Lewandowski says Trump did ask him to pressure Sessions on Russia probe

In a spirited hearing full of sharp exchanges and pointed verbal barbs, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski confirmed to a U.S. House committee that President Donald Trump had used a White House meeting in 2017 to ask Lewandowski to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"I didn't think the President asked me to do anything illegal," Lewandowski told the House Judiciary Committee.

In the first testimony to Congress by a fact witness involved in the Russia investigation, Lewandowski acknowledged that despite President Trump's request - made at least twice in the summer of 2017 - the Trump adviser admitted that he never followed through on the President's request to pressure Sessions about the Russia probe.

Democrats mocked Lewandowski for not having the guts to take the President's message directly to the Attorney General.

"You chickened out," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).

"I went on vacation," Lewandowski replied, drawing loud laughter from Democrats on the committee.

In his multiple hours of testimony, Lewandowski repeatedly refused to delve into details of his conversations with the President, even those which were a part of the Mueller Report, which Lewandowski proudly said he had not read.

"If it's in the report, I consider it to be accurate," Lewandowski said multiple times.

While Republicans denounced the hearing as a 'joke' and more, Democrats zeroed in on Lewandowski in round after round of questioning, accusing him of obstructing justice by not answering certain questions about his talks with the President during the campaign.

"I wasn't asked to do anything illegal," as Lewandowski said he took notes in a June 2017 meeting on what Mr. Trump wanted to be said to Attorney General Sessions, and then placed the notes in a safe at his home.

"It's a big safe Congressman," Lewandowski said in a bitter exchange with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), whom he called “President” at one point - apparently referring to Swalwell's failed White House run.

 "There's lots of guns in it,” Lewandowski added about his safe.

Asked multiple times if he had turned over his notes to the Special Counsel investigation, Lewandowski would only say that he had complied with all requests from the Mueller probe.

Lewandowski also did not directly respond to the basic question of whether he lied to the Special Counsel, or whether he had ever discussed a pardon with the President.

"Not to the best of my recollection," Lewandowski said multiple times.

Democrats also ridiculed Lewandowski's refusal to answer certain questions related to the President, by claiming that there was an issue involving executive privilege.

The hearing was notable on one point, in that it was the first time Democrats had been able to question someone who was an actual fact witness interviewed as part of the Mueller Investigation.

Two other former White House aides - Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn - were blocked from testifying by the Trump White House.

Democrats still want testimony not only from those two former aides, but also former White House Counsel Doug McGahn and others.

Maybe the most effective questioning of Lewandowski came at the end of the hearing, when Democrats allowed their outside Judiciary Committee counsel Barry Berke to ask Lewandowski questions for a full 30 minutes.

Berke repeatedly took Lewandowski through statements he made in television interviews and to the committee, making it clear that the Trump adviser had not necessarily told the truth.

“I have no obligation to be honest with the media,” Lewandowski said at one point, as he tried to bait Berke into a verbal sparring match, dropping in references to where Berke went to college and law school.

Here's the entire 30 minutes of their exchanges.

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