South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who was rumored to be in the running for former President Donald Trump’s potential 2024 VP spot, may have lost her chance (and the trust of the voters of South Dakota) if stories about her affair with former President Donald Trump’s adviser Corey Lewandowski turn out to be true.
Lewandowski, 49, served as Trump’s first 2016 campaign manager and played a pivotal role in securing Trump’s victory in the 2016 New Hampshire primary. He was later let go from the Trump campaign due to reported conflicts with campaign chairman Paul Manafort but remained close to Trump as a private citizen.
He is married but has been accused of multiple affairs with women in the Trump orbit, according to the New York Post.
The outlet described the affair between Lewandowski and Noem as “less than discreet” and quoted several eyewitnesses who claim to have seen the two in “blatantly” compromising positions.
According to the Post, one witness recalled Noem and Lewandowski getting “handsy” at the bar of the Hyatt Regency Orlando in Florida although there were well over a hundred people around them.
“It wasn’t like 2 a.m.,” the source said. “It isn’t like we caught them at some dive bar miles away. It’s a lobby bar where everyone is staying and so there’s a bajillion political operatives and journalists and electeds around. I remember I saw it with my own eyes and a couple other people saw it and the blatantness was absurd.”
The source added that the affair was a “known, open thing,” and they had been waiting for it to “blow up,” the Post reported.
According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Charles Johnson, a former Trump operative, wrote in a Substack post that he saw them flirting at the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) meeting in August 2020 at The Cloister resort on Sea Island, Georgia.
Johnson told the Mail that he had witnessed Noem subtly placing Lewandowski’s hand in her lap, with Lewandowski simultaneously placing his arm on her back.
The outlet also posted a photograph from July 2020, when at the height of pandemic social distancing, Lewandowski openly kissed Noem on the cheek upon his arrival with then-President Trump for an event at Mount Rushmore.
A source also said that they had seen “sitting Noem on his [Lewandowski’s] lap” and “playing grab-a**” and “the usual stuff that drunk people who are having affairs do,” during an event at Mar-a-Lago in December 2020, according to the Post.
Another source said that the affair had been going on for “years,” while yet another mentioned that GOP operatives were “well aware” of it, suggesting that it may have been one of Noem’s competitors for the VP slot that slipped the story to the press.
Noem’s husband Bryon is reported to have moved out of the governor’s mansion about two years ago, but it is unclear if the move is connected to the alleged affair or because of his as the owner of an eponymous insurance company in Bryant, South Dakota.
The Daily Mail reported that an investigation conducted by the outlet uncovered dozens of trips, flights on donors’ private planes, and stays at luxury resorts where people reported seeing Noem and Lewandowski behaving like a couple.
One official who had never met Noem before saw them at AmpFest and assumed they were “a couple happily in love,” according to the outlet.
“It became a joke,” one Trump official said, “Every time someone said something about how Kristi would be a savior to the conservative movement, someone else would say, ‘Right, the savior that’s f**king Corey Lewandowski.’”
In September 2021, Trashelle Odem, the wife of a major Trump donor, alleged Lewandowski had propositioned her, told her that he had killed people and boasted about the size of his penis.
When Odem asked him about his wife, Lewandowski allegedly told her that he satisfied his sexual needs “elsewhere.” He also told her that he found Noem “hot.” When Odem tried to get away from Lewandowski, he allegedly chased her, threw a drink at her, and called her “stupid.”
After the incident, Trump fired Lewandowski from his position on a Trump SuperPac, and Noem also fired him from his role as her senior political advisor.
However, according to the Daily Mail, the two did not stop seeing each other.
According to a source, “She fired him without really firing him.” Noem did not want her family to know that Lewandowski was still working for her because “her husband would have lost his mind,” so she only told staffers who really needed to know.
In May 2022, after the two had gone together to a Houston fundraiser for GOP candidate Greg Travis a month earlier, Politico reported that Noem had officially brought Lewandowski back as a political adviser, the Mail reported.
The outlet reported that week when Lewandowski traveled to South Dakota, Noem, who was aware that a story about their alleged affair was in the works, was careful not to have any interaction with Lewandowski other than greeting him on the tarmac.
Everyone is fallible and can make mistakes, but if these stories are true, Noem’s mistakes may cost her big.
Fox News columnist and host Tammy Bruce summed it up when she posted, “Can no one keep their pants on w someone other than their spouse w so much at stake for this country? The lack of judgment is stunning. ‘Married SD governor Kristi Noem & Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski have been having a years-long clandestine affair.’”
Noem, the mother of three children, conducted herself with strength and poise during the pandemic, making her state one of the few that remained open when most others were shut down.
But South Dakota is a conservative, God-fearing state, and Noem, who was considered a rising star in line for a position as VP and even a potential run for president, may find it difficult to convince her voters to forgive her for her fall from grace.