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House Hearing: Lewandowski's Role In Attempts To Curb Russia Probe


On Capitol Hill today, the House Judiciary Committee is going to hear from President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski's the first fact witness from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to appear before this committee. Democrats are investigating alleged obstruction of justice, also, abuse of power. This is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler yesterday on member station WNYC.


JERRY NADLER: We are involved in an investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the House. That is what we're doing.

GREENE: What we're doing is turning to NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis to preview this for us. Good morning, Sue.


GREENE: So it's been a little while since the Mueller report was released and in the news. Just take us back. Lewandowski sort of fits into this with allegations of obstruction of justice, right?

DAVIS: That's right. So the questioning today is expected to focus on what was one of the most damning accounts in the Mueller report about the president's efforts to curb the Russia investigation. And this goes back to the summer of 2017, where the president met with Lewandowski and dictated a message he wanted Lewandowski to deliver to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, telling him to restrain the Mueller investigation or risk getting fired. The president wanted Sessions to give a public speech and say the president was being treated unfairly and that the president had done nothing wrong.

Lewandowski did try to meet with Sessions and deliver this message, but the meeting was canceled, and he didn't follow through. He later tried to get another White House aide, named Rick Dearborn, to deliver the message for him. Ultimately, neither men ever delivered any message to Jeff Sessions.

GREENE: All right. So Lewandowski might know a lot, but we should remember, I mean, he remains really loyal to the president, right? So how does he feel about coming on Capitol Hill and getting all these tough questions from Democrats?

DAVIS: I spoke to a spokeswoman for him yesterday who said he's very much looking forward to his appearance. It's very important to remember that Lewandowski is an ally to the president. He was with him at a campaign rally back in August. He has political aspirations of his own. He's thinking about running for the Senate in New Hampshire to challenge the incumbent there, Senator Jeanne Shaheen. The president has endorsed - all but endorsed him if he gets in that race. Important to understand because you don't exactly win a Republican primary by going out and criticizing the president. I think it tells you that he's likely there not to criticize the president.

Democrats are also strategizing to try to make this a moment. This is the first fact witness from the Mueller report to actually come before this committee. Democrats have been strategizing with each other, aligning questions, making sure they're going to hit on certain topics. He should also expect to have some rhetorical support from Republicans, we should say, who have been critical of this, calling the hearing a waste of time and saying everything they know is already spelled out in the report.

GREENE: All right. So you've got the chairman, Chairman Nadler saying that he wants to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said repeatedly she and Democrats are on this fact-finding mission. So where does this go from here? Is Lewandowski just the beginning? Are we going to see more witnesses?

DAVIS: Well, that's a great question. And that's one of the - and we don't know the answer to that yet. He is unique today because he never worked in the White House. So he's not affected by these blanket executive privilege claims that the White House has been using to block cooperation with the Judiciary Committee. They are saying that Lewandowski is subjected to some executive privilege. Democrats say that that's absurd. But there could be some tussle in the hearing today over that question.

The Judiciary Committee has filed a suit, and they're trying to compel testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn. How the court rules in that case, whether they say he has to testify or not, will have a major impact on the Democrats' ability to get other White House employees to come before the committee and testify. We just don't know the answer to that question yet.

GREENE: All right. That's the context as President Trump's former campaign manager will be on Capitol Hill testifying today. NPR congressional correspondent Sue Davis. Thank you, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.