Democrats threaten Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski with CONTEMPT as he mocks and stonewalls them at first House impeachment hearing - before attorney confronts him with his own words and he admits he is 'not honest with the media'
- Corey Lewandowski stonewalled Democrats who were questioning him about possible obstruction of justice charges against Donald Trump
- 'I think that this fake Russia collusion narrative is the greatest crime committed against the American people in our generation if not ever,' he said
- Lewandowski took a combative and aggressive stance from the start of his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee
- Trump praised Lewandowski's opening statement, calling it 'beautiful'
- Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler charged the president with obstructing House Democrats' investigation into his administration
- 'President Trump now appears to be using the powers of his office to obstruct all investigations by the only branch of the federal government currently capable of holding him accountable,' Nadler wrote to the White House counsel
- White House counsel told committee Lewandowski would not to discuss conversations he had with Trump about government matters
- White House forbid former aides Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn from testifying
- Lewandowski is mulling a New Hampshire Senate bid
- Committee counsel Barry Berke tore into his past statements during a late-hearing grilling
Tuesday's House hearing with Corey Lewandowksi culminated with angry threats by the Democratic majority to hold him in contempt – and damaging admissions by the former Donald Trump campaign manager that he has been untruthful in national TV interviews.
The fireworks came after a full day of testimony, after House Democrats armed with new rules they pushed through allowed an outside consultant to grill Trump's combative former campaign head for 30 consecutive minutes.
Lewandowski was for the first time confronted with his past statements on Fox and MSNBC interviews, as well as statements he made in his own book about his interactions with the president.
'I have no obligation to be candid with the media whatsoever,' Lewandowski said at one point.
'I'm a truth teller every time I stand before Congress,' he said under questioning by majority counsel Barry Berke, saying he was truthful 'every time I raised my right hand to God.'
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Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was aggressive and combative in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee
Lewandowski was confronted with a clip of himself saying on MSNBC he didn't ever remember the president 'ever asking me to get involved with [former attorney general] Jeff Sessions or the Department of Justice in any way shape, or form, ever.'
It was a key moment of alleged obstruction from the Mueller report – where Trump dictated to Lewandowski, a private citizen, a statement he wanted the former attorney general to give while curtailing the special counsel's investigation.
'That was not true, was it?' the Harvard law grad and white collar defense attorney Berke asked him.
Outside lawyer Barry Berke tore into Lewandowski on behalf of the majority
The Trump loyalist was forced to defend public statements about the special counsel and his relationship with the president
'I have no obligation to be honest with the media because they are just as dishonest as everybody else,' Lewandowski responded.
Judiciary Chairman Jerold Nadler, who during the hearing shut down fellow Democrats efforts to bring maximum pressure on the witness, came down on the witness at the end of the hearing.
'Mr. Lewandowski, your behavior in this hearing room has been completely unacceptable. It is part of a pattern of a White House desperate for the American people not to hear the truth,' the New York Democrat fumed.
'I’ve been asked several times today whether the committee will hold you in contempt. It is certainly under consideration,' he warned.
Republicans howled in protest when the Democrats brought in their ringer to conduct intensive questioning at the end of the hearing. Previously, individual members tried to get the former New Hampshire police officer to buckle during five-minute increments of questioning.
In another tense moment with Berke, the lawyer asked him: 'On national television did you lie about your relationship with the special counsel and whether they sought your interview?'
'I don't know,' he replied.
Lewandowski tweeted out a message about the launch of his campaign for senator from New Hampshire during the hearing, irking one Democratic lawmaker who mentioned it.
He got accolades from the president for his early loyal performance, but cracks soon developed in his testimony as the day wore on.
Lewandowski has stonewalled Democrats who were questioning him about possible obstruction of justice charges against Donald Trump as the president praised his former campaign manager's tough stance.
Lewandowski took a combative and aggressive stance from the start of his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which he could also use as a launch pad for a Senate bid.
