Top Intel Dem: Lewandowski refused to answer questions in testimony
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refused to answer some lawmaker questions during an appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, frustrating Democrats and ending a rare moment of bipartisan comity on the panel.
Lewandowski told lawmakers that he was not prepared to answer questions that related to anything after he left the Trump campaign in June 2016, according to multiple sources, but said he was willing to return at a later date.
The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), called his unwillingness to answer certain questions “completely unacceptable” and said that the committee should have subpoenaed him.
But midway through the interview, there appeared to be little Republican appetite on the committee to take that step.
“Why? He said he would answer every question—just not today,” said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.). “He said he’ll come back and he’ll do it in public.”
The rift comes comes one day after former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon also declined to answer some of the committee’s questions by drawing the same line in the sand.
Bannon said that he would speak only to his time with the Trump campaign, but not events that took place during the transition or the fledgling administration.
His refusal infuriated both Republicans and Democrats on the panel and a subpoena, issued during the course of the interview, is still outstanding. It was a rare moment of unified action on a committee that has been wracked by partisan infighting in the course of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
But while Schiff has urged a subpoena for Lewandowski, King said such a move would be “irresponsible.”
“Bannon said he wouldn’t answer questions, that is the whole point,” King said. “Lewandowski said, ‘I’ll answer every question you have.’ The lawyer did not think that was the scope today, but he’s coming back.”
Schiff told reporters that it “became clear within minutes of the interview” that Lewandowski did not plan to answer their questions on Wednesday.
“He has expressed a willingness to come back and answer these questions, but to me that is unacceptable to have a witness come before us and decide that for the purposes of today’s interview, these are categories of questions I’m placing off limits,” Schiff continued.
“Those question include, by the way, ‘Did you have a conversation with the president of the United States within the last 24 hours where you discussed testimony?’”
Bannon’s refusal to testify on certain matters came at the request of the White House, Schiff told reporters when that interview broke late on Tuesday evening.
The one-time Breitbart mogul’s counsel conferred with the White House after the committee issued a subpoena, Schiff said, “and was instructed by the White House to refuse again to answer any questions concerning the time during the transition and his time in the administration.”
The Democratic lawmaker noted there is no ground for Lewandowski to invoke executive privilege because he does not hold a job in government — a point lawmakers from both parties also made Tuesday in reference to Bannon.
“Now, he is not an administration official, never has been an administration official, so there is obviously no privilege there,” Schiff said.
Lawmakers, including Schiff, said Lewandowski’s stance was in sharp contrast with another witness interviewed by the committee on Wednesday, White House deputy chief of staff Rich Dearborn.
“He answered every question, no hesitation,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), who chaired that interview.
Lewandowski was ousted from the campaign over the summer amid allegations that he had forcefully grabbed a reporter trying to asked then-candidate Trump a question, but he has claimed to have maintained a relationship with the Trump White House.
His interview began at 1 p.m. and continued into the evening Wednesday.
Updated: 6:50 p.m.
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