Lewandowski’s performance was not unique to him. He, like most others in Trump’s orbit, is equally resolute in his efforts to block Democrats in Congress from moving anything forward with regard to investigating Trump. Lewandowski is the only person with a star role in the Mueller report, out of nearly half a dozen subpoenaed people under this impeachment inquiry, to even agree to testify.
On Monday, the White House blocked testimony from two more former officials who are key players in the Mueller report’s section on whether Trump obstructed justice. These officials don’t work for Trump anymore, but they are still sticking by him. Former White House counsel Donald McGahn would rather get sued by Democrats (which he is) than testify against Trump.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold E. Nadler (D-N.Y.) could hold Lewandowski or any of these other folks in contempt of Congress, but that matters little when being in contempt of Congress is part of their strategy to protect Trump.
Contrast the display of unity on Trump’s side with how Democrats in the House are divided about whether to even pursue an impeachment inquiry.
On Tuesday, what some Democrats had been whispering about all summer finally broke out into the open: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) thinks the Judiciary Committee has gone too far in its impeachment efforts, because Democrats don’t have the votes on the floor to impeach him. “Feel free to leak this,” Pelosi said, according to Politico, which reported the drama Wednesday.
Pelosi has also been saying for months that there just isn’t the public sentiment for impeachment right now. Polling shows she’s right. In August, Monmouth University found that a majority of Americans think it’s a bad idea to conduct an inquiry that may lead to Trump’s impeachment.
Now that they’re officially doing an impeachment inquiry, Democrats running the impeachment inquiry don’t seem to have a coherent strategy for how to win people over. Many Democrats were hoping that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony this summer, where he read some of the damaging things his report uncovered about Trump out loud, would be that strategy. It didn’t move the public opinion dial significantly.
Part of the problem for Democrats is that Republicans’ messaging is just simpler. Impeachment inquiry = overreach of government. “I think they hate this president more than they love their country,” Lewandowski said of Democrats at the hearing.
“Stop worrying about tearing down the president,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday, “and start working on building up this country.”
Democrats have rather messy messaging on what they’re doing, derived from disagreement on whether to even do it. Last week, Pelosi wouldn’t even say “impeachment inquiry” to describe the very-real impeachment inquiry the Judiciary Committee is undertaking.
Even if Democrats were all in agreement that an impeachment inquiry is the right way forward, that’s a much more delicate thing to broadcast to the American people. Before you write up articles of impeachment, you have an inquiry to decide what those articles are. So while Democrats follow the somewhat nuanced steps as outlined in the Constitution, Trump is blasting through the rules to block them — and he has plenty of help, in the form of people like Lewandowski.
Trump’s stonewalling for now, it seems, has effectively stymied Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. And after the Lewandowski hearing, it’s not immediately clear how they’re going to proceed next.