Ex- Donald Trump staffer to testify
Published 10:24 AM EDT Sep 17, 2019
WASHINGTON – House Democrats will resume Tuesday what they are calling an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, summoning his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to testify at a public hearing.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Lewandowski to describe what former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation concluded were attempts to thwart the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Investigators said Trump asked Lewandowski to pass on an order to limit the scope of the Russia investigation to prevent meddling in future elections, but that he never followed through.
The combative campaign operative who remains friendly with Trump might prove an uncooperative witness for Democrats. Lewandowski tweeted Thursday that he was “excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction.”
The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT.
Two other people the House had summoned to testify, former White House aides Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter, were instructed by the White House not to show up at the hearing.
Porter’s lawyer, Brant Bishop, told the committee in a letter Monday that White House counsel Pat Cipollone had directed Porter not to appear because of a longstanding Justice Department conclusion that senior advisers can’t be compelled to testify. Porter cooperated with Mueller’s investigation, sitting for 20 hours of interviews and providing documents, Bishop said.
Cipollone also told the committee in a letter Monday that the White House directed Lewandowski not to speak about any communications with Trump beyond what is already in Mueller’s report, citing “long-settled principles protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests.” Cipollone argued that the protections extended to people like Lewandowski, who spoke to the president but did not work for the government.
Former communications director Hope Hicks earlier refused to answer dozens of questions about her service in the administration and former White House counsel Don McGahn defied a subpoena for his testimony and documents. Trump has vowed to fight all subpoenas he contends represent Democratic harassment of his administration.
The Judiciary Committee asked a federal court to enforce its subpoena to force McGahn to testify. Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., dismissed claims of absolute immunity and said if the House wins the McGahn case, it could break the logjam of White House resistance.
“This is a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity,” Nadler said Monday in a statement. “The president would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress – even if they did not actually work for him or his administration. If he were to prevail in this cover-up while the Judiciary Committee is considering whether to recommend articles of impeachment, he would upend the separation of powers as envisioned by our founders.”
The hearing is the latest developing as House Democrats investigate Trump and his administration, to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president for possible obstruction of justice, abuse of power or unconstitutionally profiting from his namesake business while in office. The Judiciary Committee voted Sept. 10 to set rules for the investigation, such as allowing staffers to question witnesses.
Neither the committee nor the full House has adopted articles of impeachment accusing the president of wrongdoing, but Democrats say they are investigating to build a case. But Republican lawmakers have criticized the inquiry as “impeachment in drag,” in the phrase of Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, for being all dressed up with nowhere to go. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, called the effort a “faux impeachment” and a “charade” during a committee meeting to set rules for the inquiry. “I double-dog dare you to do it,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said of voting on articles of impeachment.
According to Mueller’s final report, Trump met one-on-one in the Oval Office in June 2017 with Lewandowski, a trusted adviser outside the government, and dictated a message to deliver to Sessions. Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation because he worked for Trump’s campaign. But the president said he wanted his attorney general to declare that the investigation was “very unfair,” that Trump had done nothing wrong and that Mueller should “move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.”
The next month, Trump asked Lewandowski about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the investigation, according to the Mueller report. Lewandowski told the president that the message would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, Trump criticized Sessions in an interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions’ job was in jeopardy.
Lewandowski did not want to deliver Trump’s message personally, so he asked Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions, according to the Mueller report. Dearborn, former deputy chief of staff for policy, was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through, the report said.
More about clashes between Congress and President Donald Trump:
House panel subpoenas Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager
House panel OKs 12 subpoenas for Trump associates, including Kushner, National Enquirer executives
What we learned from Robert Mueller: Seven hours, zero bombshells and everyone declares victory