Within the first five minutes of Corey Lewandowski’s “testimony” in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, it became crystal clear what Donald Trump’s former campaign manager was up to: trolling to please his old boss.
Lewandowski’s opening statement resembled nothing so much as a greatest hits recital of Trump’s tweets on the subject of Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“Whether it was bad actors at the FBI … or lies coming from members of the current House majority that there was evidence of collusion, the American people continue to be sold a false narrative with the purpose of undermining the legitimacy of the 2016 election,” Lewandowski said.
He called the Trump campaign “a historical and unprecedented political juggernaut.”
He denounced former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe as an “investigation … populated by many Trump haters to take down a duly elected President.”
But Lewandowski was just getting started.
In the early going, he refused to answer literally any question from the Democratic side of the dais – up to and including rejecting Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s request he read something from a screen. He also stalled repeatedly by asking for citations within the Mueller report for even basic facts – like if he had met with Trump on a certain day – and then reading the letter sent by the White House on Monday asking him not to discuss any conversations he had with the President.
Lewandowski’s tactics clearly frustrated Democrats – although it’s not immediately clear to me why, given that Lewandowski has always been the single most loyal soldier in the Trump political army. And he had zero incentive to cooperate with any question from Democrats given a) he knew Trump was watching very closely and b) Lewandowski is currently considering a run for the Senate in New Hampshire and badly needs and wants that strong support from the President.
And the President was indeed watching! “Such a beautiful Opening Statement by Corey Lewandowski!” Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Thank you Corey!”
The result of all of it was a made-for-TV circus.
Exasperated Democratic members repeatedly tried to get Lewandowski to answer even the most basic questions about the nature of his relationship with Trump.
“Let me remind you, Mr. Lewandowski, that this is not a Republican primary campaign. You are not on the campaign trail yet,” Democratic New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said at one point during the testimony.
Defiant Republicans – led by ranking member Doug Collins (in an audition of his own for the state’s vacant Senate seat) – questioned why Lewandowski had even been asked to testify publicly, given that he had already spent hours talking to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as well as to Mueller.
And in the middle of it was Lewandowski – trolling as hard as he possibly could at every turn, sure in the knowledge that he could never be too combative, too disruptive, too anything (other than forthcoming, of course) for the only audience that mattered: Donald Trump.
See, Lewandowski understood that this hearing wasn’t really a testimony, it was a tryout. Ever since being fired as campaign manager in the spring of 2016 – largely at the behest of Trump’s adult children – Lewandowski has been working his way back into the President’s good graces and inner circle. He has done so through total fealty to the President and total rejection of the idea that either he or anyone else in the campaign – especially Trump – did anything wrong during the course of the 2016 race.
While Democrats saw today’s hearing as a first step in their impeachment inquiry, Lewandowski viewed it as the ultimate platform to prove, once again, just how loyal he is to Trump. The ultimate goal? Presumably an endorsement from the President for Lewandowski’s Senate campaign. (Lewandowski’s Twitter handle tweeted out a link to a new website for his potential Senate run in the middle of his congressional testimony.)
If, for whatever reason, Lewandowski doesn’t make the Senate race or his campaign fizzles, he was also using his platform on Tuesday to make the case to join either the White House or, more likely, the 2020 campaign for Trump.
It was the ultimate audience of one moment. Lewandowski trolling his heart out to secure his political future by making Trump happy. And Trump nodding approvingly from the sidelines of the Lewandowski tryout.
This is how American politics looks in 2019. And it’s not pretty.