies, it will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”  

Mr. Sesno pointed out that analysts didn’t hear a particular strategy or doctrine being put forth by the president.

Mr. Lewandowski said Mr. Trump has made it clear that he would view an attack on Guam, a U.S. territory, as an act of war. He believes that position would be supported by the United Nations and U.S. allies.

“I think North Korea said, ‘We don’t want to mess with this guy,’” he said.“What’s Trump’s doctrine? It’s very simple. It’s America first,” Mr. Lewandowski said.

For those who find the president too America focused, “It’s high time we stopped apologizing for being the greatest country in the world.

“The first part of the Trump doctrine is to make America safe,” Mr. Lewandowski said, “and that means understanding immigration…bringing people to this country who are going to add to the value and not be a drain on society.”

Mr. Trump is not opposed to immigration, he said, but the current immigration system is so fundamentally broken that it allowed into the country legally the San Bernardino terrorist who killed Americans. He said the State Department needs to put in place an immigration system with a thorough knowledge of who is coming to the United States and why.

Holding nations accountable, another part of this administration’s doctrine, has been addressed by the president during his travels to Poland, Saudi Arabia and Israel, Mr. Lewandowski pointed out. The president has told countries that a larger share of their spending has to be devoted to defense.

Mr. Sesno asked about the Republican push to once again repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Mr. Trump's deals with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate that have created political upheaval between the White House and Republicans on the Hill.

Taking a shot at “fake news” to whoops of delight from the audience, Mr. Lewandowski said, “I don’t think people, especially in the media, give the president enough credit for his ability to get deals done, and I think [the health care bill] is a priority of the administration.”

The failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act lies with House and Senate Republicans, he said, who have had seven years to create replacement legislation but still don’t have a bill for the president to sign.

Without a new health bill, Mr. Lewandowski explained, tax reform will be hard to accomplish, which is why Mr.  Trump was willing to cut a deal over the debt ceiling with Congressional Democrats.

“I think it sends a clear message,"he said. "I’m going to get things done,” he said, “and if you want to join me, I want you on my team.”

In a Q & A session with the audience, one student asked what qualities separate the best campaign managers from others.

“Hard work and being able to make decisions,” Mr. Lewandowski answered. “We make a lot of bad decisions. But you make a decision, and you stick by it.”

The single most important contribution he made to the Trump campaign, however, was convincing Mr. Trump to announce that he was running for president.

“The rest,” he said, “was Donald Trump.”  

On Dec. 5, Mr. Lewandowski said, his book that explains how it all works will be released.