Donald Trump fired his hard-charging campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Monday in a dramatic shake-up designed to calm panicked Republican leaders and reverse one of the most tumultuous stretches of Trump's unconventional White House bid.
“The Donald J. Trump Campaign for President, which has set a historic record in the Republican primary having received almost 14 million votes, has today announced that Corey Lewandowski will no longer be working with the campaign,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement. “The campaign is grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future.”
A source close to Trump told The Associated Press that Lewandowski, 42, was forced out of the campaign largely because of his poor relationship with the Republican National Committee and GOP officials. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
Trump informed Lewandowski of his decision Monday morning in a "direct conversation," and top Trump strategist Paul Manafort will become campaign manager, two sources told NBC News.
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Reached on Monday, Lewandowski, who lives in Windham, New Hampshire, and is a Lowell, Massachusetts, native, deflected any criticism of his approach, pointing instead to Manafort.
"Paul Manafort has been in operational control of the campaign since April 7. That's a fact," Lewandowski said, declining to elaborate on his dismissal.
In an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, Trump described Lewandowski with more than a few adjectives — "terrific," "good" and "talented" among them — and said that together they ran "a small, beautiful, unified campaign" during the primaries.
But, Trump added, "we're going to go a little bit of a different route from this point forward. A little different style."
A hard-charging figure, and in some ways as unconventional as the candidate himself, Lewandowski had been by Trump's side since the beginning of his unlikely rise to presumptive GOP nominee.
The move came as Trump faces continued deep resistance from many quarters of his party concerned by his contentious statements.
Lewandowski has long been a controversial figure in Trump's campaign, but benefited from his proximity to the presumptive Republican nominee. He traveled with Trump on his private plane to nearly every campaign stop, giving him more direct access to the businessman than nearly any other campaign staffer.
In March, he was accused of grabbing then Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields at a campaign event in Jupiter, Florida. Battery charges were filed against him, but later dropped.
One source close to the candidate and with direct knowledge of the situation told NBC News Trump's daugther Ivanka Trump has been particularly unhappy with Lewandowski and has felt that way "for months."
The incident involving Fields put her over the top but it took time for her and the family to convince Trump he needed to oust Lewandowski, the source said.
She and her brothers, Donald Jr and Eric Trump, were there for this morning's meeting, according to the source.
Trump defended Lewandowski throughout the episode and repeatedly framed his own actions as a sign of loyalty and a demonstration that he would not give in to outside pressure.
"Folks, look, I'm a loyal person," Trump told voters at the time.
"It's so important," he said of loyalty in a subsequent interview. "And it's one of the traits that I most respect in people. You don't see it enough."
Lewandowski was a chief promoter of the idea that the best campaign strategy was to "Let Trump be Trump." He frequently dismissed the notion that Trump needed to hire more experienced political hands, spent on polling and sophisticated data operations, or moderate his rhetoric as he moved toward the general election.
Minutes after news of Lewandowski's departure was announced, Trump adviser Michael Caputo tweeted "Ding dong the witch is dead!" along with a link to the song from the film, "The Wizard of Oz."
Caputo resigned later in the day.
Fields, who reportedly resigned from Brietbart citing a lack of support from her former employer, now works for the Huffington Post.
"I hear @BreitbartNews is hiring," she said on Twitter in addressing Lewandowski on Monday.