Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Monday as he pivots to the general election dogged by a series of recent missteps.
Lewandowski, who headed Trump’s campaign since its launch last June, was a contentious figure embroiled in a power struggle with Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman.
He courted controversy for physically assaulting a female reporter during a campaign event in Florida earlier in the year, for which he was charged with simple battery.
Trump had supported Lewandowski then but had begun considering personnel changes ahead of the party’s presidential convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July.
Political commentator Larry Sabato called the firing a “disaster”. He told CNN: “That campaign is deeply troubled. It goes well beyond Corey Lewandowski.”
Trump has come under withering scrutiny in recent weeks for his racist comments about a federal judge overseeing fraud cases against his Trump University and for his continuing discriminatory remarks about Muslims. On Sunday he said in view of the Orlando shootings, profiling Muslims “is not the worst thing to do”.
He had earlier called for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the US, specially those for areas of the world with a proven history of terrorist strikes against the US.
Trump also came under scathing criticism for his initial response to the Orlando shootings — “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism”.
Both his donors — he is now accepting donations after self-funding the primaries — and allies worry if can ever extend his appeal to independent voters, whose support he needs to win.
Some Republicans, who were never comfortable with Trump’s candidacy, have launched a plan, called the most organised yet, to block him at the convention.
The Washington Post, which first reported this move by delegates who will attend the convention, has reported they are now raising funds to staff up for the battle.
Lewandowski couldn’t be blamed for Trump’s woes, most of which were caused by the candidate’s own missteps and refusal to listen to advisers.
But multiple media outlets reported the campaign manager had strained to hostile relations with many Republicans and reporters covering Trump.
Trump, on his own, has a running feud with the press too, often calling it “dishonest”, and he recently cancelled the press credentials of Washington Post reporters covering his campaign.
The decision to fire Lewandowski came after Trump met his inner circle, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, on Monday morning, according to media reports.