Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) subpoenaed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former White House official Rick Dearborn on Thursday, marking Democrats’ latest efforts to receive testimony from key figures in the Mueller report.
Nadler said he is seeking the public testimony on Sept. 17 from two individuals who were “prominently” involved in President Trump’s attempts to persuade then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from overseeing the Russia probe.
“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,” Nadler said in a statement. The announcement comes just hours before Lewandowski, who served as Trump’s first campaign manager in 2016 and remains among his most ardent allies, is slated to join the president in New Hampshire on Thursday amid mounting speculation he could mount a 2020 run against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
According to Robert Mueller's report, when Trump discovered the now-former special counsel was investigating him for possible obstruction, in addition to probing whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia in 2016, he ordered then-White House counsel Don McGahn to remove Mueller over alleged conflicts of interest.
Around that same time, Trump also asked Lewandowski to persuade Sessions to reverse his recusal, set new limits on the Mueller probe and deliver a speech criticizing the investigation.
“The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was ‘very unfair’ to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and ‘let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections,’ ” Mueller wrote in his 448-page report that was made public in April.
While Lewandowski sought to meet Sessions outside the Department of Justice (DOJ) to avoid having record of their meeting, he was unable to do so and appealed to Dearborn, then-White House deputy chief of staff, to pass along a written message to Sessions, according to the Mueller report. Dearborn told investigators he felt uncomfortable with the instructions and that he ultimately "did not actually follow through with delivering the message to Sessions, and he did not keep a copy of the typewritten notes Lewandowski had given him,” the Mueller report states.
Lewandowski responded to the subpoena on Twitter.
"It’s sad and pathetic that Congressman Nadler is harassing private citizens just to fend off his primary challenge from the Left. Mueller’s testimony proved what everybody knew all along: No Collusion, No Obstruction," he tweeted.
Dearborn could not immediately be reached for comment.
While Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, he did not make a determination as to whether the president obstructed justice. Attorney General William Barr and other DOJ officials ultimately decided that the evidence laid out in the Mueller report did not reach the threshold to charge Trump.
Democrats, however, argue it was not Barr’s choice to make and that lawmakers must decide whether the president’s actions rose to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The new batch of subpoenas are likely to escalate the standoff between the White House and congressional Democrats, who are conducting a sprawling investigation into possible obstruction and potential abuses of power by the president.
The Trump administration has sought to block the testimony of current and former White House aides including McGahn, who is seen a key witness in Mueller report.
The White House has argued that under the standard of immunity, confidential protections offered to the executive branch apply to current and former aides, effectively preventing them from disclosing what took place during their time in the administration.
While both Republican and Democratic administrations have invoked the immunity concept, legal experts say there is virtually no case law on the subject, with some predicting the White House is likely to lose if it's challenged in court.
House Democrats are seeking to challenge the White House claims in court. Last week, they filed a civil lawsuit to enforce a subpoena for testimony from McGahn, arguing that if they win that case, other former and current White House aides would also be compelled to appear on Capitol Hill.
The subpoena for Lewandowski is shaping up to be a test of the White House’s efforts to block testimony since he never worked in the administration.
Republicans have blasted Democrats, accusing them of putting on a political charade that aims to damage Trump ahead of 2020, particularly by replaying the Mueller probe.
“Our committee has had access to the FBI’s interview summaries on these individuals for months, so these subpoenas—like the one to Hope Hicks—only waste more time and taxpayer dollars as Democrats demand information we already have,” a Judiciary Republican spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. “Americans would prefer us invest those resources in solving the border crisis, safeguarding their intellectual property, and securing future elections against foreign interference.”
Nevertheless, Nadler argued Lewandowski and Dearborn’s testimony is key for the panel determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump.
“The Committee intends to hold hearings and obtain testimony over the coming months as part of its efforts to hold the President accountable as we move forward with our investigation into obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his associates,” Nadler said in a statement.
“It is clear that any other American would have been prosecuted based on the evidence Special Counsel Mueller uncovered in his report,” he added.