On Tuesday, the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee, led by New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, began the first official hearing of what it is calling an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, eliciting challenges about the rules and nature of the hearing from committee Republicans.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former 2016 presidential campaign manager, was called before the committee to provide additional testimony, following Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year Special Counsel of collusion between then-candidate Trump and Russia. The testimony was broadcast on C-SPAN.
The Special Counsel’s report, announced in March and publicly released in April, ultimately declined to charge Trump with any crimes.
Lewandowski was mentioned throughout Mueller’s Special Counsel report, wherein he was reportedly asked by Trump to direct then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to establish limits on the scope of Mueller’s investigation, despite Session’s prior decision to recuse himself from the matter.
Lewandowski reportedly did not carry out the request, but passed the message along to the Attorney General’s aide, Rick Dearborn.
White House advisor, Rob Porter reportedly took notes of those described deliberations in the White House.
The White House issued a letter Monday, exerting immunity over testimony from Porter and Dearborn, who have also been subpoenaed by the committee.
“Excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction,” Lewandowski tweeted Tuesday morning before the hearing. In a hashtag, his tweet also referenced his 2020 Senatorial campaign in New Hampshire.
During the hearing, Lewandowski, who has provided three previous testimonies before the House, said he agreed to appear for the committee even before he was issued a subpoena for that same request for his appearance.
Excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction. There were lots of angry Democrats who tried to take down a duly elected President. Tune in. #Senate2020.
— Corey R. Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) September 17, 2019
“Not surprisingly, after the Mueller report was made public, interest in the fake Russia collusion narrative has fallen apart,” Lewandowski said in his opening statement.
He characterized the investigation as “populated by many Trump haters.”
Last Thursday, Nadler described the committee’s decision to set rules and procedures for such an impeachment investigation as “the necessary steps in our investigation of corruption, & abuse of powers.”
Today, we took the necessary next steps in our investigation of corruption, obstruction, & abuse of power as @HouseJudiciary considers whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the House. #NoFilter pic.twitter.com/iWvOiLCL2B
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) September 12, 2019
Minutes into the start of the Tuesday hearing, Georgia Rep. Doug Jones, the ranking Republican member of the committee, challenged the validity of the proceedings, arguing that without a vote on an impeachment proceeding before the full body of the House of Representatives, the hearing was not a legitimate impeachment procedure but rather a regular oversight hearing.
In the absence of a proper floor vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry, today’s business represents a regular oversight hearing, masquerading as impeachment to appease a liberal base. pic.twitter.com/RfmPO2C4F6
— Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) September 17, 2019
Collins has frequently challenged the manner in which the impeachment proceeding is being conducted and continued his challenge throughout the hearing.
Lewandowski repeatedly denied Democratic characterizations the President asked him to do anything illegal in talking to Sessions about the scope of the Special Counsel investigation and denied allegations he was scared of legal repercussions from delivering the message.
At one point, Lewandowski attributed an apparent delay in relaying the President’s message to vacation plans.
At times the hearing turned to chaos, with repetitive calls for clarity on the hearing rules. At one point, Nadler called Lewandowski’s behavior in the hearing “unacceptable” and raised the prospect of holding him in contempt, though it was not clear what of Lewandowski’s comments would warrant the contempt ruling.
During the hearing, House Democrats give an attorney, Barry Berke, 30 minutes to question Lewandowski. At points, Berke questioned Lewandowski about comments made before various news media organizations, in which he denied carrying Trump’s requests along to Sessions and his motivations for requesting a meeting with the then-Attorney General.
Lewandowski asserted his testimony to Congress has remained accurate, though he could not say if separate comments to the media were always correct.
Following Berke’s line of questioning, Collins argued with Nadler over the ability of Republicans to cross-examine Lewandowski, though they had not designated their own attorney to conduct the questioning, following confusion about what the hearing rules permitted.
Since taking back the House of Representatives, following the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats have given mixed signals about its support for an impeachment process against Trump. In March of this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said pursuing an impeachment was “not worth it.”
Impeachment votes in the House have failed on three prior occasions.
The then-Republican controlled House vote defeated one impeachment attempt by a vote of 364–58. A second impeachment vote in January 2018 failed on a vote of 355–66.
In July of this year, after the release of the Special Counsel report, a third vote failed by a vote 322-95 in the Democrat-controlled House.