Trump Campaign Player To Appear Before Congressional Panel

Jan 16, 2018
Originally published on January 16, 2018 7:11 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Some big players from Donald Trump's campaign are expected to appear before congressional investigators this week. One of them is Steve Bannon, former campaign manager and later White House chief strategist who recently had a very public falling out with the president. The other is Corey Lewandowski, who ran the Trump campaign in its early stages. Over the weekend he told WABC Radio that he's ready to answer any of the investigators' questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE RITA COSBY SHOW")

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: I didn't collude or cooperate or coordinate with any Russian, Russian agency, Russian government or anybody else to try and impact this election. So they asked me to come in. I said I would. It's going to take place sometime next week. I'm not exactly sure when, but I'll be happy to come out and set the record straight about my lack of involvement with any type of foreign entity.

MARTIN: NPR's justice reporter Ryan Lucas is in our studios this morning. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: All right. So who exactly are Lewandowski and Bannon talking to? 'Cause there are several congressional investigations going on, right?

LUCAS: That's right. That's right. They are meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, which is - you noted that there are several. There are three in total that are investigating Russian interference. Bannon is expected this morning. Lewandowski, in that interview from WABC, said probably Wednesday or Thursday is when he would appear. And one last thing. These are behind closed doors so we're not going to have some sort of public spectacle to be able to watch this.

MARTIN: Let's start with Steve Bannon. He lost his job at Breitbart because of comments that he made in that new Michael Wolff book. He called this meeting that happened between Don Jr. and a Russian lawyer, quote, "treasonous." So presumably Steve Bannon is going to be asked about that remark?

LUCAS: Presumably, yes. Now, that Trump Tower meeting was in June of 2016 when the Russian lawyer was offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Bannon was not with the campaign at the time, but of course he played a significant role later on and may have inside knowledge from his time with the Trump campaign about possible Russia contacts. Now, in the Michael Wolff book, he also talked about money laundering and how that would be a focus of the special counsel's investigation, a possible line to Trump, said that Trump Jr. would crack like an egg.

And Bannon may also be asked about phone calls. This isn't from the book, but phone calls that Michael Flynn was making to a senior transition official in late December after Flynn was talking to the Russian ambassador. Flynn spoke with someone at Mar a Lago where transition folks were meeting to discuss national security. We know this because this was in court papers. Bannon was at Mar a Lago at the time so he may be able to provide some sort of insight as to whether that came up at all in those discussions.

MARTIN: OK. So that's Steve Bannon and a possible line of questioning to him. What about Corey Lewandowski?

LUCAS: Now, Lewandowski of course ran the campaign early in the presidential race, left in late June of 2016. But there's a good chunk of time there for investigators to ask him about. In his WABC interview, that bit where he's saying quite clearly, I didn't collude, I didn't coordinate with the Russians, I didn't do anything wrong - you can say that, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing to ask about, right?

MARTIN: Sure.

LUCAS: So Lewandowski is believed to be the high-ranking campaign official mentioned in other court papers. These would be the court papers from George Papadopoulos, the former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos reportedly told Lewandowski about his outreach to the Russian government where he also heard about dirt that the Russians might have on Hillary Clinton. And Papadopoulos, of course has been - he's pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

MARTIN: Hope Hicks, also reportedly going to be talking with the House Intelligence Committee this week. She's of course the White House communications director, a longtime confidant and aide to Donald Trump. A line of questioning to her. What would that be?

LUCAS: Well, Hicks, as you mentioned, has been with Trump for a while. She doesn't like the spotlight, very much prefers to remain behind the scenes. But she played an important role during the campaign, has been in key meetings, key discussions over the course of Trump's run for the White House and then once he was in the White House itself. Lawmakers clearly interested in hearing anything she might know about contacts between Trump associates and Russians, but also she's likely to be asked about the White House and the president's role in drafting the public statement about Trump Junior's meeting at Trump Tower...

MARTIN: 'Cause it would've been her job to help craft that.

LUCAS: Exactly. And Trump Jr. reportedly has said that that's who she talked to.

MARTIN: And in that the president said that he wasn't around, didn't meet with these people when they came to Trump Tower. There's been a lot of focus on when we talk about the Russia investigation, we usually mean the one being conducted by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, but where do the Russia investigations that are happening on the Hill, where do they stand at this point?

LUCAS: Well, the House Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committees are mired in kind of partisan battles right now, but the Senate Intelligence Committee is moving forward proceeding with what remains a fairly bipartisan effort.

MARTIN: All right. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thanks so much, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.