Democrats feel a Trump obstruction
Armed with a White House claim that his conversations with Donald Trump are covered by executive privilege even though he never worked for the government, Corey Lewandowski opened with defiance, figuratively thumbing his nose at the House Judiciary Committee. Its hearing, he said, was just more "harassment of the president” by Democrats "going down rabbit holes."
Trump applauded via a tweet from Air Force One: "Such a beautiful Opening Statement by Corey Lewandowski!" The panel's Republicans cheered him on, too, calling the hearing a "sham." Lewandowski opined of the Democrats: "I think they hate this president more than they love their country."
Lewandowski, a Trump confidant and former campaign manager, frustrated Democratic lawmakers seeking more answers about a central episode of potential obstruction of justice from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation report. Lewandowski admitted to the special counsel's team that Trump personally asked him to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the scope of the inquiry.
“Mr. Lewandowski, you're like a fish being cleaned with a spoon; it’s very hard to get an answer out of you,” said an exasperated Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) at one point.
Later in the hearing, under questioning from committee attorney Barry Berke, Lewandowski was confronted with video from a TV interview in which he said he didn't remember Trump ever asking him to get involved with Sessions or the Justice Department. “I have no obligation to be honest with the media,” Lewandowski responded. He said he's a “truth teller” when under oath.
Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Lewandowski's behavior was "completely unacceptable" and could be grounds to hold him in contempt. He said the case for impeachment had been strengthened by Lewandowski's stonewalling and the White House invoking privilege to block testimony from former White House aides Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn.
“Article 3 of Nixon’s impeachment was obstruction of Congress, refusing to obey defined congressional subpoenas, pleading imaginary privileges. And obviously that’s what the president has been doing," Nadler said. For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune.
Janison: Fame without shame
For the likes of Lewandowski, Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders, celebrity has endured longer than their gigs with Trump. It helps to seem immune to embarrassment, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Lewandowski was a small-time GOP operative when Trump made him his campaign manager. He then got dumped, but his unswerving loyalty endured and he's solidly on Trump's good side, which Lewandowski now seeks to parlay into a likely Senate bid in New Hampshire.
Spicer danced away from facts and civility as Trump's first press secretary in the White House, where he made an infamous debut in ill-fitting suit raving with false claims about the inauguration crowds. Now he has been reintroduced to America in a neon-green puffy shirt frolicking on "Dancing with the Stars." (More on that below.)
As Spicer's successor, Sanders stayed true to estrangement from truth and still enjoys "player" status. A Trump favorite, she moved on to Fox News and a possible run for governor in her native Arkansas.
Pulled over at Iran crossroads
Trump is still navigating competing impulses in how to respond to the missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil installation for which Iran is its prime suspect.
There was fresh talk of military action. Echoing Trump’s warning from earlier in the week, Vice President Mike Pence said American forces were “locked and loaded” for war if needed.
But Trump wasn't giving up on diplomacy either. He even sent out a tweet hosing down his golfing pal Sen. Lindsey Graham, an Iran hawk who grumbled on Twitter that "the measured response by President @realDonaldTrump regarding the shooting down of an American drone was clearly seen by the Iranian regime as a sign of weakness." That refers to an incident in June for which Trump decided against military retaliation.
Trump admonished Graham: "No Lindsey, it was a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!"
Bolton shops a book
A week after John Bolton either bowed out (his story) or was booted (Trump's story) from the administration, the former national security adviser is talking to literary agents about a book deal.
“He has a lot to dish,” one source told the Daily Beast. After his Trump's unflattering appraisal that blamed him for assorted foreign policy fiascos, Bolton said he would "have my say in due course."
Trump on Tuesday named five candidates under consideration to succeed Bolton. They are former deputy national security adviser Ricky Waddell, Pence's security aide Keith Kellogg, hostage negotiator Robert O'Brien, former CIA analyst and Bolton adviser Fred Fleitz and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, a nuclear security official at the Department of Energy.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham says Trump is considering others, too.
In California, Trump trails fumes
Trump is expected Wednesday to revoke a decades-old rule that lets California demand tougher car emissions standards than those set by the federal government, putting the nation's most populous state and the administration on a collision course for an epic legal battle.
The Environmental Protection Agency is set to make the announcement while Trump is on a rare trip to California to raise campaign money from wealthy supporters in Silicon Valley and Beverly Hills. Gov. Gavin Newsom called the administration’s plan part of a “political vendetta” against the deep-blue state, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Trump has ridiculed automakers Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW for negotiating a deal with California on the state's emissions rules. The revocation of the waiver would also affect 13 other states that follow California’s clean-air bench marks.
The state's right to set tougher rules dates from 1970, when Ronald Reagan was governor and Californian Richard Nixon was president, as it sought to reduce the notorious smog that afflicted Los Angeles and other urban areas.
Dancing to own the libs
His ex-boss often accuses West Coast judges of bias, and now Spicer has groused that Hollywood's "Dancing with the Stars" panel won't give him a fair shake.
"Clearly the judges aren't going to be with me. Let’s send a message to #Hollywood that those of us who stand for #Christ won’t be discounted," he said in a tweet, later deleted, after getting a score of 12 out of a possible 30. The tweet was a reply to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who asked viewers to vote for Spicer to "create an emotional meltdown in Hollyweird."
How did Trump's former press secretary do in his debut performance? Judge for yourself from the video.
What else is happening:
- A new national Democratic primary race poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal show gains by both Joe Biden (31%, up 5 points since July) and Elizabeth Warren (25%, up 6 points). Bernie Sanders was treading water in third at 14%, followed by Pete Buttigieg at 7%. Kamala Harris suffered the worst drop, falling from 13% to 5%.
- Biden holds a thin 22%-to-17% lead over Warren in a Siena poll of New York State Democratic voters, with Sanders in third place at 15%. Trailing the field at near-zero was Mayor Bill de Blasio.
- In California, the Emerson Poll finds Biden and Sanders tied at 26% and Warren at 20%. Home-state senator Harris is fifth at 6%, behind Andrew Yang. De Blasio is at zero.
- Trump has named more former lobbyists to Cabinet-level posts than his most recent predecessors did in eight, The Associated Press reports. As a result, a substantial amount of oversight is in the hands of people with ties to the industries they’re regulating.
- Trump said he was unimpressed by the crowd of thousands Warren drew in New York's Washington Square on Monday night. "I get these crowds in areas that nobody's ever seen crowds before," he said.
- The death of longtime Washington journalist Cokie Roberts brought warm bipartisan tributes and a cooler reaction from Trump. Kellyanne Conway tweeted about how she was "kind," "disagreed agreeably" and "put faith & family first." Said Trump: "She never treated me nicely. But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional and I respect professionals."