Lewandowski delays, denies, stonewalls at hearing on Trump crimes
Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who had no problem physically assaulting people when he was working for Trump, testifying before Congress Tuesday by lying and stonewalling. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP

WASHINGTON—Delay, deny, stonewall, defend Donald Trump and blame Barack Obama. Welcome to the Corey Lewandowski show before the House Judiciary Committee.

Lewandowski, the GOP president’s former campaign manager, spent five hours before the panel on Sept. 17 – ironically, Constitution Day – ducking questions about whether his boss obstructed justice to try to stop Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of pro-Trump Russian manipulation of the 2016 presidential election.

Lewandowski’s show played to two audiences. One is Trump, who sent a White House official to sit directly behind Lewandowski and monitor him – and who cheered Lewandowski’s opening statement, via tweet.

And Lewandowski read into the record the current Trump White House counsel’s letter telling the lawmakers Lewandowski would claim executive privilege on his discussions with Trump. The letter showed the Trump White House orchestrated Lewandowski’s presentation.

Trump limited Lewandowski only to confirming the findings of Mueller’s report. Lewandowski also pleased Trump by alleging Obama administration officials should have told him, when he was campaign manager, about their probe into the Russian manipulation, but didn’t.

Not discussed: The millions of dollars Russian oligarchs spent to manipulate election of the scion of the corporate criminal class, Trump, to the White House.

Lewandowski also pleased Trumpites and the president’s corporate and right-wing backers nationwide, but especially in New Hampshire. There, Lewandowski is plotting a GOP primary run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. He now leads in the GOP field in polls.

Indeed, Lewandowski’s putative campaign website tweeted his opening statement and used it to campaign for cash from the radical right and public support.

Further playing to the Trumpites, Lewandowski told Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the committee’s most-vitriolic Trumpite, that “Democrats hate this president more than they love their country.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., promptly retorted: “Before I begin, let me remind you, Mr. Lewandowski, that this is not a Republican primary campaign. You are not on the campaign trail yet. This is the House Judiciary Committee. Act like you know the difference.”

Despite his repeated stonewalling, Lewandowski agreed Mueller was correct in saying Trump asked Lewandowski to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to focus the foreign interference probe on future balloting and away from Trump.

Trump’s request to Lewandowski is one item of evidence lawmakers are using as they ponder whether, when and on what charges to impeach Trump with obstruction of justice.

Lewandowski’s attempt was important in Trump’s efforts to stop disclosure of Russian election interference and manipulation – not because of what he did, but what he refused to do.

Lewandowski said he called Sessions to try to set up a private lunch between them to discuss the interference, rather than put it on the record by visiting the Justice Department and signing its entry register.

Sessions refused. And, Mueller reported, Lewandowski – then and now a private citizen — later passed the request on to an aide, who didn’t do anything. Asked what he did instead, Lewandowski told lawmakers he went on vacation to the beach with his kids.

And while Lewandowski denied having any contact with the Russians, or any other foreign power, during his term as Trump’s campaign chief, he did not dispute the Mueller report’s basic conclusion that the Russians set out to help the GOP real estate mogul.

“That’s what the report says,” was his repeated answer to lawmakers about that issue and others. But despite that statement, Lewandowski let loose occasional nuggets of information.

Trump “dictated to you exactly what he wanted you to put into the mouth of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, correct?” one Democrat asked Lewandowski.

“I believe he asked me to deliver a message for Jeff to consider delivering himself” about ordering Mueller to concentrate on future election interference threats, Lewandowski replied. It was one of the few times in the five hours where Lewandowski interpreted others’ intentions. His more-common response to such queries was to lecture lawmakers to ask Trump or Sessions.

Mueller’s report says Trump’s efforts to coach Sessions, through Lewandowski, was one of ten obstructions of justice that – had Trump not been president and thus “protected” by a Justice Department memo – would lead to his indictment on that charge.

But Lewandowski’s more-common answer was typified in his exchange with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

“The president asked you, who had no role in the White House, to deliver a message to Attorney General Sessions,” Lee told Lewandowski. “The president could have picked up the phone himself at any time and called the Attorney General. The president also had a full staff of executive employees right down the hall.

“This made me wonder: If the president thought what he was doing was legal, why didn’t he pick up the phone and call the Attorney General? Why not ask any member of his staff who worked right down the hall to deliver a message? It is clear to me the reason he went to you, Mr. Lewandowski, is because everyone said ‘no.’”

Left unsaid, though it was in Mueller’s report, was that other Trump staffers said “no,” because they realized trying to close down the Mueller probe was illegal obstruction of justice.

Mueller’s report also says that Trump’s efforts to coach Sessions, through Lewandowski, was one of ten obstructions of justice that – had Trump not occupied the Oval Office – would lead to his indictment on that charge.

Lewandowski didn’t go there. His reply was to claim executive privilege and not discuss the conversation. He didn’t answer Lee’s question.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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