- Title: Ex-campaign chief defends Trump, battles Democrats at fierce impeachment hearing
- Date: 17th September 2019
- Summary: WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES (SEPTEMBER 17, 2019) (UNRESTRICTED POOL) WIDE OF LEWANDOWSKI AT HEARING
- Embargoed: 1st October 2019 22:01
- Keywords: Corey Lewandowski Donald Trump
- Location: WASHINGTON D.C., PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES; INTERNET
- Reuters ID: LVA005AX1S5L3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump's former campaign manager and close confidant, on Tuesday (September 17) vigorously defended his former boss and lashed out at Democrats but repeatedly dodged their questions during a contentious hearing before a U.S. congressional panel considering whether to impeach Trump.
Lewandowski, who is considering running for a U.S. Senate seat from New Hampshire, tangled with Democratic members of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee and told the panel he would refuse to answer questions about his conversations with Trump that Democrats view as evidence of obstruction of justice.
Lewandowski was the first impeachment witness to appear before the committee since former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified in July about his inquiry that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 election to boost Trump's candidacy and Trump's actions to impede the investigation.
"We as a nation would be better served if elected officials like yourselves concentrated your efforts to combat the true crises facing our country as opposed to going down rabbit holes like this hearing," Lewandowski, appearing after being subpoenaed, told the Democratic-led panel.
The White House on Monday told Lewandowski not to discuss conversations he had with Trump after he became president including an exchange that Democrats view as evidence that Trump committed obstruction of justice by trying to interfere in a federal investigation and may need to be impeached.
White House lawyers sat behind Lewandowski during the hearing.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, began the hearing focused on "presidential obstruction of justice and abuse of power" by slamming the White House's legal team for instructing Lewandowski to limit the scope of his testimony by invoking a doctrine called executive privilege.
"The White House is advancing a new and dangerous theory: the crony privilege," Nadler said.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to vote to impeach a president while the Senate then would hold a trial on whether to remove him from office. The House is controlled by Democrats and the Senate by Trump's fellow Republicans.
Two other witnesses - former Trump White House aides Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn - had been scheduled to appear but the White House directed them not to testify, contending they were "absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters related to their service as senior advisers to the President."
Lewandowski sidestepped numerous questions from Democrats but confirmed Mueller's account of a June 2017 meeting at the White House in which Trump asked him to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The message said Sessions should shift the Russia probe's focus to future elections despite his recusal from the investigation - a move that would have spared Trump's 2016 campaign of scrutiny. Sessions ultimately did not meet with Lewandowski, who held no government position at the time.
Lewandowski at times provided details not included in the Mueller's investigative report released in April, despite the White House's instructions to limit his testimony. Under questioning by Democratic Representative Hank Johnson, Lewandowski said he never delivered the message to Sessions because he went on beach vacation with his children.
Lewandowski faced friendlier questions from Republican lawmakers, who accused Democrats of pursuing an endless and fruitless investigation of Trump for political purposes.
Lewandowski assailed the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump on Twitter praised Lewandowski's opening statement as "beautiful." Trump in August called Lewandowski "a fantastic guy" who would be a "great senator" and that "I like everything about him."
The hearing sometimes bordered on political farce.
Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries asked Lewandowski if he was Trump's political enforcer.
"Are you the hit man, the bag man, the lookout, or all of the above?" Jeffries asked.
"I think I'm the good looking man, actually," Lewandowski said.
Trump fired Lewandowski as his campaign manager in June 2016 but the two remained close. During the campaign, Lewandowski had often generated controversy including when he was charged with misdemeanor battery after being accused of forcefully grabbing a female reporter in Florida. The charge was later dropped.
(Production: Deborah Gembara)
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