The former Trump campaign manager offered a strong defense of the president, claiming he was a victim of 'haters' and resisted Democrats' efforts to ask him about his conversations with the president.
The hearing is part of the Democrats' strategy to prove there is enough evidence to impeach President Trump and they've issued a round of subpoena to witnesses from special counsel Robert Mueller's report to help make their case to the American people.
Lewandowski's more than four hours before the panel had its share of made-for-TV moments as he resisted their efforts to implicate Trump and snapped back at many of their questions.
In one of those moments, he mocked Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, who suggested Lewandowski was 'ashamed' to read his own words from Mueller's report that were projected on a screen in the room.
'Why don’t you want to read it Mr. Lewandowski?’ the congressman for California asked.
‘I think you should afford me the same privilege you gave Mr. Mueller,' he responded, referring to Mueller's June testimony before the committee, where he did not have to read from his report.
'Are you ashamed of the words you wrote down,' Swalwell asked.
Lewandowski then called him 'President Swalwell,' in his response, alluding to the congressman's failed presidential bid.
'President Swalwell - I'm very happy with what I've written but you're welcome to read it if you like,' he said.
And when Swalwell pressed him if he was ashamed of what he wrote, Lewandowski pushed back: 'I’m not ashamed of anything in my life. Are you?'
Swalwell also asked about Lewandowski's testimony to Mueller, where he stated he kept notes from his conversations with President Trump in a safe.
'It’s a big safe congressman. There’s a lot of guns in there,' Lewandowski said.
But Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal got in a shot at her own at Lewandowski during her questioning period.
'You are not yet in the Senate. You are a witness before the Judiciary Committee. Please act like it,' she told him, referring to speculation he may run for New Hampshire's Senate seat next year.
The lawmaker from Washington state appeared to rattle Lewandowski when she asked him if he lied to Mueller's investigators or to the president.
'Not to the best of my recollection, no,' he told her.
She then asked him about a tweet from Trump in April, after the Mueller report came out, when the president wrote: 'Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue.'
'So the president is wrong that the report is fabricated and totally untrue?,' Jayapal asked Lewandowski.
'That’s a question for the president,' he replied.
'Did you lie to the president and is the president correct that everything in the report is fabricated?,' she asked.
'I won’t comment on private conversations but I don’t appreciate the insinuation that I lied about anything. And I’ve answered it multiple times. I’ve answered your question multiple times,' Lewandowski replied.
Rep. Pramila Jayapa appeared to rattle Corey Lewandowski with her questions
Corey Lewandowski confers with his personal attorney Peter Chavkin during his testimony
Lewandowski mocked Rep. Eric Swalwell's failed presidential bid
The former Trump campaign manager also made some head-scratching comments in his testimony, claiming he never read Mueller's report and arguing the 'fake Russian collusion narrative' is the 'greatest crime committed' against the American people.
'I think that this fake Russia collusion narrative is the greatest crime committed against the American people in our generation if not ever,' he said.
Lewandowski also had a contentious back-and-forth with Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee.
'Don't ask me a question I won't answer,' he told her when she pressed him on his conversations with the president.
'This is House Judiciary - not a house party,' she shot back.
And when Jackson Lee pressed him to answer a question about a section of sMueller's report, which was projected on a screen in the hearing room, Lewandowski snapped back: ' You're welcome to read it, congresswoman.'
'You're welcome to be stalling, and I'm not going to stall. Either answer the question yes or no,' Jackson Lee responded.
'I will not disclose any conversation I've had with the president,' Lewandowski said. 'The White House has directed me that I not disclose the substance of any conversation with the president.'
With Jackson Lee's five minutes of question time expired, Chairman Jerry Nadler said Lewandowski could answer her last question.
'I don't believe there was a question, congressman,' Lewandowski responded. 'Just a rant.'
Corey Lewandoski was combative with Democratic lawmakers
Corey Lewandoski testified for more than four hours before the House Judiciary Committee
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone warned the Judiciary panel in a letter Monday night that Lewandowski would not discuss conversations he had with President Trump about government matters.
