84°F
weather icon Clear

Lewandowski, House Democrats spar at 1st impeachment hearing

WASHINGTON — The first impeachment hearing held by House Democrats quickly turned hostile as their sole witness, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, stonewalled many of their questions and declared they were “focusing on petty and personal politics.”

Lewandowski, a devoted friend and supporter of President Donald Trump, followed White House orders not to discuss conversations with the Republican president beyond what was already public in the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump cheered Lewandowski along as he testified on Tuesday, tweeting that his opening statement was “beautiful.”

The hearing underscores what has been a central dilemma for the House Judiciary Committee all year as they investigate — and potentially try to impeach — Trump. Many of the Democrats’ base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove Trump from office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at almost every turn, declining to provide new documents or allow aides and associates to testify.

On Tuesday, Lewandowski, who is considering a run for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, defiantly made clear he wouldn’t make life easy for the Democrats. He demanded that they provide him a copy of the Mueller report, sending Democratic staff scrambling to find one. He read directly from the report and asked Democrats to read passages to him, showing that he wouldn’t say much beyond what Mueller wrote. Republicans on the panel forced a series of procedural votes, immediately sending the hearing into disarray.

“He’s filibustering,” said a frustrated House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler.

Lewandowski eventually began to answer some questions — he told the committee that he doesn’t think Trump “asked me to do anything illegal” — but still stuck mostly to what was already in the report, giving Democrats little new information to go on. And he made clear his dislike for the House majority in the opening statement, calling them petty and asserting that investigations of the president were conducted by “Trump haters.”

Lewandowski was a central figure in Mueller’s report, which the committee is examining as part of its impeachment probe. The report, which said Trump could not be exonerated on obstruction of justice, 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 White House aide Rick 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.

Under questioning by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., Lewandowski confirmed as “accurate” that Trump had asked him to deliver the message. At least two Democrats asked if he “chickened out.” Lewandowski said no, that he took his kids to the beach instead.

And under questioning from a lawyer for the Democrats, Barry Berke, Lewandowski acknowledged that he had possibly lied in a cable interview about his interactions with Trump when he said he didn’t remember the president asking him to get involved with Sessions. New rules approved by the committee last week for impeachment hearings allow staff questioning at the end of the hearing.

Democrats say the televised hearings are to educate the American people on the Mueller report and what they say is egregious behavior by the president. They argue that the blockade from the White House and stonewalling from witnesses like Lewandowski just gives them more fodder for lawsuits they have filed against the administration — and possible articles of impeachment on obstruction.

“You are also proving our point for the American people to see,” Nadler said, noting that one of the articles of impeachment drafted against President Richard Nixon involved obstruction. He said Lewandowski’s behavior is “completely unacceptable.”

Two other witnesses who were subpoenaed alongside Lewandowski, Dearborn and former White House aide Rob Porter, did not show up at all, on orders from the White House. The White House says the former aides are “absolutely immune” from testifying — a principle that Democrats are currently challenging in court.

The committee’s impeachment investigation faces major hurdles, and it’s still unclear whether the panel will ever draft articles of impeachment or hold any impeachment votes. The Republican Senate is certain to rebuff any House efforts to bring charges against the president. Moderate Democrats have expressed nervousness that the impeachment push could crowd out their other accomplishments. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the public sentiment isn’t yet there.

Still, the Judiciary panel is moving ahead, last week approving the rules, including the staff questioning, for what Nadler said will be an “aggressive series” of impeachment hearings this fall. Republicans declined to use their 30 minutes of staff questioning, arguing that the hearings aren’t really impeachment because the House never voted to begin an inquiry.

Tuesday’s hearing featured both combative exchanges between Lewandowski and Democrats and friendly questions from the Republican side of the dais. The witness took personal shots at some Democrats — calling California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary, “President Swalwell,” for example. The Democrats taunted Lewandowski as well, with members occasionally reminding him that he was “not yet” a senator.

Republicans focused their ire on Nadler and the Democrats.

“They are going to bring back anybody, as much as they have to, to find something, anything to keep impeachment hopes alive,” Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, told Lewandowski during his round of questioning.

Lewandowski’s political future wound throughout the proceedings, which offered him a widely televised platform from which to defend Trump and publicly introduce himself on the congressional political stage. A poll last week showed Lewandowski would win the GOP nomination for Senate in New Hampshire. Trump has offered his support for any bid from the right to challenge Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.

For his part, Lewandowski on Tuesday did nothing to bat down cracks from Democrats about his ambitions. And during a break in the hearing, he tweeted a link to his new super PAC.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
US envoy Sondland distances himself from Trump

Gordon Sondland’s testimony to House impeachment investigators was aimed at distancing himself from President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Kurdish commander says Trump OK’d deal with Moscow, Damascus

The commander’s comments underscored President Trump’s willingness to see a crucial U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State switch allegiance to Moscow and Damascus.

Pence says Turkey has agreed to 5-day cease-fire in Syria

Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that the U.S. and Turkey had agreed to a five-day cease-fire in northern Syria to allow for a Kurdish withdrawal from a security zone roughly 20 miles south of the Turkish border, in what appeared to be a significant embrace of Turkey’s position in the week-long conflict.

Powerful US Rep. Elijah Cummings, who took on Trump, dies at 68

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his congressional office said. He was 68.

US airstrikes destroy ammunition left behind in Syria

Most of the 1,000 U.S. forces in Syria are being withdrawn over the coming days and weeks because of the Turkish invasion into northern Syria and the attack on Kurdish forces.

Parents of slain teen stunned by Trump’s attempted actions

Harry Dunn, 19, was killed in August when his motorcycle collided with a car allegedly driven by Anne Sacoolas outside a British air force base.