So Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) probed Lewandowski as to why. Lewandowski had said earlier in the hearing that he didn’t see anything wrong with Trump’s request. If that was true, why didn’t he pass along the message? Johnson tried to goad Lewandowski, suggesting that he had “chickened out” on delivering the message because he got “squeamish.”
Lewandowski disputed that characterization. His explanation? “I went on vacation.”
That prompted some laughter in the hearing room. Lewandowski added that his kids were his priority.
He later said he wanted to give Sessions the message in a “relaxed,” face-to-face meeting, but that meeting never materialized after Sessions canceled.
Let’s take that at face value for a moment. Lewandowski gets a request from the president of the United States — a man whose campaign he ran for months and whose success put Lewandowski on the national map. The request is to deliver a high-profile message to the attorney general of the United States about an issue of huge importance in American politics, the special counsel’s investigation.
Lewandowski suggests that this was something that simply got lost in the shuffle, and that he never followed up because he went on vacation and was not able to get the right kind of in-person audience with Sessions. He said he wanted to do it over dinner.
“I wanted to get an opportunity to speak with Jeff in a more relaxed atmosphere,” Lewandowski said.
But that’s really difficult to square with what’s in the Mueller report. This isn’t something Trump asked about just once; he asked about it on June 19, 2017, and on July 19, 2017. He also raised a concern, in that second meeting, about why the message hadn’t been delivered. And Mueller expressly says Lewandowski opted not to deliver it because he was worried about it — not because he didn’t get the right audience — and that he tried to pass the duty off to a Trump aide, Rick Dearborn.
Here’s what the Mueller report says in its sections on potential obstruction of justice by Trump (key parts bolded):
On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions. The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was “very unfair” to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and “let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.” Lewandowski said he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do.One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions’s job was in jeopardy. Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President’s message personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through.
The Mueller report also indicates that Lewandowski “stored the notes in a safe at his home, which he stated was his standard procedure with sensitive items.” That also suggests he either viewed it as very important (and thus, you would think he would follow up on it) or potentially problematic.
Expect this to be a significant focus of the remainder of the hearing.