White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Monday night had lawyers’ heads spinning when he told President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, not to testify about post-election events — while also saying others were “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters related to their service as senior advisers to the President.”
Despite the reality the White House doesn’t want Lewandowski to talk about his conversations with the president, and despite the fact that House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want Lewandowski to testify about possible obstruction of justice, Lewandowski claimed that he was really excited about the 1 p.m. impeachment-related hearing on Tuesday.
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
“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,” he tweeted. “Tune in. #Senate2020.”
It’s clear that Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats will want to drill down once again on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, particularly the part where Lewandowski said Trump tried to get then-recused former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the investigation and make a statement saying Trump was being treated unfairly — or else.
Lewandowski’s testimony to Mueller was key to one of the most vivid episodes of potential obstruction. Trump asked him to tell Jeff Sessions to block the Russia investigation or be fired. https://t.co/9M9xUUuwOE
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) September 17, 2019
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) September 17, 2019
Tomorrow is significant. Lewandowski will be the first major fact witness to testify about the Mueller probe. Trump's efforts to have Lewandowski pressure AG Sessions to limit the investigation are one of the episodes at the heart of the obstruction inquiry. https://t.co/ihXlEWbty2
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) September 16, 2019
Lewandowski never actually served in the Trump Administration and was a private citizen when the above-described attempt to curtail the Mueller investigation occurred, but the White House, nonetheless, asserted as follows on Monday: “Mr. Lewandowski’s conversations with the President and with senior advisers to the President are protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”
Lawyers galore quickly branded the White House’s attempt to assert executive privilege over the testimony of a private citizen as “lawless.”
The White House has no legal authority to "direct" a private citizen who has never served in the Administration to refuse to answer any questions from Congress about anything. This is lawless. https://t.co/UOMFYLjBfP
— Daniel Jacobson (@Dan_F_Jacobson) September 16, 2019
Exactly right. But that doesn’t mean the WH won’t succeed in this lawless gambit. Congress will need to use its inherent contempt power or get a court to order Lewandowski to answer all its questions. Either option will take us into 2020. https://t.co/v6YYN0KXFb
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 17, 2019
They have no authority to do that. None. https://t.co/9Hz9yAzX2R
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) September 16, 2019
And yet they do it anyway. They have figured out that House has no enforcement authority. Nadler needs to have the House Sergant at Arms arrest him on the spot … Let them fight it as a habeas case
— Paul Rosenzweig (@RosenzweigP) September 17, 2019
WH Counsel insists "long-settled principles" prevent Lewandowski, a private citizen, from testifying. His source for these "long-settled principles"? One thinly justified OLC opinion discussing federal records & former feds. But, hey, don't let that stop the imperial presidency. https://t.co/AMVuQgUrVd
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) September 17, 2019
Drag Lewandowski in anyway. Make him clam up and hide behind bogus WH privilege claims, in public and on camera, so the whole country can see just how ridiculous White House obstructionism really looks. https://t.co/KGE9S4EKSQ
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) September 17, 2019
The idea that the White House sets the terms of who can testify and about what in an impeachment inquiry is such a farce. https://t.co/ryoXZd454V
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) September 16, 2019
Some even went as far as to say that President Trump’s “resistance to congressional oversight” is impeachable in itself.
Trump’s resistance to congressional oversight alone is impeachable, now refusing to permit Dearborn and Porter to testify and limiting the testimony of Lewandowski. The ability of Congress to check a president is being weakened before our eyes. https://t.co/QuMm5KwUne
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) September 17, 2019
[Image Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images]