Co-bylined with Jim Waterson, BuzzFeed Political Editor
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager has said the US president-elect will work “very closely” with prime minister Theresa May rather than relying on UKIP leader Nigel Farage when it comes to negotiations between the two countries.
Corey Lewandowski, who was replaced as Trump’s campaign chief in the summer but remains in the next president’s inner circle, told BuzzFeed News bluntly that “there’s one leader of the UK, and Nigel’s not that leader”.
There had been speculation that Farage could act as a go-between for the US and UK governments, since he is one of the few British politicians who knows key members of Trump’s team.
Lewandowski, who is currently in the UK and said he met the UKIP leader earlier this week, said Trump “loves Brexit” but that the president-elect will will focus on building relations with May’s team.
He dismissed the “ridiculous” coverage of the fact Trump took congratulatory calls from eight other world leaders before talking to the British prime minister.
However, the “world had changed”, he said, and he implied the new US administration would not necessarily follow “protocols that have always been adhered to” on issues such as the order of phone calls, despite the historic ties between the UK and the US.
“That’s not to say that we won’t have a very close relationship with England,” he said, before referencing Trump’s investments in Scotland. “If you look at, as a business executive, where Donald Trump has invested his money, he’s got three golf courses here. Strictly from a financial side, what he has always said is, ‘If I lose, I’m going over to my courses, I’m going to let the waves hit me in the face and I’m going to spend the rest of my time over there.’ It’s not a bad place to be.
“But I think there’s a lot of discussion about making the ninth phone call – which is probably, realistically, like, the 200th phone call.”
Lewandowski, talking ahead of making a speech to the Oxford Union, also told BuzzFeed News the media had overplayed the sidelining of Chris Christie as chairman of Trump’s transition team and said he was still in touch with the New Jersey governor, despite “competing interests”.
“I appointed Chris Christie as the chairman of the transition team back in June,” said the former campaign chief. “I spoke to him on the ride here. He’s a really good guy, I like him a lot. I’ve known Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] a long time too, very good, smart, capable, very smart.
“I think what you have is you’ve got competing interests. There’s one way to do it this way, there’s one way to do it that way. It doesn’t mean that either is right or wrong. But I think what you’ll find is that the media wants to write a narrative that isn’t necessarily true, because the story is much sexier if Jared and Chris are fighting. But don’t forget that Jared and Chris have been working together since June on this transition team, and until this last week.
“The story is much sexier now that Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. For the last six months, when Chris was building a transition team and meeting Jared every single week, and briefing the whole family on the developments of the transition team, it wasn’t a sexy story, because no one thought Trump was going to win.”
Lewandowski was greeted by around a hundred anti-Trump protesters outside the debating venue, which is run for students of the University of Oxford. He recently stopped working as a paid commentator and his future role in any Trump administration is unclear.
During his speech to students Lewandowski said FBI director James Comey’s decision to declare he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails boosted the Trump campaign and put a “spring in their step”. He also insisted global warming was a “scam”, denied Trump ran a racist campaign, and said Trump would force Mexico to build a wall on its northern border with the US.
“Mexico’s going to pay for the wall, and it’s very simple,” he said. “The wall that Mexico has on its southern border which keeps people out from coming into their country, is now going to be to placed on its northern border. And when that happens, the criminal aliens that are in this country will be deported back to the countries they’re from. When that happens, they’re going to be in big trouble, their economy’s going to collapse.”
He said Mexico would then have no choice but to do whatever the US wants: “We’ll say, ‘What are you going to do?’, and they’ll say, ‘What do you want us to do?’”