Washington, DC – US President Donald Trump‘s former 2016 campaign manager, appearing before a US House of Representatives committee, struck a combative tone and defended the president against Democrat allegations of abuse of power.
Corey Lewandowski, a Trump loyalist who is considering a possible run as a Republican for US Senate, was a figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“As for actual ‘collusion’, or ‘conspiracy’, there was none,” Lewandowski told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “What there has been, however, is harassment of the president from the day he won the election.”
The American public “has been subjected to a false narrative” about what happened in the 2016 campaign by “bad actors in the FBI and the intelligence community” and “lies coming from members of the current House majority,” Lewandowski said.
Lewandowski’s appearance was emblematic of a broader standoff between Trump and the Democrat-led House of Representatives where six committees are investigating the president.
Trump has broadly refused to cooperate with House committees and White House lawyers have attempted to instruct witnesses, including former White House chief counsel Don McGahn, not to appear.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted last week to begin investigating whether Trump should be impeached for alleged obstruction of justice and abuse of power. House lawyers have filed suit in federal court seeking enforcement of a Judiciary Committee subpoena for McGahn’s testimony and documents.
“We should call this what it is, an absolute cover-up by the White House,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, said.
Mueller’s report detailed two instances in which Trump asked Lewandowski to instruct former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then the top Justice Department official, to curtail the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Trump summoned Lewandowski to the Oval Office in the White House in 2017 and directed him to “take dictation”, and had him write down a long message to be delivered to Sessions.
Trump told Lewandowski that if Sessions refused to act, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired. Lewandowski, who at the time was no longer a Trump campaign aide, never spoke to Sessions, according to the Mueller report.
Lewandowski, who was accompanied at the hearing by White House lawyers, refused to answer questions from Judiciary Committee members on the substance of his conversations with the president outside those already disclosed in the Mueller report.
Two other former Trump White House officials, who had been subpoenaed by the committee, refused to appear after White House lawyers asserted a blanket claim of executive privilege on Monday.
“Regrettably, yesterday evening’s actions by the president and this administration are consistent with a pattern of attempting to block this committee’s investigation at every turn,” Nadler said in a letter Tuesday to the White House.
“No decision by any court suggests that the president is entitled to confidentiality under the circumstances here, when he enlists a private political operative in his efforts to undermine an ongoing law enforcement investigation,” Nadler’s letter said.
Rick Dearborn, a former campaign adviser and deputy White House chief of staff, and Robert Porter, former White House staff secretary, could not be compelled to testify, the White House claimed on Monday.
Lewandowski had asked Dearborn to approach Sessions with Trump’s request but Dearborn declined, according to the Mueller report. Dearborn had been a former aide to Sessions and felt uncomfortable with the request.
Porter’s notes of events and meetings in the White House during 2017-2018 are referenced frequently in Mueller’s report. Porter resigned his White House position after allegations of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives became public.