It was a freak show all the way through, with Lewandowski mocking failed 2020 candidate Eric Swalwell at one point by calling him “President Swalwell,” goofing on Sheila Jackson Lee for ranting instead of asking questions, and playing dumb when questioned by Jerry Nadler by asking for a copy of the Mueller Report to refresh his memory about what he told the Special Counsel.
And it was all predictable. Lewandowski is what you get when you subtract policy from Trumpism. Trump displayed the same sort of relentless pugnacious bravado towards political enemies on the trail in 2016 but Trump also had some novel (by 2016 GOP standards) ideas about trade, immigration, and foreign policy. He wasn’t exclusively about Liberal Tears, he was about bringing jobs back to the Rust Belt (in theory). Corey’s political persona has nothing to do with any of that. He’ll genuflect towards Trumpist policy ideas as needed but his core shtick is undistilled “but he fights!” roundhousing at the left’s villains.
And so we come to the question in the headline: What did Democrats on the Judiciary Committee think they were going to get when they called him to testify and put him on TV? Corey is always performing for an audience of one in the White House, knowing that his relationship with Trump is his ticket to everything — influence within the party, lobbying cash, maybe even a Senate seat in New Hampshire. That last part especially should have given Nadler a reason to hold the hearing in closed session, or to cancel it altogether; Lewandowski was obviously going to treat the event as a campaign commercial for a possible Senate primary in NH (he even tweeted out the link to a campaign-ish website during a break in testimony) and do whatever he could with his time before the mic to earn Trump’s endorsement. That meant maximum grandstanding and combativeness. It worked:
Such a beautiful Opening Statement by Corey Lewandowski! Thank you Corey! @CLewandowski_
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2019
As Corey Lewandowski stated very clearly yesterday in front of the House Judiciary Committee, President Trump didn’t do anything wrong or illegal. But they all know that. The Democrats are hurting our Country, and getting nothing done. Shameful! @CLewandowski_ @foxandfriends
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019
The answer to the question in the headline, presumably, is that it was worth putting Lewandowski under oath in case he had something meaningful to reveal about Trump allegedly asking him to tell Jeff Sessions in 2017 that he should interfere in Mueller’s investigation. But that almost gives Corey too much credit: If he was put in a position, even under oath, between telling the truth and betraying Trump, what reason is there to think he would choose the truth? In fact, he was asked at yesterday’s hearing by the Democrats’ lawyer whether he had lied about the Sessions incident in an interview with MSNBC and his answer, bluntly, was that he feels no obligation to tell the truth to the media since they often don’t tell the truth themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a congressional witness admit that he’s prone to lie in public about the subject of the hearing that’s being held.
Lewandowski, dripping with disdain, all but admits he lied during media interviews, prompting the audience to gasp at his brazenness. Hard to believe this guy is considering a run for US Senate. pic.twitter.com/cwLf3NEI2E
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 17, 2019
You can hear gasps after his answer. So, again: What was Nadler expecting? Even an anti-Trumper as hardcore as Rick Wilson thinks Lewandowski “won” yesterday’s confrontation by turning it into a circus and demonstrating that Dems didn’t have the nerve to challenge him aggressively on his completely preposterous claims of executive privilege.
I kept wondering, “How is it you guys can just let this go? How is it you can just take this overt contempt and lying?” He has no privilege or immunity from testifying. He was always a private citizen. The White House letter ordering his omerta isn’t worth a damn…
Democrats should have adopted the “Sergeant at Arms, take that man into custody” strategy. Power is held by those who use it; it’s always a depreciating asset. A surly, arrogant Lewandowski taken into custody over the contempt and deception shown to a co-equal branch of government would be great entertainment and the kind of shock politics the Democrats need to break through…
By letting him escape the consequences of contempt, the House Democrats send the clear signal that ANYONE from the WH can slap them, spit on the floor, and effectively say, “F*** you.”
The best I can do as a theory for why Dems staged this circus is that they want to encourage Lewandowski’s Senate aspirations. Trump lost New Hampshire in 2016, remember — by a hair’s breadth, granted, but it was one of the few swing states that remained blue enough to prefer Hillary to him. Trump is facing a heavier lift in the state next year since his opponent is sure to be viewed more favorably by voters than Clinton was. If NH wasn’t willing to support him in 2016, odds are they’ll be unwilling to support a Trump mini-me for Senate in the person of Lewandowski, who has plenty of personal baggage Democrats can exploit and who’ll be facing an incumbent in Jeanne Shaheen with a 54 percent approval rating. Having Lewandowski on the ballot won’t even help mobilize Trump fans for the Senate race since they’ll already be turning out en masse for the presidential election. All Corey can do potentially is scare off moderate Republican voters who find him obnoxious and would be willing to support a more pedestrian Susan-Collins-type Republican.
So maybe House Dems wanted to give Lewandowski a campaign commercial yesterday. Tempt him into the race, then sit back and watch Shaheen cruise. Maybe he’ll repel so many centrist voters that it’ll help tip the state to Democrats in the presidential race again too.
Here he is this morning being interviewed by CNN, not one full day after testifying under oath that he lies to the media. I understand why Fox News has Lewandowski on, as it has an interest in serving Trump and his cronies. I don’t understand why CNN does unless Jeff Zucker has decided that POTUS is so good for ratings that he might as well use his network to try to get second-tier Trumpy celebrities elected to office too. In lieu of a single exit question, go read 33 separate exit questions from Jonathan Last stemming from yesterday’s Corey testimony. The most basic one: If Lewandowski is willing to lie to “the media,” by definition he’s willing to lie to the public that consumes that media. That being so, why should anyone believe he’s not lying at any given moment? And that being so, why should the media ever have him on?
Corey Lewandowski: The Mueller report was very clear. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction.
Alisyn Camerota: That's not what the Mueller report said, Corey.
Corey: It absolutely says that…
Alisyn: … Did you read the Mueller report?
Corey: No, I never did pic.twitter.com/kBrM9F9Mx9
— New Day (@NewDay) September 18, 2019