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Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager, appears before House Judiciary Committee

Posted: 11:27 AM, Sep 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-17 13:27:21-04
Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager, appears before House Judiciary Committee

President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is expected to appear before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday in what will be the panel's first high-profile impeachment hearing since former special counsel Robert Mueller testified.

But it's 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 was heavily referenced in Mueller's report on obstruction of justice. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has said two of the episodes involving Lewandowski meet all the criteria for obstruction of justice for the President, and those are likely where Democrats will press Lewandowski to explain what happened.

Lewandowski tweeted Tuesday morning that he is "excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction."

Mueller wrote that Trump's former campaign manager was directed by the President to ask then-Attorney General Jeff 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.

Nadler said in an interview Monday with WNYC's Brian Lehrer that the hearing with Lewandowski was the first he was designating as an impeachment hearing under the rules the committee approved last week.

That means that staff attorneys will be granted an hour -- split evenly among Democrats and Republicans -- to question Lewandowski after members ask their questions.

Nadler said that the hearings he was planning in the fall, starting with Lewandowski, were key to convincing the public that the House should move forward with impeachment.

"We have to show that there are adequate grounds for impeachment, that there are imperative grounds for impeachment, and convince people," he said. "If that happens, if people are convinced after the hearings that the President should be impeached, then we'll be able to get the votes."

But Lewandowski will surely not be a cooperative witness. The former Trump campaign manager remains close to Trump and is currently mulling a Senate bid in New Hampshire .

"I look forward to my opportunity to sit in front of his committee," Lewandowski said on Fox News Radio last month. "Believe me I'm no flowering violet."

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.