Politics

It’s Been Quite a Week for Bozo Behavior in Donald Trump’s Extended Circle of Bozos

Kristi Noem, Corey Lewandowski, and Donald Trump
Kristi Noem, Corey Lewandowski, and Donald Trump. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Alex Wong/Getty Images, and Brandon Bell/Getty Images.

This week has delivered a barge of news about garbage behavior among Donald Trump’s circle of associates, and it practically begs for a Friday afternoon recap on the internet. You’ve seen headlines about South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, perpetually disgraced Trump 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, affairs, groping, resignations, and, most disturbingly, real estate appraisals; you’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.

What’s the deal?

This week, Noem—who has been discussed as a potential running mate for Trump in 2024, or as a potential candidate if he doesn’t run—denied a report published on the website American Greatness that claimed she has been having an extramarital affair with Lewandowski. She also denied an AP report that she’d intervened inappropriately when her daughter’s application for a real estate appraisal license was rejected. Lewandowski was, additionally, the subject of a Politico report that quotes at length from a statement provided by an attorney for Trump donor named Trashelle Odom; according to the statement, Lewandowski repeatedly touched and verbally harassed Odom over an extended period of time during a Sunday, Sept. 26, charity event in Las Vegas. Politico says Odom’s account is backed up by other eyewitness accounts and that Lewandowski “appeared to be intoxicated” during the events described.

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What is “American Greatness”?

It is a website founded five years ago with the almost admirably ambitious goal of arguing that the things Donald Trump does and says are actually deeply grounded in a centuries-old conservative intellectual tradition.

Can you imagine? Donald Trump reading, like, a book?

No—I can’t imagine it.

So what’s the story about Noem and Lewandowski?

First of all, it’s titled “Kristi Noem Shows Why Republicans Can’t Have Nice Things,” which, as a reference to adolescent pop culture phrasing that was pretty worn out by the halfway point of the last decade, is a funny thing to call a post on a website whose ostensible purpose is to restore, like, muscular authoritarian seriousness to American public life. But the story, citing “multiple sources,” says that Lewandowski has been having an affair with Noem, for whom he’s been acting as an informal adviser in his capacity as the chairman of a pro-Trump super PAC. The piece includes stellar, really-straining-to-sound-like-normal-journalism word combinations like “the alleged fling reportedly has continued for months, sources say,” and “Lewandowski … still has the former president’s ear, which he reportedly uses to Noem’s advantage.” Nothing gets an alleged fling reportedly continuing, sources say, like reportedly using an ear to someone’s advantage.

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Pro-Trump media is against reckless and destructive personal behavior now? And why would a MAGA site want to take down Kristi Noem, anyway?

The apparent turnabout regarding extramarital relationships goes unaddressed, but the rest of the article explains why parts of the MAGAsphere are upset with Noem, who made her national reputation by rejecting COVID precautions and held a fundraiser with Trump earlier this year. Since then, she’s killed two bills—one involving transgender athletes and one that would have prohibited private employers from requiring that their employees be vaccinated—that were proposed by right-wing state legislators. In both cases, it appears Noem believed that passing the bills could alienate major corporate employers.

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American Greatness also mentions the apparent incident of corruption outlined by the Associated Press. According to the AP, after the South Dakota real estate appraisers’ certification office rejected the application of Noem’s then–26-year-old daughter in July 2020, the woman who ran the office was called to a meeting with Noem and then, shortly afterward, told to retire by the state’s labor secretary. Noem’s daughter was subsequently issued the license. (The AP says that by regulation, applicants are denied if examples of their work “don’t meet minimum compliance with national standards.”) Noem has denied having an affair with Lewandowski or intervening inappropriately in her daughter’s case.

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Pro-Trump media is against advancing the careers of your incompetent children now?

Ha-ha! Good one.

Back to Lewandowski.

Yes. Odom, the Trump donor, says that during a Sunday night dinner Lewandowski touched her repeatedly, made sexual comments to her, followed her from one room to another, threw a drink at her, called her “stupid,” and then followed her again to a party at another location, at which he had to be kept away from her by other guests.

Where was the initial dinner held, incidentally?

At a Benihana.

This behavior is not out of character for Lewandowski, right?

Allegedly. In 2016, he was charged with battery for grabbing and pulling the arm of a female Breitbart.com reporter who was trying to ask Trump a question at a campaign event. The charges were later dropped. In 2017, a woman filed a police report accusing him of touching her buttocks twice during a party at the Trump Hotel in D.C., though he does not appear to have ever been charged in that case.

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Will he face any consequences for this latest incident?

Amazingly, it’s possible. After the Politico story was published, a Trump spokeswoman said Lewandowski would be replaced as head of the Make America Great PAC. Per Politico, “word of the incident” at Benihana has “shaken the former president’s inner circle, several people familiar with the discussions said.”

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Yeah, I’m sure Donald Trump was shocked by this sort of thing happening. Was there anything reported this week, perhaps regarding former White House press aide Stephanie Grisham’s tell-all book, which would serve as a particularly pointed reminder that crude and potentially illegal sexual inappropriateness is not just tolerated but actively welcomed in “the former president’s inner circle”?

Why yes, Grisham apparently wrote that Trump asked her then-boyfriend, in her presence, whether he enjoyed having sex with her, and that she was told Trump once asked to have a junior press aide brought into his presence so he could “look at her ass.”

That’s great stuff. It’s quite a stable of leaders and role models the Republican Party is developing!

Indeed, at some point in the next few decades there will be multiple Cabinet members who have been arrested at a Ruby Tuesday’s.

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