House Intel Dem: Lewandowski breaking his pledge to answer questions

House Intel Dem: Lewandowski breaking his pledge to answer questions
© Greg Nash

Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Facing major hurricane, Trump is tested Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film GOP destroyed oversight — Dems obligated to clean up mess if elected MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE's former campaign manager, is refusing to appear before the House Intelligence Committee after pledging to return to answer questions in the panel's ongoing Russia probe, according to the committee's top Democrat.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly Russia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems Trump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, is accusing the White House of interfering with the investigation by limiting witnesses.

"Yesterday, the committee was informed by counsel for Corey Lewandowski that he would be refusing to reappear before the committee to testify any further, despite an earlier pledge to do so,"  Schiff said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Lewandowski had earlier likewise refused to discuss the period following his departure from Trump's campaign," he added.

 
"Corey Lewandowski did answer our questions for about eight hours while he was on the campaign. What he wasn't prepared for was as a private citizen nor should he have been. So if we have specific things that we want to talk to him about as a private citizen that might be helpful, we can ask him but that wasn't part of the invitation originally," Rooney told The Hill on Thursday.
 
"Now there were a few questions that were asked anyway and he responded to those questions in written form, but to say he is refusing to come back is not true because we are not asking him to come back," he added.
 

Schiff also expressed concern about a "developing pattern" in which former Trump campaign aides like Lewandowski and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon have refused to answer questions. 

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"Over the past several weeks, we have seen a developing pattern — some witnesses have been postponed, others cancelled, and two specifically have refused to answer questions about the events in the period following the election of Donald Trump as President," the California lawmaker said. 

His remarks come after Bannon’s scheduled testimony before the committee on Tuesday was postponed for the third time over a dispute about the scope of questioning.

Schiff raised concerns that the White House is dictating the scope of the interviews for Bannon and Lewandowski, as the panel continues to investigate whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

"Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonOur policies on immigration should be forward-thinking Ann Coulter believes Kushner wrote anonymous op-ed bashing Trump Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE has indicated through his counsel that the White House will not allow him to discuss matters that occurred as a member of the transition, during his service in the White House, and even certain matters that occurred after he left the White House — indeed the White House has limited his testimony to a set of fourteen yes-or-no questions they pre-approved," Schiff continued.

"Neither Bannon nor Lewandowski have articulated legitimate grounds for refusing to appear and answer questions before Congress, and we fully expect them to return," he adding, noting Trump has not invoked executive privilege.

 

The top Democrat called on the majority, which has the sole authority to call for a committee vote, to take steps to compel both Bannon and Lewandowski to cooperate with the committee's questioning.

Schiff advocated that the committee hold a vote on whether to enforce a subpoena on Bannon. Bannon's decision not to testify potentially puts him in a position to be held in contempt of Congress.

"It will therefore be necessary for our committee to enforce the subpoena on Bannon, and now move to compel Lewandowski's testimony, among other outstanding steps needed to advance the investigation. The majority has committed to requiring both Bannon and Lewandowski to answer committee questions and it is time that we move to do so," Schiff argued.

Lewandowski told lawmakers during his initial appearance before the committee last month that while he was not prepared to answer questions that related to anything after he left the Trump campaign in June 2016, he was willing to return and submit to questioning at a later date, according to multiple sources.

Rooney disagreed with Schiff the comparison that Lewandowski refused to answer like Bannon did about the presidential transition during his appearance.

"I feel he [Lewandowski] not need to come back, so Adam is being a little disingenuous when he tries to compare Lewandowski to Bannon because Bannon is refusing to testify for things -- while he was actually part of the Trump -- at that point -- transition," Rooney said in part. "So when Schiff said it is the same as Bannon, it is not the same. It is totally different."

Lewandowski did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his plans to reappear before the committee.

Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayRussia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems Congress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe MORE (R-Texas), the Republican leading the committee's Russia probe, said earlier this week that talks with Bannon's lawyers are ongoing. He did not indicate whether the committee plans to enforce the subpoena on Bannon.

“When I get to that point, we’ll have that conversation,” Conaway told The Hill on Tuesday. “I know that he’s not answering the questions that we’d like answered.”

A spokesperson for Conaway did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment on Wednesday.

Bannon, who initially appeared before the committee in January, would only answer questions about his time on the presidential campaign. He refused to discuss matters that unfolded during his time on the transition team or in the White House, or discussions with the president after his departure in August. Bannon's refusal stoked the ire of committee Republicans and Democrats alike.

Schiff and other lawmakers said Bannon, now a private citizen, is not entitled to effectively claim a form of executive privilege.

The White House, which has said it is being being “fully cooperative” with the probe, has previously pushed back on claims that it limited Bannon from answering the panel's questions about his involvement  beyond the presidential campaign. 

Bannon fell out of the president’s good graces late last year after Michael Wolff quoted the former Breitbart executive in a book as criticizing the president’s children.

The president publicly berated Bannon on social media in response to the quotes, undercutting the extent of this former aide's power within the administration and dubbing him “Sloppy Steve.”

- Updated: Thursday, 12:08 p.m.