House Democrats on Thursday subpoenaed former Trump campaign aide Corey Lewandowski and ex-White House official Rick Dearborn, compulsory summons that pro-impeachment lawmakers hope will build public support for ousting President Trump.
The House Judiciary Committee is attempting to force Lewandowski and Dearborn to testify on Sept. 17, according to a statement released by the panel. The subpoenas — aimed at creating a made-for-TV moment that unpacks part of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings — comes as Lewandowski is mulling a bid for Senate in New Hampshire.
“Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn were prominently featured in the Special Counsel’s description of President Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice by directing then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire the Special Counsel, and then by ordering him to lie about it,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement.
Their testimony, the New York Democrat later added, “will help the Committee determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the President or other Article 1 remedies. No one is above the law.”
The summons comes as the pro-impeachment movement reaches a milestone: More than half of the House Democratic Caucus — 123 Democrats, according to a Washington Post tally — have called for an official impeachment inquiry to begin.
Still, public sentiment generally opposes an effort to oust Trump, with polls showing more than half of Americans opposing any move to impeach the president. That’s created a conundrum for Democrats — particularly because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she won’t bless impeachment unless it has public — and bipartisan — support.
The Judiciary panel’s move Thursday highlights a new strategy of trying to force top witnesses in the Mueller report who did not work at the White House to testify before Congress, according to Democratic officials familiar with investigative plans. Democrats argue, for instance, that because Lewandowski did not officially work in the Trump administration, the Trump White House cannot assert privilege over his testimony to stop him from answering questions publicly.
The Trump administration has blocked non-White House officials from talking in other House investigations, including an unofficial adviser who spoke to Trump about adding a citizenship question to the U.S. census.
Dearborn’s situation is different, however. The White House is expected to assert privilege over Dearborn, who was the deputy chief of staff for policy, just as it did for former White House counsel Donald McGahn, whom Democrats are suing to force his testimony.
According to the Mueller report, Trump twice asked Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the Mueller probe. Lewandowski told Mueller’s team that Trump “told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired.”
Lewandowski, who said he never delivered the message to Sessions, would later ask Dearborn to deliver it for him, according to the Mueller report. Dearborn also would not do it and told Mueller’s team that it made him “uncomfortable.”