Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to testify at an impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, but Chairman Jerrold Nadler expects he will try to “improperly exert” executive privilege on some questions.
Lewandowski — the scheduled star witness at the committee’s first hearing related to its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump — played a lead role in an episode laid out in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on the president’s efforts to interfere in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Nadler, speaking Monday morning to New York public radio station WNYC, said he does not expect Lewandowski to be forthcoming.
“I think he’s going to exert — improperly exert — executive privilege on some of the questions we’ll ask him, but we’ll see,” the New York Democrat said.
Late Monday, the White House released a letter saying it planned to constrain Lewandowski's testimony.
According to the Mueller report, the president asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions “that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was ‘very unfair’ to the president, the president had done nothing wrong.”
A month later, Trump followed up with Lewandowski, who said the message had not yet been delivered, but would be soon, according to the report. However, he “did not want to deliver the president’s message personally.”
Kavanaugh back in headlines
Just as Nadler prepared to launch the aggressive series of impeachment-related hearings, a new report sparked renewed calls from Democrats for the committee to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, as well.
But Nadler said his committee lacks the time and manpower to pursue at once all the oversight and impeachment efforts that Democratic lawmakers have demanded.
“We have our hands full impeaching the president right now,” he said of a process expected to take months, with a decision on impeachment before the end of the year. “And it’s going to take up our limited resources and time for a while.”
The focus on Trump over Kavanaugh is among the recent signs that the ever-broadening scope of investigations into the Trump administration can’t all be pursued — and that the Judiciary Committee must prioritize.
Nadler, who has stated that he’d like the panel to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment by the end of the year, pushed through rules last week that allow subcommittees to hold impeachment-related hearings. “There would not be enough days otherwise for the task,” Nadler said.
On Friday, the Justice Department, as expected, officially opposed the House Judiciary Committee’s request for access to secret grand jury materials related to the Mueller investigation — meaning a longer court grind to get information Democrats say is critical to their congressional probe.
The House general counsel’s office, under an unprecedented strain as it seeks to enforce congressional subpoenas via the courts, last week sought a one-month extension for a deadline in the lawsuit to stop Trump from moving federal funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. They cited “the House’s other litigation deadlines and the important issues presented by this case.”
And then reaction to a news analysis Saturday in The New York Times, which discussed allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh while he was a student at Yale University decades ago, lumped more on the Judiciary Committee’s full plate.
Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations and the Senate confirmed him in dramatic hearings and votes last October. Trump and other Republicans dismissed the newest New York Times report as a smear campaign against Trump’s second appointment to the Supreme Court.
But Saturday’s story prompted Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, both presidential candidates, to call for Kavanaugh’s impeachment and question the FBI’s background investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing,” Warren tweeted. “Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”
Nadler, who previously has said the House Judiciary Committee would thoroughly investigate Kavanaugh on sexual misconduct and perjury allegations, said Democrats would question FBI Director Christopher Wray “about this whole thing” at an already scheduled oversight hearing in October, “and then we’ll have to see where we go from there.”
Nadler said House Judiciary has jurisdiction over whether Kavanaugh lied to the Senate during his confirmation process, and oversight of the “adequacy of the investigation on which confirmation was premised.”
“It’s one thing for a presidential candidate or anybody else to say it’s their opinion that something should be done,” Nadler said. “We have official jurisdiction and whether to exercise that jurisdiction is a consequential action which we have to be able to justify.”
Nadler said his panel is “concentrating our resources” on determining whether to impeach the president. The committee has to show the American people that “there are adequate grounds for impeachment,” because “without the public support, we won’t get the votes in the House.”
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