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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Governor Noem breaks ties with former Trump adviser Lewandowski

by Stephen Groves and Jill Colvin

SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) – South Dakota Gov. Christie Noem is breaking up with political adviser Corey Lewandowski after a longtime former President Donald Trump confidant was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a GOP donor.

Lewandowski was crucial to the Republican governor’s political rise last year, attending political events across the country and helping him gain access to the former president’s political orbit. But his time as his advisor was also marked by frequent staff departures from the governor’s office.

Noem spokesman Ian Fury said Lewandowski “will not advise the governor with respect to the campaign or official office.”

He said that Lewandowski’s role was as a “volunteer” and that he was “never paid a penny” from Noem’s campaign or the South Dakota government. Fury did not immediately respond to questions about whether Noem witnessed Lewandowski’s behavior at a Las Vegas fundraising event where he was accused of harassment.

A former top aide of Noem, Maggie Seidel, said in a Wednesday statement to the Associated Press that she thought it would be disrespectful to her to continue to engage with Corey Lewandowski.

Politico reported on Wednesday that Trachelle Odom alleged that Lewandowski repeatedly touched her without her permission, made lewd comments and “followed” her throughout the evening.

“He repeatedly touched me inappropriately, said lewd and hateful things, followed me and made me feel humiliated and intimidated,” she said in a statement to the outlet. “I am coming forward because he must be held accountable.” Trachelle Odom is the wife of Idaho construction executive John Odom.

Politico also said it spoke to four eyewitnesses who confirmed Odom’s allegations, as well as two people who spoke to her about the alleged incidents.

Lewandowski was fired on Wednesday from her role running a pro-Trump Super PAC following Odom’s allegation.

“Corey Lewandowski will be moving on to other efforts and we want to thank him very much for his service. He will no longer be joining Trump World,” Trump spokeswoman Taylor Budovich wrote in a statement.

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He added that Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general and longtime Trump supporter who was assisting with the group, “has our full confidence and belief in taking MAGA action.”

Lewandowski and his attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The political orator was the former president’s first campaign manager in 2016 and remains his most vocal supporter and trusted outside adviser during his time in the White House, with Trump often turning to him in moments of crisis.

In March 2016, Lewandowski was accused by Michelle Fields, then a reporter for the right-wing Breitbart website, of nearly shaking her hand after a Trump news conference. But Lewandowski denied any wrongdoing and Trump repeatedly defended him even after video of the incident surfaced. Lewandowski was charged with the battery, but it was later removed.

Lewandowski was later fired from his job as Trump’s first campaign manager after conflicts with Trump’s adult children, but the separation was only temporary.

He also advised Trump’s 2020 campaign, has served as a CNN political commentator, and authored three books on the former president.

In New Hampshire, Democrats have also called on GOP congressional candidate Matt Mavers, who works for Trump’s administration, to reject Lewandowski after endorsing the candidate. The Mowers campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

And in Nebraska, the GOP candidate for governor Charles Herbster said Thursday he was breaking up with Lewandowski, who had served as a senior adviser. Lewandowski recorded an endorsement video for the Falls City businessman three weeks ago, where he praised him for always maintaining his support for Trump.

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Associated Press writers Michael Casey in Concord, NH, and Josh Funk in Omaha, Nebraska contributed. Colvin reported from New York.

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