In a rare bit of message contradiction within the ranks, Donald Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, conceded there was no evidence for the president’s claim that Massachusetts Democrats were brought into New Hampshire by bus on Election Day to steal the state for Hillary Clinton.
“I live on the border,” Lewandowski said in an interview with the podcast Axe Files, posted on Monday. “I didn’t see buses coming across the line to say that, hey, we’ve moved up from Massachusetts.”
Lewandowski is known for his fierce, unyielding defense of Trump, even after he was booted from the campaign and ended up on the airwaves at CNN. So it’s noteworthy that he acknowledges Trump’s claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire are false, even if that merely reflects the acceptance of reality.
And he would know. Lewandowski, a native of Massachusetts, cut his teeth as a political operative in New Hampshire. He is also not the first Republican from the Granite State to contradict Trump’s claim. A former GOP state party chair, the current New Hampshire secretary of state and a longtime GOP operative who was arrested for voter fraud have all said it is bunk.
Trump, nevertheless, has insisted that he was cheated out of a win in New Hampshire because thousands of Democrats came from Massachusetts and illegally cast votes for Clinton. He mentioned this first in a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators. And a top aide, Stephen Miller, repeated the debunked claim days later.
“Go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who’s worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody’s aware of the problem in New Hampshire,” Miller said.
While Lewandowski said that busing in voters is “not what happens,” he did argue that the state’s laws were vulnerable to exploitation because they allow people registering to vote to claim residency even if they don’t have proof (the would-be voters do have to sign an affidavit).
“I don’t think you have that,” Lewandowski said of the mythical buses. “What I do think you have is the potential in the future for voter fraud.”
The Trump White House did not return a request for comment.
CORRECTION: Lewandowski is a Massachusetts native who has long lived in New Hampshire.