2019-09-17 18:28:121 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski did his best on Tuesday to follow the wishes of the White House during the impeachment hearing on Tuesday. He spent every moment he could defending the president, a close friend of his.
On the eve of his testimony, the White House instructed Lewandowski to not discuss conversations between him and the president, including conversations that former special counsel Robert Mueller believes could be obstruction of justice.
Lewandowski was asked to be Trump's campaign manager months before he even announced he was running and stuck with him for nearly a year when he was pushed out because of accusations that he was getting rough with others. He remained tight with Trump, however, even as a private citizen, after Trump became president.
He was upfront with the House Judiciary Committee, telling them at the outset of the hearing that he would refuse to answer any questions about his conversations with Trump. Republican members of Congress tried in vain to have the hearing adjourned early.
"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 said in his opener.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) took the time in his opening remarks to hit hard. He hit back at the White House for limiting Lewandowski's testimony because of executive privilege.
"We should call this what it is: an absolute coverup by the White House," he issued. "The White House is advancing a new and dangerous theory: the crony privilege," he continued. " ... Where are the limits?
Lewandowski dipped right into Trump's pool with his comments about the Mueller report. "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," he said.
"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."
In a tweet, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) stuck it to Lewandowski for delivering those remarks, writing, "This isn't a campaign rally. This is the first hearing where you can tell the American people how you participated in the president's effort to obstruct justice."
Lewandowski was also asked about Trump summoning him to the Oval Office and dictating a note that he was to deliver to then-attorney-general Jeff Sessions. The president reportedly wanted him to pull Mueller off the case and is just one of the more than 10 episodes that could be viewed as obstruction.
Trump followed up after the first meeting, asking what the status was of the message. He told Lewandowski he should "tell Sessions he was fired," if he didn't meet with the former campaign manager, according to the Mueller report.
It was still clear who Lewandowski was aligned with even if many times he was citing executive privilege to not answer the questions being lobbed at him.
He accused Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) of delivering a "rant," and she returned the volley accusing him of avoiding questions and interrupting her.
Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN) asked Lewandowski,"You didn't think that it was illegal to obstruct justice?" and the former campaign manager replied, "The president never asked me to do anything illegal."
He had many testy responses with other panel members. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, was asking Lewandowski about putting the note Trump dictated to him in a safe.
They sparred over which one of them should read the note that was displayed on a projector, and the congressman asked him, "Are you ashamed of the words that you wrote down?"
"President Swalwell," replied Lewandowski, in a certain takedown of his failed bid, "I'm very happy of what I've written, but you're welcome to read it if you'd like."
Not that the GOP didn't get their swipes in as well. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) demanded that the panel hold hearings on the Justice Department's inspector general report that former FBI director James Comey mishandled his memos rather than put Lewandowski through questioning.
"Of course you haven't thought about that, too busy trying to impeach the president, too busy slapping subpoenas on Corey Lewandowski," he said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), instead of getting testimony from Lewandowski, asked, "Do you have a thought why we continue to engage in a charade that is overwhelmingly opposed by the American people and fundamentally misunderstood by my Democrat colleagues?"
The Trump ally responded, "You know, Congressman, I think they hate this president more than they love their country."
Nadler invoked memories of Watergate by slamming Lewandowski for refusing to answer questions, telling him when he does that, "You are obstructing the work or our committee. You are also proving our point for the American people to see — the president is intent on obstructing our legitimate oversight.
"You are aiding him in that obstruction. And I will remind you that Article 3 of the impeachment against President Nixon was based on obstruction of Congress. You are instructed to answer the questions."
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