On Tuesday afternoon, former Trump adviser and probable New Hampshire Senate candidate Corey Lewandowski testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Congressional Democrats had called him in to ask him about obstruction of justice charges laid out in the Mueller report; Trump is alleged to have directed Lewandowski, who has never formally worked in the White House, to tell then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself and to limit the investigation to Russian electoral interference. But Lewandowski, who has always been one of the more belligerent inhabitants of the Trump universe, was predictably uninterested in cooperating. The hearing very quickly devolved into a circus, one that, judging by his Twitter feed, President Trump enjoyed wholeheartedly. (Later, things settled down to the point that Lewandowski actually provided some useful information about his role in the Mueller investigation.)
Here are some of the lowlights:
Lewandowski describes Democrats as “Trump haters” in opening statement
Lewandowski began by reading a passage that heaped scorn on the Democrats investigating his conduct, portraying them as partisan witch-hunters. An excerpt: “Sadly, the country spent over three years and 40 million taxpayer dollars on these investigations. It is now clear the investigation was populated by many Trump haters who had their own agenda — to try and take down a duly elected president of the United States.”
Given that the speech sounded like it could have been written by Trump, it was no surprise that the president himself gave it his stamp of approval.
Lewandowski repeats the same absurd line justifying his non-responses
Asked basic questions about his dealings with the White House by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Lewandowski repeated a variation of the same line — “The White House has directed me not to disclose any discussions with the president” — again and again.
The idea that the White House has the legal power to direct a witness not to testify about such matters — especially one who never actually worked in the administration — is farcical. But Democrats, who did not seem eager to hold Lewandowski in contempt, and seemed strangely unprepared for the confrontational nature of their witness’s testimony, simply moved on.
Lewandowski unsubtly stalls for time
During the early stages of his testimony, Lewandowski brazenly feigned ignorance and unpreparedness to run out the clock on Democrats’ questioning. The New York Times’ recap of the hearing summed up the absurdity of this approach nicely:
When Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee’s chairman, asked Mr. Lewandowski if it was correct, as stated in the Mueller report, that he had met alone with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in the summer of 2017, Mr. Lewandowski balked.
“Could you repeat the exact language of the report, sir?” he said. “Congressman, I would like you to refresh my memory of the report so I could read along,” he said, noting that he had not brought along a copy of the more than 400-page document.
An exasperated Mr. Nadler had staff give Mr. Lewandowski a print copy of the report.
“Mr. Chairman, where on page 90 is it?” Mr. Lewandowski said.
“Do you not have an independent recollection?” Mr. Nadler shot back.
Eventually, Mr. Lewandowski confirmed that he had been in the Oval Office, but Mr. Nadler’s time ran out without any meaningful fact-finding. Republicans soon picked up where the witness left off, berating the Democrats for what they said was an unfair process.
Republicans help Lewandowski stall for time some more
GOP representative Doug Collins, who told some notable lies during Robert Mueller’s testimony in July, was at it again on Tuesday. Besides going off rather awkwardly about the ridiculousness of the hearing itself, he helped Lewandowski gum up the procedural works. At one point, he called a point of order on Nadler, asserting that the speaker had gone over his five-minute speaking-time limit. When Nadler attempted to overrule him via a voice vote — the results of which were obvious thanks to the Democratic majority on the committee — Collins asked for an official roll call, intentionally delaying the proceedings.
Lewandowski tells a congresswoman to read out loud for him
Questioned by Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Lewandowski informed her that the text she was asking him about was not illustrated on the screen behind her, acting as though its non-appearance was impediment enough for him to dismiss her query altogether. After Jackson Lee dutifully called up the correct passage for him, Jackson Lee instructed Lewandowski to read off the screen.
“You’re welcome to read it, Congresswoman,” Lewandowski replied.
Lewandowski gets a rhetorical alley-oop from a fellow Trump acolyte
After a break in the mid-afternoon, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz — otherwise known as the congressman who threatened Michael Cohen on Twitter — was first-up to ask the former Trump campaign manager questions. Rather than do that, Gaetz wanted to speculate on the motives for Democratic lawmakers’ lines of questioning, something he cannot do under House rules. So he threw a lob to Lewandowski, who said: “I think they hate this president more than they love this country.”
Lewandowski calls Eric Swallwell “President Swallwell”
A notoriously sore winner, Lewandowski hit the former 2020 hopeful and California rep. with a not-so-subtle reminder that he was the first candidate to drop out of the Democratic primary.
Bringing the kids into it
Could a pardon be involved?
When asked if President Trump had ever dangled a pardon before him, Lewandowski demurred, “citing privilege” according to MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin.
What did Democrats expect?
Surely Democrats on the House Judiciary were prepared for such a cantankerous witness: In an April 2018 appearance before the House Intelligence Committee in regarding the chamber’s probe into Russian interference, Lewandowski was actually more hostile, informing lawmakers that he wasn’t going to answer their “fucking” questions. But as CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti notes, there could be a long-game reason for Judiciary Committee Dems to submit themselves to such abuse: