The White House is seeking to limit what former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski can tell a House panel pursuing an impeachment inquiry.
Lewandowski is scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, setting up a potentially combative session with the Republican strategist who’s been weighing a campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire.
While the White House has asserted a broad executive privilege to bar testimony from current and former administration officials, the claim Monday that Lewandowski also must keep confidential about at least some of his discussions with President Donald Trump takes the assertion a step further because Lewandowski never held a position in the executive branch.
The administration also moved to block testimony on Tuesday from two former Trump aides who did work in the White House, former Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn and former Staff Secretary Rob Porter.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler called the White House action “a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity.”
“The president would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress -- even if they did not actually work for him or his administration,” Nadler, a New York Democrat, said in a statement on Monday night. Earlier in the day, he said he hoped, through the investigations by his committee, to convince the American public that the president should face impeachment proceedings.
Lewandowski continues to voice strong support for Trump, but Democrats on the Judiciary panel plan to press him on what he told former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In his final report, Mueller cited Lewandowski repeatedly in laying out instances of potential obstruction of justice by the president.
That included instances such as Lewandowski being asked by Trump to relay a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to call Mueller’s inquiry “very unfair.” Lewandowski told Mueller he never followed through on that demand.
“The White House has directed Mr. Lewandowski not to discuss the substance of any conversations he had with the president or senior presidential advisers about official government matters, unless the information is expressly contained in the report,' White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Nadler.
“We are adhering to the well-established lines protecting the confidentiality of presidential communications to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of President.”
The White House counsel’s office on Monday notified the Judiciary Committee that Dearborn and Porter are to be considered “immune” from compelled congressional testimony.
“Because of the constitutional immunity that protects senior advisers to the president from compelled congressional testimony, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of President, the president has directed Mr. Dearborn and Mr. Porter not to appear at the committee’s scheduled hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019,” Cipollone wrote in another letter to the committee.
Porter’s lawyer, Brant Bishop, wrote in a letter to the committee that his client, “now faces incompatible demands from Congress to testify and from the president not to do so. When this constitutional conflict is properly resolved between those two branches or through judicial proceedings, Mr. Porter is prepared to fulfill his duty, whether that be to provide appropriate testimony to the committee or uphold the prerogatives of the Office of the Presidency. ”
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