House lawmakers have been targeting former aides of President Donald Trump who worked outside of the administration in their sprawling but ineffectual impeachment investigation.
They want to question them about their knowledge of potential obstruction, described in the second part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his Russia investigation.
Their goal is to circumvent the White House’s authority to evoke executive privilege, as it has with former White House Counsel Don McGahn and other onetime aides, and their strategy seems to be paying off.
They have now ensnared his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is set to testify in public before the House Judiciary Committee on September 17, according to The Daily Beast.
Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), issued a subpoena for his testimony in August. They hope he will help them create a media extravaganza to boost their impeachment push. Democrats want to keep a stench of corruption and criminality floating around the president.
The White House was reportedly considering whether to invoke executive privilege to prevent him from complying with the subpoena. It would have been the first time the president would have tried to assert the privilege over someone who never worked in his administration. It appears he had no legal grounds to go forward.
Although the president fired him in June, 2016, they have maintained a close relationship. He has been assisting him as an outside adviser since his election. Lewandowski told The Hill last Thursday he is “very close” to making a decision on whether to launch a campaign to challenge Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in 2020.
Democrats have questions about a series of meetings Trump had with Lewandowski in which the president directed him to persuade former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller’s investigation.
Lewandowski told Mueller that Trump directed him to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he must constrain Mueller’s investigation or be fired. Lewandowski, at one point, asked Dearborn to deliver the message to Sessions instead, but Dearborn ultimately refused. He also described a second directive to pressure Sessions to limit Mueller’s scope to future election interference attempts.
“Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn were prominently featured in the special counsel’s description of President Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice by directing then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel, and then by ordering him to lie about it,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler said in an August statement.
Democrats claim it was criminal for Trump to order Lewandowski to inform Sessions that if he refused to meet with him he would be fired. They also question whether there was potential witness tampering with Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
The president does have the constitutional authority to direct his staffers to fire anyone, and the witness tampering claims have no legal merit, or Mueller would have recommended charges.
Democrats have been fighting unsuccessfully for months to get witnesses to answer questions. Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks appeared in a closed hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in June, but she repeatedly stonewalled the lawmakers using executive privilege or declining to answer questions.
Michael Cohen appeared publicly before the House Oversight Committee in February before he began his prison sentence in May. He also testified in closed hearings to the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Nadler also served subpoenas to former deputy White House chief of staff Rick Dearborn and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Both were asked to appear on Sept. 17 as well, but their testimonies have not been confirmed.