On one hand, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is furious at the way former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski treated Tuesday's House Judiciary hearing as a joke and as a national platform for his US Senate ambitions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a group of lawmakers Wednesday evening that Corey Lewandowski should have been held in contempt “right then and there” when he talked over members, dodged their questions and promoted his Senate campaign from a House hearing.
In a small huddle with lawmakers from across the caucus, Pelosi (D-Calif.) complained that no witness should be able to treat members of Congress like President Trump’s former campaign manager did during a Tuesday hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, according to three people familiar with the exchange.
“I would have held him in contempt right then and there,” she said.
Several lawmakers in the room took her remarks as a dig at House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who chose not to hold Lewandowski in contempt for his defiant behavior on Tuesday.
Technically, staff would have had to draft up a contempt resolution to vote on in committee. And Democrats thought it would be better to keep the focus on Trump.
Others, however, were outraged and feel like the committee looked weak for not responding. The panel, however, could choose to move forward with contempt at a later day.
Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne confirmed the exchange, saying in a statement that “in a meeting today, a member commented on the level of disrespect that Lewandowski displayed at the hearing for the Committee and Congress’s authority to uncover the truth.”
“Speaker Pelosi agreed that his behavior was beyond the pale and contemptible,” she said. “The Speaker went on to say that he could have been held in contempt right then and there.”
On the other hand, she also is furious at House Judiciary Democrats for wanting to impeach.
In a closed-door meeting last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi stunned lawmakers and aides with a swipe at Democratic staff on the House Judiciary Committee.
Pelosi criticized the panel’s handling of impeachment in harsh terms, complaining committee aides have advanced the push for ousting President Donald Trump far beyond where the House Democratic Caucus stands. Democrats simply don’t have the votes on the floor to impeach Trump, Pelosi said.
“And you can feel free to leak this,” Pelosi added, according to multiple people in the room. Pelosi’s office declined to comment on the meeting.
It was the latest sign of the widening schism between Pelosi and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, two longtime allies who are increasingly in conflict over where to guide the party at one of its most critical moments.
Both Pelosi and Nadler, who have served in the House together for more than 25 years, insist their relationship remains strong. But their rift over impeachment is getting harder and harder to paper over amid Democrats’ flailing messaging on the topic and a growing divide in the caucus.
Whether the two veteran lawmakers can get on the same page will determine whether the party avoids a rupture that threatens its chances of holding on to the House majority and beating Trump in 2020.
“I think the speaker wants to be careful of all the different members of the caucus,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a vocal impeachment advocate. “She doesn’t always want to use the word ‘impeachment’ but believe me, she signed off on every piece of what has been put forward.”
Pelosi's going to need far more than just the 55-60% of House Dems currently favoring impeachment, and it's pretty clear that enough of them don't want to proceed...and never will.
So, Pelosi can be mad at Jerry Nadler all she wants to be, but if she keeps walking down the middle of the road on this issue, she's going to get run over by a truck eventually.
On the gripping hand, Lewandowski did all but admit to obstruction of justice once Democratic party lawyers at the hearing got a hold of his ass.
As it turns out, though, the morning session with all the committee members having their say was just the warm-up act. In its vote last week, the committee had passed a rule allowing staff counsel to pose questions for half an hour in these public impeachment hearings. Barry Berke, a lawyer for the Democratic members, then took over the hearing and it was like night and day.
Most of the press has focused on the moment when Berke cornered Lewandowski by showing that he lied repeatedly on television about this incident and his interactions with the Mueller team. After much hemming and hawing his explanation was "I have no obligation to be honest with the media because they are just as dishonest as everybody else." (Who else? )
But Berke teased out another colorful detail that has passed unnoticed. Despite the White House order that Lewandowski shouldn't speak of any conversations with the president other than those specifically referenced in the Mueller report, it turns out that he has written a couple of books one of which is called "Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency." It features many conversations with the president, which the White House apparently had no objections to publishing. One of the anecdotes has Trump suggesting to Lewandowski that he might join the administration at the level of Jared Kushner to run the Russia 2016 election interference investigation.
As Berke went on with his relentless fusillade of questions, Lewandowski became increasingly distressed. He had repeatedly claimed that he had never read the Mueller report. As Berke's 30 minutes were almost done, he asked Lewandowski whether he took the report lightly, reminding him that he had been autographing copies of the report just last week, while joking that he couldn't sign every page where his name appeared because there were too many of them. Lewandowski became upset and said:
I'm outraged at your characterization of my statements. Never have I said that, never have I called into question the validity of the Mueller Report or alluded to the fact that I wanted Russia to interfere ...
Every time one of the principal figures confirms the Mueller report, another impeachment count gets its wings.
Whereas Lewandowski had been cocky and derisive toward the members in the early session, he was crumbling after 30 minutes of solid questioning designed to show him as the weasel he is. It was the most effective line of questioning we've seen in a hearing in ages and it shows how important it is that Democrats allow staff lawyers to interrogate the witnesses rather than having members of Congress get cut off after five minutes, only to move on to another questioner from the other side and a completely different subject.
The Dems are actu ally getting somewhere, and Nadler is leading the way.
Pelosi sure as hell is making it hard for him though.