House Panel to Hold Impeachment Hearing09/17 06:11
As they investigate President Donald Trump, Democrats on the House Judiciary
Committee will hold their first official hearing in what they are calling an
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 former campaign manager, is scheduled
to appear Tuesday to discuss the report by former special counsel Robert
But it's unlikely that Democrats will get much new information. A devoted
friend and supporter of the Republican president, Lewandowski 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.
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
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, which said Trump could
not be exonerated on obstruction of justice charges. 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
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
"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.