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Jerry Nadler slams Trump administration for hiding ‘criminal activity’ by blocking former aides’ testimony

2019-09-17

WASHINGTON — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is blasting the White House for trying to cover up "criminal activity" after President Trump's lawyers ordered witnesses not to cooperate with a hearing planned for Tuesday.

The administration sent Nadler several letters late Monday telling him that two witnesses he subpoenaed could not be compelled to testify at all, and that the third, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, can only repeat what has been released in the Mueller Report.

The letters from the Department of Justice and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone claim the two former White House staffers, Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter, are “absolutely immune” from having to testify about internal executive branch deliberations, and that the privilege extends to anything Lewandowski talked about with Trump that is not already public.

Lewandowski never served in the White House.

“The President would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress — even if they did not actually work for him or his administration,” Nadler (D-NY) said in a statement.

Lewandowski was expected to testify Tuesday, despite the severe restrictions placed on him.

“This is a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity," Nadler said. "If he were to prevail in this cover-up while the Judiciary Committee is considering whether to recommend articles of impeachment, he would upend the separation of powers as envisioned by our founders."

“No one is above the law," Nadler said.

Dearborn, Porter and Lewandowski are all prominently mentioned in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the portion that describes Trump’s attempts to limit the probe — which Nadler any many legal observers say amounts to obstruction of justice. Department of Justice policy prevented Mueller from making such a charge against a sitting president.

According to the report, Trump twice told Lewandowski to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curb Mueller. In one case, he asked Dearborn to deliver the message.

The report also says Trump ordered Porter to get then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to create a false record to suggest Trump never ordered McGahn to fire Mueller. The report found Trump did order that action, but McGahn refused and news of it leaked, prompting Trump's request to hide it.

The White House and Justice Department have been adamant that anyone to talked to the president or his top aides is immune from talking to Congress. However, in most cases in the past, Congress and the White House have generally worked out some sort of accommodation.

In an interview with the Daily News last week, Nadler noted that one of the articles of impeachment that President Richard Nixon faced was defying congressional subpoenas.