Lewandowski has remained a close adviser to Trump even though he has no formal role in the Trump White House. He is often seen in the White House and on Air Force One, acting as an informal adviser to the president and meeting with him.
He is also the first impeachment witness to appear before the committee since Mueller testified in July.
He came out fighting in his opening statement.
'As the special counsel determined, there was no conspiracy or collusion between the Trump campaign and any foreign government, either on my watch or going forward. Not surprisingly after the Mueller report was made public, interest in the Fake Russian collusion narrative has fallen apart,' he said.
'Sadly the country spent over three years and 40 million taxpayer dollars on these investigations. It is now clear the investigation was populated by many Trump haters who had their own agenda – to try and take down a duly elected president of the United States. As for actual ‘collusion’ or ‘conspiracy, there was none. What there has been however, is harassment of the president from the day he won the election,' he added.
President Trump praised Lewandowski's opening statement, calling it 'beautiful' in a tweet.
'Such a beautiful Opening Statement by Corey Lewandowski! Thank you Corey!,' he wrote.
Corey Lewandowski did not work in the White House but was an informal adviser to President Trump
Corey Lewandowski with his lawyer Peter Chavkin
After his opening statement, Lewandowski began his stonewalling, telling Nadler he could not answer his questions about parts of Mueller's report as he did not have the report in front of him. Committee staff provided him with a copy.
'The White House has directed I not disclose the substance of any communications with the president or his advisers,' Lewandowski said when asked about conversations with the president.
It was a line he used repeatedly in his four-hours plus of testimony.
House Democrats wanted to ask Lewandowski about an effort by the president to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to redirect the Mueller probe away from Trump's 2016 campaign.
The episode is outlined in Mueller's 448-page report: In June 2017, Trump met with Lewandowski at the White House and gave him a message to pass along to Sessions - that the attorney general should shift the focus of the Russia probe to future elections.
Sessions had recused himself from overseeing Mueller's investigation.
A month later, Trump asked about the matter and said Lewandowski should 'tell Sessions he was fired' if he would not meet with the former campaign manager, according to Mueller's report.
Lewandowski asked then-White House aide Rick Dearborn to deliver the message for him but Dearborn, uncomfortable with it, did not do so, Mueller's report noted.
Rep. Hank Johnson asked Corey Lewandowski about a message President Trump wanted him to deliver to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Corey Lewandowski seen during the 2016 campaign with Donald Trump and Eric Trump
Democratic Representative Hank Johnson asked Lewandowski about that specific incident, saying to him: 'You are about like a fish being cleaned with a spoon. It's very hard to get an answer out of you.'
'I believe he asked me to deliver a message for Jeff to consider delivering himself,' Lewandowski said of Trump's request for him regarding Sessions.
'And it was a message that he intended for Jeff, meaning Jeff Sessions, to deliver out loud and publicly. He wanted the public to know what he was saying but he wanted Jeff to say it. Correct?,' Johnson asked.
'I believe the Mueller report accurately depicts that,' Lewandowski replied.
Johnson asked him about his decision to ask Dearborn to deliver the message instead: 'And you felt kind of squeamish, like a, like that fish that you are trying to be right now, being scaled, you felt a little squeamish about delivering that message. Correct?'
'No, sir,' Lewandowski said.
'You chickened out,' Johnson said.
'I went on vacation,' Lewandowski replied. 'I took my kids to the beach, congressman. More of a priority.'
A staffer provides a copy of the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, stands with David Bossie, as he arrives to testify
He also pushed back when Democratic Rep. David Cicilline asked him about the incident from Mueller's report.
'I can't comment on a private conversation with the president, asserting executive privilege,' Lewandowski said.
'I'm sorry?,' Cicilline replied.
'I can read you the exact statement if you'd like. The White House direct I not disclose any comments with the president,' Lewandowski began.
Cicilline interrupted: 'You're not going to stonewall me in my questioning.'
