Combative Lewandowski frustrates Democrats, as impeachment-probe hearing descends into disarray
The House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing as part of its Trump impeachment investigation descended into chaos Tuesday as Democrats clashed with a combative Corey Lewandowski, trading insults and accusations with the former Trump campaign manager who refused to answer most of their questions.
Lewandowski visibly frustrated committee Chairman New York Rep. Jerry Nadler during the Democrat’s first question – when the witness, in an apparent effort to stall for time, repeatedly asked Nadler to point to the specific section in the Robert Mueller report related to his question. Lewandowski was following White House orders not to discuss confidential conversations with the president beyond what was already public in the former special counsel’s report.
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Asked by Nadler if he met alone with Trump in June 2017, Lewandowski said, “Could you read the exact language of the report, I don’t have it available to me.”
“I don’t think I need to do that,” Nadler shot back. “I have limited time.”
Asked the question again, Lewandowski told Nadler he needed him to “refresh” his memory of what was in the report. He demanded that Democrats provide him a copy of the report, sending Democratic staff scrambling to find one.
“He’s filibustering,” a frustrated Nadler said.
Amid the back-and-forth, the top Republican on the committee, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, moved to adjourn the hearing, forcing a failed-voice vote that further delayed the hearing, before questioning resumed from others on the committee.
Lewandowski, considering a run for the Senate in New Hampshire in 2020, was subpoenaed to testify about Mueller’s report.
There were fireworks from the beginning. Nadler opened by saying the hearing is part of efforts to “determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump.” He railed against the White House’s efforts to block the testimony of two other former Trump White House aides — former White House aides Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter — who did not show up on orders from the White House.
“This is a cover-up, plain a simple,” Nadler said of the White House’s efforts to block Dearborn and Porter’s testimony.
In his opening statement, Lewandowski railed against the Trump investigations.
“It is now clear the investigation was populated by many Trump haters who had their own agenda – to try and take down a duly elected president of the United States,” he said. “As for actual collusion or conspiracy, there was none. What there has been, however, is harassment of this president from the day he won the election.”
The president was apparently watching: “Such a beautiful Opening Statement by Corey Lewandowski! Thank you Corey!”
Meanwhile, Republicans mocked the hearing, with a fired-up ranking member Collins dismissing it as “re-run season,” saying the committee’s previous hearing with Mueller didn’t “go well.” Collins dismissed Democrats seeking impeachment, saying, “You don’t have the votes.”
Mueller found that there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but reached no conclusion on obstruction of justice. Attorney General William Barr later made his own decision on obstruction, saying there was insufficient evidence.
“Excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction,” Lewandowski tweeted in the hours before the hearing. “There were lots of angry Democrats who tried to take down a duly elected President. Tune in. #Senate2020”
The hearing underscores what has been a central dilemma for House Democrats all year — they have promised to investigate Trump, aggressively, and many of their base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove him from office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at most every turn, declining to provide new documents or allow former aides to testify.
The Republican Senate is certain to rebuff any House efforts to bring charges against the president. And moderate Democrats in their own caucus have expressed nervousness that the impeachment push could crowd out their other accomplishments.
Still, the Judiciary panel is moving ahead, approving rules for impeachment hearings last week.
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Lewandowski was a central figure in Mueller’s report. Mueller’s investigators detailed two episodes in which Trump asked Lewandowski to direct then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller’s investigation. Trump said that if Sessions would not meet with Lewandowski, then Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired.
Lewandowski never delivered the message but asked Dearborn, a former Sessions aide, to do it. Dearborn said he was uncomfortable with the request and declined to deliver it, according to the report.
Porter, a former staff secretary in the White House, took frequent notes during his time there that were detailed throughout the report. He resigned last year after public allegations of domestic violence by his two ex-wives.
In letters to the committee on Monday, the White House said that Dearborn and Porter were “absolutely immune” from testifying. White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote that the Justice Department had advised, and Trump had directed, them not to attend “because of the constitutional immunity that protects senior advisers to the president from compelled congressional testimony.”
In a separate letter, Cipollone said that Lewandowski, who never worked in the White House, should not reveal private conversations with Trump beyond what is in Mueller’s report. He wrote that his conversations with Trump “are protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting executive branch confidentiality interests.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source : Alex Pappas Link