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House Panel to Hold Impeachment Hearing09/17 06:11

   As they investigate President Donald Trump, Democrats on the House Judiciary 
Committee will hold their first official hearing in what they are calling an 
impeachment investigation.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- As they investigate President Donald Trump, Democrats on 
the House Judiciary Committee will hold their first official hearing in what 
they are calling an impeachment investigation.

   Corey Lewandowski, Trump's outspoken former campaign manager, is scheduled 
to appear Tuesday to discuss the report by former special counsel Robert 
Mueller.

   But it's unlikely that Democrats will get much new information. A devoted 
friend and supporter of the Republican president, Lewandowski isn't expected to 
elaborate much beyond what he told Mueller's investigators last year. Mueller 
himself testified this summer, with no bombshells. Two other witnesses who were 
subpoenaed alongside Lewandowski --- former White House aides Rick Dearborn and 
Rob Porter --- won't show up at all, on orders from the White House.

   The hearing underscores what has been a central dilemma for House Democrats 
all year --- they have promised to investigate Trump, aggressively, and many of 
their base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove him from 
office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at most every 
turn, declining to provide new documents or allow former aides to testify. The 
Republican Senate is certain to rebuff any House efforts to bring charges 
against the president. And moderate Democrats in their own caucus have 
expressed nervousness that the impeachment push could crowd out their other 
accomplishments.

   Still, the Judiciary panel is moving ahead, approving rules for impeachment 
hearings last week. Among those guidelines is allowing staff to question 
witnesses, as will happen for the first time with Lewandowski.

   Lewandowski was a central figure in Mueller's report, which said Trump could 
not be exonerated on obstruction of justice charges. Mueller's investigators 
detailed two episodes in which Trump asked Lewandowski to direct then-Attorney 
General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller's investigation. Trump said that if 
Sessions would not meet with Lewandowski, then Lewandowski should tell Sessions 
he was fired.

   Lewandowski never delivered the message but asked Dearborn, a former 
Sessions aide, to do it. Dearborn said he was uncomfortable with the request 
and declined to deliver it, according to the report.

   Porter, a former staff secretary in the White House, took frequent notes 
during his time there that were detailed throughout the report. He resigned 
last year after public allegations of domestic violence by his two ex-wives.

   In letters to the committee on Monday, the White House said that Dearborn 
and Porter were "absolutely immune" from testifying. White House counsel Pat 
Cipollone wrote that the Justice Department had advised, and Trump had 
directed, them not to attend "because of the constitutional immunity that 
protects senior advisers to the president from compelled congressional 
testimony."

   In a separate letter, Cipollone said that Lewandowski, who never worked in 
the White House, should not reveal private conversations with Trump beyond what 
is in Mueller's report. He wrote that his conversations with Trump "are 
protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting executive 
branch confidentiality interests."

   Democrats say the White House's rationale isn't legally sound. In a 
statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said the White 
House's position is "a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege 
and absolute immunity."

   He added: "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."

   In an effort to try and pry documents and testimony from the Trump 
administration, the Judiciary panel has filed two lawsuits --- one against 
former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who also defied a subpoena earlier 
this year on Trump's orders. But the lawsuits could take months to resolve and 
Nadler has said he wants to make a decision by the end of the year on whether 
to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump.

   Nadler, D-N.Y., made his own views clear in an interview Monday with a New 
York radio station, saying that in his personal opinion "impeachment is 
imperative" in order to "vindicate the Constitution."

   But he also acknowledged that it won't be easy, echoing House Speaker Nancy 
Pelosi by saying they will have to have greater consensus than they do now in 
order to vote on impeachment. He said the hearings will decide whether American 
people get there or not.

   "No. 1, you don't want to tear the country apart," if the public sentiment 
isn't there, Nadler said. "No. 2, you need 218 votes on the House floor."

   One of the main reasons that the votes aren't there yet is because moderates 
in the caucus --- many of whom are freshmen who handed Democrats the majority 
in the 2018 election --- are worried it will distract from other 
accomplishments. A group of those freshmen met with Nadler last week to express 
concerns.

   "There's far too much work left to be done and we are in danger of losing 
the trust of the American people if we choose partisan warfare over improving 
the lives of hardworking families," wrote New York Rep. Max Rose, a Democratic 
freshman, in a Friday op-ed in the Staten Island Advance newspaper.


(KR)

 
 
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