Former Trump campaign manager testifies at House impeachment hearing
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is appearing Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee in the panel’s first official “impeachment hearing” under the panel’s new rules.
It is not clear how much information the committee will gain from Lewandowski in what could be a combative hearing. The White House on Monday sent a letter to the committee that it was directing Lewandowski not to answer questions about his conversations with the President, beyond what was in the Mueller report.
Lewandowski tweeted Tuesday morning that he is “excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction.”
Lewandowski was heavily referenced in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which described how Trump tried to stop the investigation into his campaign and re-focus the probe on preventing future meddling. The report says Trump repeatedly directed Lewandowski in 2017 to deliver this message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but Lewandowski ignored Trump and didn’t follow through.
Mueller investigated 10 episodes involving Trump for potential obstruction of justice, and the Lewandowski situation was one of those episodes. In the report, prosecutors analyzed whether each incident checked the three boxes needed to typically bring an obstruction charge.
Some of the incidents did not meet the threshold, and others were a close call. Prosecutors determined Trump’s actions with Lewandowski checked all three boxes for obstruction: It was a distinct “obstructive act” that would hamper the investigation, the action was directly linked to an ongoing criminal probe, and there was “substantial evidence” of Trump’s obstructive intent.
Lewandowski in the Mueller report
Mueller wrote that Trump’s former campaign manager was directed by the President to ask Sessions to limit the Mueller investigation and not to investigate the Trump campaign. Lewandowski tried to set up an in-person meeting with Sessions, but did not do so, according to the special counsel.
A month after making the request to Lewandowski about Sessions, the President followed up with Lewandowski and told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, he would be fired. Lewandowski did not deliver the intended message to Sessions. Instead, he asked former White House aide Rick Dearborn to speak to Sessions, believing he would be a better messenger, the special counsel wrote. Dearborn later told Lewandowski he had handled the situation, but he did not actually follow through.
The committee also subpoenaed Dearborn and former White House aide Rob Porter to appear Tuesday, but they are not expected after the White House told the committee Monday they had immunity from testifying before Congress due to executive privilege.
The committee has objected to this rationale previously, and is currently suing to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify after the White House made a similar claim when he was subpoenaed earlier this year.
Lewandowski did not serve in the Trump administration, so he does not have the same immunity. But the White House is claiming the right to assert executive privilege over his conversations with the President in instructing him not to answer those questions. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler disputed that the White House can make this claim without invoking privilege.
When Lewandowski appeared behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee last year, he did not answer the committee’s questions about topics after he left the campaign in 2016, in a session that led to expletives being shouted across the room.