House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said Friday that he inadvertently referred to former White House aide Hope Hicks as “Ms. Lewandowski” on three occasions during this week’s closed-door session, saying he “meant nothing by that.”
“I just screwed it up,” Nadler, a New York Democrat, told CNN in the Capitol on Friday.
Nadler said he was running through a series of questions with Hicks, including about former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. He said that he had “two different counsels” who were “whispering in my ear” while he was seeking to question her and erroneously called her “Ms. Lewandowski.”
Nadler said that he was also “thinking about” all the objections raised by White House lawyers to his questions about her time while serving at the White House.
“That’s what I was thinking about, and I screwed it up,” Nadler said. “I meant nothing by it.”
Nadler apologized to Hicks during the closed hearing, which he noted in Friday’s interview.
After the transcript was released Thursday evening, Nadler found himself taking fire from GOP officials over the “Ms. Lewandowski” episode. Republicans accused Nadler of seeking to subtly insult Hicks, the former White House communications director, with even Vice President Mike Pence’s spokeswoman Alyssa Farah tweeting that Nadler’s misstatement amounted to “sexist garbage.”
Nadler also told CNN Friday that “it won’t be long if we have to” subpoena former special counsel Robert Mueller for his long-awaited testimony on Capitol Hill. “We’ll do it if we have to,” he said.
In the meantime, court fights are bound to take shape. Nadler said that the Hicks interview “helps us,” referring to House Democrats’ forthcoming legal battles with the White House amid resistance to their investigations, saying they would soon bring forward a lawsuit seeking to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn to cooperate with their probe into potential obstruction of justice.
Recalling this week’s interview, Nadler said he led Hicks down a long series of questions where White House officials objected to basic factual questions, such as whether war broke out between Egypt and Israel during the Trump era, in order to “make it more dramatizing to the judge” about “how absurd” the White House’s sweeping claims of “absolute immunity” were to prevent Hicks from answering questions.
The transcript shows that Nadler referred to Hicks with the wrong last name toward the beginning of the nearly eight-hour interview. The first time he erred was shortly after he asked her about Lewandowski’s work with the campaign and whether he worked in the transition. During the second time he misstated her name, Nadler pressed Hicks to explain what happened when Lewandowski was asked to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe, an episode Hicks described as “odd” during the interview.
On the final occasion, Nadler asked about the “script” that Trump asked Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions, which Hicks read aloud to the committee.
Nadler responded: “Yeah. Ms. Lewandowski, I think, in reading this,” but she interjected.
“My name is Ms. Hicks,” Hicks said.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Hicks. I’m preoccupied,” Nadler said, as he carried on with his questioning.
Recounting the episode Friday, Nadler said: “I was asking a series of questions about Corey Lewandowski – so that was on my mind. People were whispering in my ear. Two different counsels talking to me, and I just screwed it up. There’s no reason to do that obviously.”
CNN’s Sam Fossum contributed to this report.