Democrats are pressuring House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to hold Corey Lewandowski in contempt of Congress after the former Trump campaign manager stonewalled lawmakers during his testimony earlier in the week.
“He operated in contempt of Congress, and yes, I believe he should be” held in contempt. “And I’ve expressed that to the chair,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), a member of the Judiciary panel, told The Hill on Thursday.
“The only purpose to do it is to have teeth in it and to send a message to Mr. Lewandowski that he has to come forth, tell the truth and live up to his obligations under the subpoena,” she added. “His performance was an absurdity.”
Both Nadler and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have expressed interest in holding Lewandowski in contempt, with Pelosi telling members on Thursday that Democrats should have acted “right then and there” at Tuesday’s Judiciary hearing when Lewandowski refused to cooperate with Democrats.
But Pelosi also seemed to defer any decisions to Nadler.
“I trust the committee and the path that they are on,” she said Thursday.
Anticipating an uncooperative witness, some Judiciary Democrats initially consulted the House general counsel about a contempt vote prior to Lewandowski’s testimony, sources familiar with the discussions say. But the counsel recommended against moving to hold him in contempt.
Lewandowski’s pugnacious behavior and refusal to answer questions has triggered a new wave of Democrats to voice support for holding him in contempt.
While the former Trump campaign aide was ordered by the White House not to go beyond the four corners of the Mueller report, he took it a step further by refusing to answer questions about his private conversations with Trump or claiming he did not remember them.
He also challenged Democrats during the hearing, including accusing Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) of going on a rant and arguing that “Trump haters” were seeking to take down the president.
Democratic Judiciary members are so frustrated by Lewandowski’s performance that they are urging Nadler to hold a closed-door meeting either Thursday or Friday about what action to take against him, committee members said.
“There is a lot of agitating,” one Judiciary member said.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a senior committee member, said Nadler and other panel leaders had anticipated the stonewalling, with Lewandowski dropping hints in the days leading up to the hearing. Now Johnson is among those supporting a contempt vote, to prevent Lewandowski’s recalcitrance from becoming the norm.
“Many members are in accord with the Speaker about wanting to protect the integrity of our process and send a message to future witnesses that their contemptuous conduct can meet the same fate as Lewandowski — should we hold him in contempt,” Johnson said.
“I suppose some might say that to do that would be distractive,” Johnson said of would-be Democratic critics. “But the greater issue is the integrity of our process, and the fact that we can’t allow it to be trashed like Lewandowski trashed it — all the way from his opening statement to his exit from the committee room.”
If Democrats initiate the contempt process, Johnson said, it would likely be soon.
Democrats argue that if they don’t take that step, other witnesses will copy Lewandowski’s playbook in dodging questions and stalling during the hearing.
Some Democrats also say it would look bad if they do not push back against the White House claims of privilege over the testimony of someone who has never worked in the administration. Nadler and other Democrats reject those immunity claims.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), another Judiciary member and former 2020 presidential candidate, is among those pressing for contempt.
“We’re engaging with the chairman about that,” he said Thursday, without specifying a timeline.
After members finished questioning Lewandowski on Tuesday, Nadler said he was considering holding Lewandowski in contempt, which would require a resolution to be voted on in Judiciary before a floor vote.
“Mr. Lewandowski, your behavior in this hearing room has been completely unacceptable. It is part of a pattern of a White House desperate for the American people not to hear the truth,” Nadler said at the hearing. “I’ve been asked several times today whether the committee will hold you in contempt. It is certainly under consideration.”
Democrats sought to question the longtime Trump ally on his role in a key episode of obstruction by Trump that former special counsel Robert Mueller examined, in which the president asked Lewandowski to pass along a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 to reverse his recusal and set limits on the Russia probe.
But for the most part, Lewandowski’s combative squabbles with Democrats and refusal to answer questions overshadowed the role he played.
Still, Democrats say they were able to prove through staff questioning that Lewandowski is a liar who has repeatedly misled the public about his involvement with the president.
Democrats have voted to hold top Trump officials in contempt before. In July, the House voted on criminal contempt charges against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for refusing to respond to Democratic subpoenas.
But the contempt votes did not lead to any serious consequences for Barr and Ross since the Justice Department, led by Barr, opted not to prosecute Trump’s Cabinet members.
If Democrats pursued contempt against Lewandowski, it’s unclear whether they would opt for the same criminal variety they applied to Barr and Ross. Johnson, for one, suggested Democrats may instead push for inherent contempt — a rarely used device authorizing both the House and Senate to “detain and imprison” an individual who refuses to comply with congressional demands, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Such an approach has not been used for nearly a century — employing the House sergeant-at-arms to go after Trump officials would be a highly unusual move — but some Democrats say the degree of stonewalling demands an aggressive response.
