Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski spoke at a breakfast for Illinois delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland Tuesday morning, stressing how important it is for the billionaire to win Illinois in the upcoming November election.
"Illinois is really important," Lewandowski said. "You know this."
Lewandowski predicted that Trump will campaign throughout the state in the lead-up to November's general election
“I think you’ll see him in Chicago and see him in Illinois and the suburbs," Lewandowski said. "You’ll see him in Springfield and you’ll see him in places Republicans don’t go."
Lewandowski also took responsibility for planning Trump’s ill-fated rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago in March.
“We’ve been to Chicago a lot,” Lewandoski said Tuesday. “And if you remember, I was the guy who planned that rally. Didn’t work out so well.”
“Can you imagine in your wildest dreams any other Republican presidential candidate trying to hold a rally in Chicago at a University,” Lewandowski asked.
Trump’s former campaign manager also commended Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, for her keynote address at the RNC Monday night. Melania Trump has become embroiled in a controversy surrounding portions of Monday’s speech that appear to be culled from Michelle Obama’s 2008 address at the Democratic National Convention.
Trump’s campaign denied the plagiarism claims in a statement Tuesday, calling the allegations “just absurd.”
“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said Tuesday morning in a CNN interview. "Certainly, there’s no feeling on her part that she did it. What she did was use words that are common words."
Before his speech Tuesday, Lewandowski blamed the oversight on the speech’s writer and the convention’s organizer and called for accountability. However, he did not specifically blame his replacement, Manafort, who serves as the convention manager.
"Is Manafort the one," Lewandowski asked. "I think it's whoever is in charge of the convention, so you can put the blame on anybody you want."
During Tuesday's breakfast, Rep. Peter Roskam said that he didn't expect an apology from "anyone whose name rhymes with Trump." Rep. Randy Hultgren dismissed the plagiarism allegations, claiming speeches delivered by wives of nominees are historically "very similiar."
"There's not a lot of uniqueness in those speeches," Hultgren said. "I thought she did a fine job."
Ultimately, Lewandowski said the response was up to Trump.
“Donald Trump will make the decision of what he thinks the right thing to do is,” Lewandowski said after his speech.
During his time with the former reality star's campaign, 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, spend more on polling and sophisticated data operations or moderate his rhetoric as he moved toward the general election.
Lewandowski was ousted as Trump’s campaign manager in June because of his poor relationship with the Republican National Committee and GOP officials. He has since taken a job with CNN, serving as a political commentator.
During his time as Trump’s campaign manager, Lewandowski was often a polarizing figure. 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.
During his speech Tuesday, Lewandowski talked about being hired by Trump in 2015, calling the presumptive candidate a “blue collar billionaire.”