House Judiciary Committee to hold 1st impeachment hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — As they investigate President Donald Trump, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will hold their first official hearing in what they are calling an impeachment investigation.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump's outspoken, loyal former campaign manager, is scheduled to appear Tuesday to discuss the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller. But it's unlikely that Democrats will get much new information as they decide whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.

"Excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction," Lewandowski, who is considering a Senate run in New Hampshire, tweeted in the hours before the hearing. "There were lots of angry Democrats who tried to take down a duly elected President. Tune in. #Senate2020"

Lewandowski is echoing Trump's characterization of the Mueller report, a characterization that isn't fully accurate. Mueller found that there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia, and he also found that Trump could not be exonerated on obstruction of justice. Attorney General William Barr later made his own decision on obstruction, saying there was insufficient evidence.

A devoted friend and supporter of the Republican president, Lewandowski is likely to fiercely defend Trump — and he isn't expected to elaborate much beyond what he told Mueller's investigators last year. Mueller himself testified this summer, with no bombshells. Two other witnesses who were subpoenaed alongside Lewandowski — former White House aides Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter — won't show up at all, on orders from the White House.

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Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager
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Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager
PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 11: Corey Lewandowski campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks with the media before former presidential candidate Ben Carson gives his endorsement to Mr. Trump at the Mar-A-Lago Club on March 11, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Presidential candidates continue to campaign before Florida's March 15th primary day. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, center, pauses while speaking during a news conference with his son Eric Trump, right, and Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for Trump, left, at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Billionaire Trump fell short of his goal of winning the two key states he needed to clear most of the Republican presidential field, securing a huge victory in Florida to knock out Senator Marco Rubio while losing Ohio to Governor John Kasich. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to members of the media before a news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Friday, March 11, 2016. Ben Carson, who recently ended his quest for Republican presidential nomination, endorsed his onetime rival Donald Trump Friday striking a blow to presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz, who had courted Carson because they appeal to many of the same religious-minded voters. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for Donald Trump's 2016 Republican presidential campaign, speaks on the telephone while at his desk inside the Trump campaign headquarters located in Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. The billionaire front-runner for the Republican nomination continues his momentum this fall by preparing media ads and holding public appearance throughout the country. Photographer: Ali Elkin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) is seen allegedly grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields in this still frame from video taken March 8, 2016 and released by the Jupiter (Florida) Police Department March 29, 2016. Lewandowski, 42, was arrested in Florida on Tuesday and charged with battery, police records show. REUTERS/Jupiter Police Department/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) is seen allegedly grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields in this still frame from video taken March 8, 2016 and released by the Jupiter (Florida) Police Department March 29, 2016. Lewandowski, 42, was arrested in Florida on Tuesday and charged with battery, police records show. REUTERS/Jupiter Police Department/Handout via Reuters FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Corey Lewandowski (R) campaign manager for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (C) reaches between Trump and a U.S. Secret Service agent (2nd R) towards Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields (L) after a news conference held at Trump's National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, March 8, 2016. Lewandowski, 42, was arrested in Florida on Tuesday and charged with battery for his interaction with Fields at the event, police records show. Picture taken March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/Files TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
JUPITER, FLORIDA - MARCH 29: A police car sits outside the police department on March 29, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida. Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been charged with simple battery after allegedly grabbing a reporter by the arm at a campaign event. (Photo by Mychal Watts/Getty Images)
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The hearing underscores what has been a central dilemma for House Democrats all year — they have promised to investigate Trump, aggressively, and many of their base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove him from office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at most every turn, declining to provide new documents or allow former aides to testify. The Republican Senate is certain to rebuff any House efforts to bring charges against the president. And moderate Democrats in their own caucus have expressed nervousness that the impeachment push could crowd out their other accomplishments.

Still, the Judiciary panel is moving ahead, approving rules for impeachment hearings last week. Among those guidelines is allowing staff to question witnesses, as will happen for the first time with Lewandowski.

Lewandowski was a central figure in Mueller's report. Mueller's investigators 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 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.

Porter, a former staff secretary in the White House, took frequent notes during his time there that were detailed throughout the report. He resigned last year after public allegations of domestic violence by his two ex-wives.

In letters to the committee on Monday, the White House said that Dearborn and Porter were "absolutely immune" from testifying. White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote that the Justice Department had advised, and Trump had directed, them not to attend "because of the constitutional immunity that protects senior advisers to the president from compelled congressional testimony."

In a separate letter, Cipollone said that Lewandowski, who never worked in the White House, should not reveal private conversations with Trump beyond what is in Mueller's report. He wrote that his conversations with Trump "are protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting executive branch confidentiality interests."

Democrats say the White House's rationale isn't legally sound. In a statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said the White House's position is "a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity."

He added: "The President would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress — even if they did not actually work for him or his administration."

In an effort to try and pry documents and testimony from the Trump administration, the Judiciary panel has filed two lawsuits — one against former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who also defied a subpoena earlier this year on Trump's orders. But the lawsuits could take months to resolve and Nadler has said he wants to make a decision by the end of the year on whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump.

Nadler, D-N.Y., made his own views clear in an interview Monday with a New York radio station, saying that in his personal opinion "impeachment is imperative" in order to "vindicate the Constitution."

But he also acknowledged that it won't be easy, echoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by saying they will have to have greater consensus than they do now in order to vote on impeachment. He said the hearings will decide whether American people get there or not.

"No. 1, you don't want to tear the country apart," if the public sentiment isn't there, Nadler said. "No. 2, you need 218 votes on the House floor."

One of the main reasons that the votes aren't there yet is because moderates in the caucus — many of whom are freshmen who handed Democrats the majority in the 2018 election — are worried it will distract from other accomplishments. A group of those freshmen met with Nadler last week to express concerns.

"There's far too much work left to be done and we are in danger of losing the trust of the American people if we choose partisan warfare over improving the lives of hardworking families," wrote New York Rep. Max Rose, a Democratic freshman, in a Friday op-ed in the Staten Island Advance newspaper.

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