This is a battle where it’s very difficult to pick a team, but we can enjoy it anyway: The New York Times reported on Monday night that tensions between Corey Lewandowski, a member of Donald Trump’s inner circle, and Chief of Staff John Kelly boiled over last February, when the two men got in a physical fight in the White House that turned into a “near brawl” which required the Secret Service to get involved.
Citing a “half-dozen people familiar with the events,” the Times reported that the argument started in President Trump’s presence in the Oval Office, when Kelly criticized Lewandowski, one of Trump’s former 2016 campaign chiefs, for personally enriching himself off his ties to the White House—a grift Trump and his children have certainly mastered for themselves. Kelly also reportedly criticized Lewandowski for using his frequent cable news appearances to attack Kelly’s muddled handling of the domestic abuse allegations around former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
When Trump, at one point, took a call, the men apparently spilled out of the Oval and into the hallway just outside, where things escalated further. Per the Times:
As Mr. Kelly walked toward a hallway leading back to his office, he called to someone to remove Mr. Lewandowski from the building. The two then began arguing, with Mr. Lewandowski speaking loudly. Mr. Kelly grabbed Mr. Lewandowski by his collar, trying to push him against a wall, according to a person with direct knowledge of the episode.
Mr. Lewandowski did not get physical in response, according to multiple people familiar with the episode. But Secret Service agents were called in. Ultimately, the two men agreed to move on, those briefed on the episode said.
Still, people in the West Wing who learned at the time what had happened were stunned.
“Stunned” would seem a bit Pollyanna-ish of those “people in the West Wing.” As the paper points out, it’s not the first time either man has gotten physical. Just last week, it was reported that Kelly got in a screaming match with John Bolton. Kelly reportedly scuffled with Chinese officials during the president’s visit there almost a year ago over the nuclear “football,” the fondly nicknamed annihilation briefcase that goes with the president everywhere. Lewandowski, who’s known for his pugnacious leadership style, was accused of touching a Trump-supporting singer without her consent in December 2017, and he was charged with assaulting then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields on the 2016 campaign trail in Florida. (The charges were later dropped.)
So, “stunning?” Hardly. But who knows—Trump seems to grudgingly respect staffers who take things to the mat, so maybe this will give Kelly a sorely-needed boost in his own ratings.