- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2018

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday for more closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee amid growing signs the panel’s contentious probe into the Russian election-meddling may soon be wrapping up.

While the multiple other investigations including the Senate Intelligence Committee and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probes are still underway, Republican panel members say the partisan House investigation has reached the end of its usefulness.

They point to leaks from last week’s nine-hour interview committee interview of former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks as proof of how far the investigation has drifted from its mandate to probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The leaks, they say, amounted to little more than media navel-gazing over her admission that she told “little white lies” for President Trump.

“We have gone completely off the rails,” Rep. Tom Rooney, Florida Republican, said recently. “This investigation needs to end.”

On Thursday, Mr. Lewandowski at least appeared to prove that the committee has little firepower left. During his second interview before the panel, the former Trump campaign chief selectively declined to answer questions about key events and conversations.

Since the year’s start, other key witnesses close to the Trump campaign have declined to answer questions, including former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Ms. Hicks, who both cited the need to protect private conversations with Mr. Trump.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House panel, called on the majority to issue a subpoena to force answers from Mr. Lewandowski and argued that more witness stonewalling could trigger a “broader precedent” of non-compliance in future Capitol Hill probes.

Mr. Schiff also rejected the idea that the probe is over, insisting on Thursday that more issues require clarification, including reported efforts to establish a back-channel of communication between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin.

House Democrats want to question Lebanese-American businessman George Nader about a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles he helped organize and its possible role in the back-channel idea.

Republicans say that Democrats are only trying to stretch out the investigation so it hangs over the upcoming midterm elections.

In recent weeks, the committee’s internal dysfunction made national headlines as Democrats and Republicans issued dueling memos over alleged abuses by the Department of Justice and FBI at the nation’s secret surveillance court when securing warrants to spy on Trump campaign personnel.

On Thursday, all eyes were on Mr. Lewandowski, who led Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign for almost a year before being fired in June 2016. Since then, while holding no official position in the administration, he has remained a prominent Trump defender in the press.

If he is the investigation’s final witness and committee members soon start writing their final report, congressional sources have said with confidence that the committee infighting has assured one thing — Republicans and Democrats will write separate reports.

• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this article.

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