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Trump fires campaign manager Lewandowski, gives Manafort the job

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump fired Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager who helped him win the Republican Party's presidential nominating contests but has clashed with other advisers on how to appeal to the broader general elec...

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (L) looks on as Trump speaks about the results of the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primary elections during a news conference held at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. on March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump fired Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager who helped him win the Republican Party's presidential nominating contests but has clashed with other advisers on how to appeal to the broader general electorate, several people with knowledge of the decision said on Monday.

The firing on Monday morning was yet another shakeup for a campaign already at odds with many senior Republican figures over Trump's policies, with the party's nominating convention in Cleveland less than a month away.

But it may also prove a step toward calming concerns among party leaders about Trump, a wealthy businessman and political neophyte, and the conflicting advice he was getting from senior aides.

Lewandowski was often at odds with Paul Manafort, a prominent strategist Trump hired in April partly for having experience on presidential campaigns that Lewandowski lacked, according to people close to the campaign.

Manafort will take over as campaign manager, according to Carl Paladino, the co-chairman of the campaign's operations in New York state.

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"Paul's in charge," Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee's communications director, said in an interview, referring to Manafort.

The RNC spokesman did not think there would be a change in Trump's tone. "It's going to be more of a streamlined effort and more of an understanding of the difference that a general election has," Spicer said, referring to the Nov. 8 general election.

Lewandowski, 42, had been a near-constant presence at Trump's side since the New York developer launched his campaign on June 2015.

In a brief statement read on CNN, Lewandowski said, "I stand by the fact that Mr. Trump is a great candidate and is better than Hillary Clinton ever will be."

The Trump campaign confirmed only Lewandowski's departure, not the circumstances.

Some of Trump's staff viewed Lewandowski as opposing strategic changes and staff hires urged by Manafort as needed to take on Clinton, the likely Democratic Party candidate, according to three people close to the campaign. The three, a campaign staffer and two people in regular contact with Trump advisers, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by Trump to discuss the firing.

Clinton's campaign has hundreds more staff than that of Trump, in states across the country. In contrast to her unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, there has been no public sign this time of any significant infighting among her advisers.

The former U.S. secretary of state has also spent millions of dollars on television commercials in recent weeks. Trump has not aired any paid advertisements since becoming the presumptive nominee, preferring to spread his message through his Twitter account and in media interviews.

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His decision to fire his manager came in part at the urging of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who have powerful advisory roles in the campaign, the two people in contact with Trump aides said.

Hope Hicks, who single-handedly fields Trump's media inquiries, disputed reports that she had complained about Lewandowski to Ivanka Trump. "That is entirely untrue," she said.

Lewandowski also denied there were any tensions between him and Trump's family in an interview with CNN.

 

CAMPAIGN TENSIONS

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has faced setbacks in the past two weeks. His renewed calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States have drawn heavy criticism from Republican politicians in Washington and prompted corporate sponsors like Apple and JPMorgan Chase to withhold funding from the party's July 18-21 convention. Recent opinion polls show at least half of all voters approve of the Muslim ban.

Trump has made building a wall along the country's border with Mexico a central theme of his campaign, and his comments on immigrants have enraged many ethnic minorities and their supporters. His campaign rallies have been marred by some of the most violent clashes between protesters and supporters at U.S. presidential events in decades, leaving some people injured and bloodied.

Lewandowski, a former New Hampshire field director for a conservative advocacy group, argued that Trump's unconventional campaigning style did not need to be changed after it proved successful in the last few months of primary contests.

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Lewandowski repeatedly defended that strategy with a line that became his mantra: "Let Trump be Trump."

Known for his brusque manner, Lewandowski was accused of manhandling a female reporter in Florida during the primary campaign, but the battery charge against him was later dropped.

He is still scheduled to attend the Cleveland convention as chairman of New Hampshire's delegation.

The Democratic National Committee said Lewandowski's exit was unlikely to change Trump.

"Corey Lewandowski is not the problem. It's Donald Trump," Mark Paustenbach, a party spokesman, said in a statement. "It wasn't Corey Lewandowski who called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States; it was Donald Trump."

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By Emily Flitter and Emily Stephenson

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)

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