A Florida prosecutor suggested on Thursday that Donald Trump’s campaign manager had a legally sound rationale for his actions in an early-March incident with a former Breitbart reporter.
Therefore, the state would not be prosecuting a battery charge against Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, Palm Beach County Prosecutor Dave Aronberg said in the Thursday press conference.
“It is not strong enough to meet the legal burden of a reasonable likelihood of a conviction,” he said. “There is not a good-faith basis to proceed.”
The prosecutor said Lewandowski had a “reasonable hypothesis of innocence” in the case, in which he was accused of pulling Michelle Fields, then a Brietbart News reporter, at Trump’s March 8 victory event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Aronberg also stressed the legal bar for a battery charge handed down by local police against Lewandowski late last month was lower than that for a prosecution.
Lewandowski has said he was trying to protect Trump from Fields.
Aronberg revealed that a letter he received from the FBI explained that “inner-circle staff members” of a presidential candidate’s campaign often assist Secret Service agents in protecting the candidate.
At the time of the incident, Secret Service agents were clearing a path for Trump when Fields approached and touched Trump’s arm, Aronberg said. He flinched, and Lewandowski then grabbed Fields’ arm, according to the prosecutor.
Aronberg said an agent was directly behind Fields’ right as she was approaching Trump and “appeared to show no concern.” He added that Lewandowski could have drawn his attention instead of handling the situation himself.
He also added that Lewandowski’s denial of the incident on social media afterward hurt his defence.
But Aronberg said the evidence available did not “defy the reasonable hypothesis of innocence,” and the state declined to prosecute the case as a result.
Trump’s campaign released the following statement after Aronberg’s press conference:
Corey Lewandowski is gratified by the decision to drop the misdemeanour charge and appreciates the thoughtful consideration and professionalism by the Palm Beach State Attorney and his staff who carefully reviewed this matter, as well as Mr. Trump’s loyalty and the support of his colleagues and family during this time. The matter is now concluded.
The incident created a firestorm that led to Fields resigning from Breitbart, protesting the manner in which the publication handled the aftermath of the incident. Lewandowski’s role within the Trump campaign has also reportedly diminished over the past few weeks, though it’s unclear how much the incident played a role.
Fields pressed charges against Lewandowski with Jupiter, Florida, police days after the incident took place.
Trump spent weeks defending Lewandowski against the allegations.
“When somebody is maligned so unfairly as that, I will stick by them,” he said in a press conference aboard his 757 ahead of a Wisconsin rally in late March.
“I think it’s a very, very sad day in this country when a man can be destroyed over something like that,” he continued.
But the GOP frontrunner recently hired Paul Manafort as his convention manager, which was portrayed in many reports as a signal that Lewandowski’s role was diminishing. Trump also recently hired Rick Wiley, who ran ex-GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker’s campaign.