'Would you like me to answer your question,' Lewandowski shot back.
At one point in the hearings Lewandowski said he's never read the Mueller report.
'I've never actually read the report,' he said, adding 'no one has.'
But Republican Congressman Andy Biggs replied he's read it.
Lewandowski said he was happy to find someone who has and noted 'we've been looking for you.'
He even used some resistance tactics with Republicans.
'We could've talked about your football team,' Republican Congressman Doug Collins told him.
'Patriots,' Lewandowski replied and then praised quarterback Tom Brady: 'Tom's a winner.'
He also resisted efforts from Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to define what role or job he has with President Trump.
'Your job, to be Donald Trump's political enforcer. Correct?,' Jeffries said.
'No. I don't believe so,' Lewandowski said.
'Let me ask the question another way,' Jeffries said. 'Are you the hit man, the back man, lookout are all of the above?'
'I think I'm the good-looking man, actually,' Lewandowski replied.
Ahead of Lewandowski's testimony, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler charged the president with obstructing their investigation.
Nadler, in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, blasted the president's decision to forbid former White House aides Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter from testifying Tuesday and to limit Lewandowski's ability to talk about conversations he had with Trump after he became president.
'Having avoided a charging decision from the special counsel's office due to the Department's policy precluding indictment of a sitting president, President Trump now appears to be using the powers of his office to obstruct all investigations by the only branch of the federal government currently capable of holding him accountable,' Nadler wrote to Cipollone.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler charged the president with obstructing House Democrats' investigation
The White House forbid former White House aides Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn from testifying
Cipollone told the committee in a letter Monday night that Lewandowski - who is mulling a New Hampshire Senate bid - would not to discuss conversations he had with Trump about government matters unless those subjects were already mentioned in Mueller's report.
'The White House has directed Mr. Lewandowski not to discuss the substance of any conversations he had with the President or senior Presidential advisers about official government matters, unless the information is expressly contained in the Report,' Cipollone wrote.
'Mr. Lewandowski's conversations with the President and with senior advisers to the President are protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests,' Cipollone argued.
Additionally, Cipollone, in a separate letter, ordered former Porter and Dearborn not to testify, arguing they are 'absolutely immune' from congressional testimony.
The White House already forbid former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying before Nadler's committee. McGahn defied his subpoena and the matter is now before the federal courts. Whatever the court rules on McGahn will likely apply to Dearborn and Porter.
Nadler blasted the Cipollone in his opening statement and lectured Lewandowski.
'Mr. Lewandowski, you are here under subpoena. That means you are required to answer our questions, all our questions, completely and truthfully,' he said.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone limited what Lewandowski could talk about in his testimony
Corey Lewandowski came out fighting in his opening statement
The New York Democrat also questioned if Dearborn - who served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs in Trump's White House - had a high enough ranking in the administration to fall under executive privilege.
'I question how Mr. Dearborn fits under those rules. According to DoJ opinions, actual immunity applies to, quote, the president's immediate advisers who serve as the president's alter ego, closed quote. To extend this already dubious adoption to Mr. Dearborn is a dangerous stretch. I think we should call this what it is, an absolute cover-up by the White House. Mr. Lewandowski is here and has vital information about presidential obstruction of justice. The White House wants to limit our and your ability to hear it all,' he said.
'The White House is advancing a new and dangerous theory, the cronie privilege. It makes absolute immunity look good by comparison. Where are the limits? This is a cover-up, plain and simple. If it were to prevail, especially while the Judiciary committee is considering entering articles of impeachment, it would end a separation of powers as envisioned by our founders,' Nadler added.
Lewandowski has remained close to Trump even after he left the job of campaign manager during the 2016 election.
'I think it's a fair assessment that I'm close to the president,' Lewandowski said during his testimony.
Trump has indicated he would support Lewandowski should he run for New Hampshire's Senate seat next year.
Nadler said on Monday he considers Lewandowski's appearance before his pane an 'impeachment hearing.'