“We should be using every tool, and that includes fines,” Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) told The Hill.
Other Democrats said that charging Lewandowski with contempt will send a strong message to other Trump aides and associates.
Lewandowski “went in without any intent to answer any questions. It was somewhere between an audition for a political office and trying to get an extra-big Christmas card from Donald Trump,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) told The Hill.
“At that point, we should have put him in a place we needed to,” he said. “That isn’t what a witness is supposed to do.”
While major news networks have struggled to figure out the right way to cover the Trump administration, political satirists like Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers have demonstrated why comedy can be such a powerful antidote to bullshit.
The first few months of the Trump administration have been a goldmine for late-night comedians and political satirists. Shows like Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Saturday Night Live, and Late Night With Seth Meyers have enjoyed ratings boosts thanks to their regular lampooning of the Trump White House.
But beyond the jokes and sight gags, political satirists have done an excellent job of seriously covering the Trump administration — sometimes even better than major TV news networks. And that’s because while traditional journalists feel compelled to take President Trump’s often absurd statements and conspiracy theories seriously, political satirists have demonstrated an extremely low tolerance for bullshit.
In early January, FBI director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and asked him to rein in his attack dog, Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Nunes, who also attended the meeting, had supposedly “recused” himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, but in fact was running an increasingly vicious counter-investigation against the Department of Justice in an attempt to defend the administration.
.. He has compiled a secret memo making wild allegations of conspiracies and even criminality against all of Trump’s legal antagonists. The entire conservative media infrastructure, goaded on by Trump himself, is foaming at the mouth to publish the Nunes memo.
.. A side effect of Nunes’s campaign to discredit Trump’s investigators is to threaten to burn down the credibility and effectiveness of federal law enforcement. Here is the point that is largely absent from this drama: This is all happening because Paul Ryan wants it to happen.
.. A reporter asked Ryan if he believed the president should cooperate with Robert Mueller if he wanted an interview. Ryan dispatched it very quickly: “I’ll defer to the White House on all those questions. This pertains to them, not this branch.”
.. That has been Ryan’s stance all along. All the icky stuff Trump does, the corruption and disdain for the rule of law, is Trump’s business
.. In fact, there are things Ryan could do — and not just cinematic speeches calling out the president for his misdeeds. The House of Representatives could pass a bill to compel the release of Trump’s tax returns.
.. Given Trump’s unprecedented decision to retain his business interests in office, mere disclosure would be a meager step against the possibility for corruption. Democrats have repeatedly introduced bills to disclose the tax returns. Yet the House — Ryan’s House — has blocked every one.
.. In October, Gayle King asked Ryan how Trump could say that the tax cuts would increase his own taxes without disclosing his returns, and Ryan just laughed.
.. And now, Trump and his allies are circulating absurd lies about the Department of Justice in order to enable the administration to avoid any accountability to the rule of law. The heart of this campaign is the chamber Ryan controls.
It is not only or even primarily Devin Nunes, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and Fox & Friends that are marching into the fever swamps. The invisible man at front of the march is Paul Ryan.
Trump demands not just loyalty but flattery, too. He insists that his courtiers treat his pronouncements, however absurd or offensive, as infallible holy writ. Members of his Cabinet have made a humiliating bargain: humor him, suck up to him, and maybe — just maybe — he will leave you alone and let you make policy.
.. Trump demands not just loyalty but flattery, too. He insists that his courtiers treat his pronouncements, however absurd or offensive, as infallible holy writ. Members of his Cabinet have made a humiliating bargain: humor him, suck up to him, and maybe — just maybe — he will leave you alone and let you make policy.
.. Retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, encouraged Tillerson to stay on because he, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly “are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”
.. other Cabinet members have made their peace with the Sun King’s demand for unctuous deference. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin looked as if he were in physical pain as he went on the Sunday shows and defended Trump’s demand for NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to be fired.
Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, who almost quit after Charlottesville, told reporters he stayed on for the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to enact sweeping tax reform.
.. What these officials don’t seem to fully grasp is that their policy initiatives can be undercut by the president at any time, and probably will. Look at budget director Mick Mulvaney, who has big ideas about shrinking government and the deficit. He didn’t anticipate having to wipe away Puerto Rico’s debt, which Trump offhandedly promised to do.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu explains to his city why four monuments commemorating the Lost Cause and the Confederacy had to come down.
And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame—all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.
So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it... As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”..The historic record is clear. The Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal—through monuments and through other means—to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity... It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots... These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for... After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city... Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous “corner-stone speech” that the Confederacy’s:
corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
.. I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us, and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago—so we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and a more perfect union.
.. This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile, and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong.
.. History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans—or anyone else—to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd... All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity... He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us … This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.”.. If presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces, would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?.. So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.