Congress-watchers expect Corey Lewandowski to give Democrats a hard time on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as the star witness in their first “impeachment hearing.”
Steve Schwinn, a professor at the John Marshall Law School, said he predicts the president’s former campaign manager will come in “guns blazing” when House Judiciary Democrats pepper him with questions about how President Trump handled the Mueller investigation in its early days.
“I think he’s going to come in very bombastic and aggressive with the panel,” he told The Washington Times. “My guess is this Lewandowski thing is just going to devolve into a shouting match.”
Samuel Dewey, a lawyer at McDermott Will and Emery who used to lead congressional investigations, agreed, telling The Times he wasn’t sure how many substantive questions will be asked over the chance for lawmakers to give “five minute campaign-style speeches.”
Democrats plan on questioning Mr. Lewandowski about details in the Mueller report that suggest Mr. Trump tasked his former campaign manager with pressuring then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rein in the special counsel.
“That would be very obvious obstruction of justice, obstructing an investigation for personal reasons to protect himself and that’s a crime,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in an interview with WNYC on Monday.
Mr. Schwinn thinks the committee also could bring up questions about contact between Trump campaign officials and Russians — but the main priority will be issues of obstruction.
“Politically and legally any cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia just seems to run out of gas,” he said. “I think if Democrats are going to squeeze anything out of this, it’s got to be on obstruction.”
Across the aisle, Mr. Dewey predicts Republicans will use their time to tee up questions that Mr. Lewandowski can use to deny seeing any crimes committed.
“Lewandowski has made pretty clear that he’s going to defend the president,” he said. “I don’t know if the Democrats will be able to control him, quite frankly, to give factual information because he will give as good as he gets on the political front.”
However, Mr. Schwinn thinks that aggressive pushback could lead him to inadvertently get the president into trouble by “bragging about things that turn out to be illegal without really thinking about it.”
Mr. Lewandowski’s testimony is different than other Trump officials tied to the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
So far, he’s the only witness who didn’t serve in any official government capacity — making it difficult for him to claim executive privilege as others have, the experts noted.
For example, Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter, two former White House officials, were subpoenaed to appear alongside Mr. Lewandowski to testify about what they allegedly saw the president do to stump the Mueller report but are unlikely to appear before the committee Tuesday.
It also will be the first time Democrats hold an “impeachment hearing,” as Mr. Nadler described it, after establishing parameters for their impeachment investigation.
While Democrats are debating among themselves how much to embrace that term, Mr. Schwinn said it ultimately doesn’t make much difference.
“In some way, it’s just simply a continuation of routine congressional oversight and investigation into a serious issue. Other than the fact that this is a step in a direction of an obvious ground for impeachment it’s not clear to me that it’s meaningfully different than what the committee has been doing all along,” he said.
Ultimately, both Mr. Schwinn and Mr. Dewey are unsure how much traction Democrats will be able to get on this for impeachment, but expect Republicans will seize the opportunity to whip up their supporters.
“I don’t know how much it will move the needle at all and I think it will equally fire up the Republican base. Because Corey Lewandowski is going to come out fighting,” Mr. Dewey said.