Lewandowski: Failed Health Vote Was Last Straw for Priebus

Image: Lewandowski says hello to reporters as he and Gorka, Manigault and Scaramucci accompany Trump for an event celebrating veterans at AMVETS Post 44 in Struthers, Ohio
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) says hello to reporters as he and White House advisors accompany President Trump for an event in Struthers, Ohio, U.S. July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstJONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

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By Kailani Koenig

WASHINGTON — Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski put blame on the Senate’s failure to advance health care legislation this week as the final reasoning behind White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’s exit from the White House on Friday.

"We saw this week a legislative defeat in Congress for the repeal and replace of Obamacare," Lewandowski told Chuck Todd on Sunday's "Meet The Press," noting "that's something that he [President Trump] campaigned on."

"Reince was brought in, as you know, as someone who could work with the members of the House and the Senate to get that legislative agenda done,” Lewandowski continued. “With that not being accomplished, the president made a decision to move in a new direction to bring a seriousness to his chief of staff and a pivot, so that he can have his agenda at the forefront of what he wants to get done."

In the early hours of Friday morning, the administration suffered yet another blow when the Senate voted 49-51 against the “skinny repeal” health care bill pushed by Republican leadership, which would have repealed some pieces of the Affordable Care Act.

Three Senate Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John McCain of Arizona — voted against the legislation, along with every Democrat. The defeat came after a week of other failed Senate votes on health care.

Meanwhile, Lewandowski — who parted ways with the Trump campaign in mid-2016 after allegations that he physically harassed a female reporter — is still in touch with the president, despite having never held any official role as a staffer inside the White House. Lewandowski said on Sunday that the president's lack of major legislative accomplishments in Congress was why Priebus lost his job.

"What the president decided when he was president-elect and [made the decision] to bring Reince on board was to bring someone in who understood Washington and to help him staff his team in order to achieve his legislative agenda, and unfortunately where we are right now — if you look at the ups and downs of the presidency so far — the single most important thing the president has been able to achieve was getting Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court," Lewandowski said. "It’s a very important thing he’s been able to achieve, but the major issues of his agenda have not been accomplished through Congress, and he’s decided to make a change at the top to move his agenda forward."

Priebus’ exit on Friday was the latest in a string of administration departures during Trump’s roughly six months in office.

Thus far, departures during the administration include Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, Communications Director Mike Dubke, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

The president announced that Retired General John Kelly, who was already secretary of Homeland Security, would take over as White House chief of staff.

Lewandowski praised that decision, calling the general "someone bringing a fresh perspective — very important — and an opportunity to communicate the president’s agenda to the staff inside the White House and work closely with those members of Congress and the U.S. Senate who wants to see the president’s agenda done, including building the wall on the southern border."

Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski says hello to reporters as he and White House advisers accompany President Trump for an event in Struthers, Ohio, U.S. July 25, 2017. JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters