Corey Lewandowski confirmed Mr. Trump asked him to pressure the attorney general, but says the president never asked him to do anything illegal.
Mr. Lewandowski, under sharp questioning by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, confirmed that Mr. Trump had once asked him to help pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the scope of the Russia investigation, but said he did not believe he had been asked to do anything illegal.
After initially stonewalling Democrats' questions, Mr. Lewandowski appeared to abruptly change strategies, confirming the details of a key episode from the Mueller investigation — and even providing new information that wasn't in the special counsel's report. Under questioning by Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, Mr. Lewandowski said he never relayed the message to Mr. Sessions because he went on a beach vacation with his children.
The episode, which occurred in June 2017, is one of several instances of possible obstruction of justice documented by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
As Mr. Mueller recounts in Volume II of his report, Mr. Trump met with Mr. Lewandowski in the Oval Office two days after he directed Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel at the time, to fire the special counsel. This time, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. He then dictated a message for Mr. Lewandowski to deliver to Mr. Sessions.It said that Mr. Sessions should give a speech announcing that Mr. Trump had been treated unfairly and that he would limit the scope of the special counsel investigation.
"Didn't you think it was a little strange the president would sit down with you one-on-one and ask you to do something that you knew was against the law?" asked Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee. "Did that strike you as strange?"
Mr. Lewandowski curtly disagreed: "I didn't think the president asked me to do anything illegal."
A Democratic committee lawyer got Mr. Lewandowski to admit to having lied publicly about his conversations with Mr. Trump.
At the tail-end of the hearing, Barry H. Berke, a well-regarded white-collar defense attorney who has taken a leave from his New York law firm to consult for the committee, unleashed a rapid-fire cross-examination in which he quickly established that Mr. Lewandowski had lied in an interview earlier this year when he said he couldn't recall any conversation he had with Mr. Trump about Mr. Sessions.
"That wasn't true, was it, sir?" Mr. Berke asked.
Mr. Lewandowski struggled to answer, ultimately telling the lawyer, "You can interpret it any way you like."
But when pressed, Mr. Lewandowski said: "I have no obligation to have a candid conversation with the media whatsoever, just like they have no obligation to cover me honestly, and they do it inaccurately all the time."
"You are admitting that on national television you were lying there?" Mr. Berke asked.
"They have been inaccurate on many occasions," Mr. Lewandowski replied, "and perhaps I was inaccurate that time.
It was only one of several moments in which Mr. Berke plainly got under the skin of Mr. Lewandowski, who mentioned repeatedly that he did not have a law degree from Harvard, as Mr. Berke does.
Republicans had tried mightily to prevent him from participating in the questioning. Hours into the hearing, a nasty argument broke out between Democrats and Republicans over whether Mr. Berke, who is an outside consultant to the Judiciary panel, should be allowed to question Mr. Lewandowski in the hour allotted to staff lawyers for each side.
Republicans balked, using parliamentary maneuvers to try to derail the move, but majority Democrats easily dispensed with their objections, and that of Mr. Lewandowski's lawyer, who commandeered a microphone at the witness table to register his opposition.
The episode enraged Republicans, who called it a blatant violation of committee rules. Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the panel's ranking member, at one point stormed out of the hearing in protest. When he returned, he said his side would not have a staff lawyer question Mr. Lewandowski, and the session was adjourned.
Lewandowski: Somebody in the Trump campaign (besides me) should have called the F.B.I. about Russians.
As the manager of the Trump campaign in 2016, Mr. Lewandowski received numerous messages from campaign staff about attempts by Russians to make contact with the campaign.
At one point during the hearing, he was asked why he didn't contact the F.B.I. about those overtures. Mr. Lewandowski conceded that someone should have done so, just not him. He suggested it should have been Sam Clovis, a top campaign official in charge of pulling together Mr. Trump's first team of foreign policy advisers. Some of those advisers, including Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, were the recipients of the Russian advances.
"In hindsight," Mr. Lewandowski said, "that's something Mr. Clovis should probably have done."
At the same time, Mr. Lewandowski and Republicans on the committee made misleading statements suggesting that the F.B.I. had deliberately refused to brief Mr. Trump and his aides about what it knew about Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Mr. Lewandowski said it was "unfathomable to me that they didn't contact a major political nominee for president of the United States and inform them of potential threats against election process in 2016."
Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, piled on, saying that the F.B.I. was "trying to trap the president."
But their assertions misrepresented the facts. Mr. Lewandowski was fired as campaign chairman in June 2016, a month before Mr. Trump officially became the Republican presidential nominee. The F.B.I. gave a "defensive briefing" to Mr. Trump in August 2016, after Mr. Lewandowski had been fired.
A Justice Department letter in 2017 said the briefings were meant to raise "awareness of the indicators and warnings of foreign intelligence threats" so individuals were "better postured to defend themselves and their organizations from foreign intelligence collection."
Mr. Lewandowski's political ambitions suffused his testimony.
Mr. Lewandowski began his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee with remarks that sounded more like a campaign speech than testimony in a congressional investigation, signaling that he plans to use the hearing to burnish his own political brand while fiercely defending the president.
"I had the privilege — and it was a privilege — of helping transform the Trump campaign from a dedicated but small, makeshift organization to a historically and unprecedented political juggernaut," Mr. Lewandowski said in his comments, which began by branding Democrats' inquiry into whether to impeach Mr. Trump "very unfair."
Mr. Lewandowski's remarks could have doubled as a campaign address from a carbon copy of the president himself. They were punctuated with references to the scourge of illegal immigration, knocks on Hillary Clinton, and brutal takedowns of Democrats.
Given that he has been considering a run for the Senate from New Hampshire for several weeks, Mr. Lewandowski and his allies saw the hearing as an opportunity to promote his allegiance to Mr. Trump in a way that could benefit him politically. Mr. Lewandowski made no secret that he was using the proceedings to further his own political ambitions. During a break that he requested, he tweeted out a link to a website for a new super PAC that was created today, "Stand With Corey."
Democrats were just as cantankerous as they pushed for answers from an often uncooperative Mr. Lewandowski.
Democrats' questioning of Mr. Lewandowski was never going to be amicable. But it took no more than a minute of questioning for the hearing to begin to break down entirely.
Almost immediately, Mr. Lewandowski made clear he intended to do whatever he could to slow down the proceedings, including demanding that Democrats read him the section of the Mueller report about which they were questioning him.
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.
Later, things got testier still as Representative Eric Swalwell tried repeatedly to get Mr. Lewandowski to read aloud the message Mr. Trump dictated to him in the Oval Office, and Mr. Lewandowski refused.
"Are you ashamed of the words you wrote down?" Mr. Swalwell, Democrat of California, asked.
Mr. Lewandowski sneeringly referred to the congressman, who recently ended his presidential campaign, as "President Swalwell," and told him to read the passage himself.
Mr. Trump watched the hearing from Air Force One, cheering on Mr. Lewandowski as he spoke.
As Mr. Trump traveled from New Mexico to California on Tuesday afternoon, he had the televisions aboard Air Force One tuned into the hearing, according to people familiar with what was taking place.
The president and the staff traveling with him loved Mr. Lewandowski's combativeness.
And within moments of Mr. Lewandowski's first refusal to answer Mr. Nadler's questions about his conversations with the president, Mr. Trump tweeted his appreciation for "such a beautiful opening statement."
The White House had intervened to make sure that Mr. Lewandowski would limit his testimony to what was in the Mueller report, and also to prevent two other officials who worked in the West Wing, Rick A. Dearborn and Rob Porter, from appearing alongside him.
On Monday, the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, told the committee that Mr. Trump had directed both men not to show up because they were "absolutely immune" from congressional subpoenas as former senior presidential advisers. Mr. Nadler called the White House's position "a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity."
Haberman and Fandos, New York Times, September 17, 2019.
Maggie Haberman is a White House correspondent. She joined The Times in 2015 as a campaign correspondent and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on Donald Trump's advisers and their connections to Russia. Previously, she worked at Politico, The New York Post and The New York Daily News. @maggieNYT
Nicholas Fandos is a reporter in the Washington bureau covering Congress. @npfandos
September 18, 2019
Voices4America Post Script. Since Trump henchman and clown Corey Lewadowski acted like a rude madman in Congress yesterday, you might have missed what was established - Trump obstructed justice! Trump tried to control the Russian investigation! These are crimes! and impeachable crimes at that!
And like all good Trumpettes, Lewandowski thought nothing of lying to the American people. #LiarLewandowski
Above is a summary! Share this to spread the word!
First aside, Honest people don't behave this way in Congress!
Second aside, in a normal world, Lewandowski's performance would lead to a Contempt of Congress citation but the person Congress must turn to for enforcement of a contempt citation is the AG. Yes, you are right. That is Trump lackey, William Barr.
We will have a lawful AG again when we take back our government in 2020. #BlueWave2020