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Lewandowski hearing boosts Pelosi's anti-impeachment plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Corey Lewandowski's grudging, impudent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday may have wound up bolstering Speaker Pelosi's hands-off approach to impeachment.

Why it matters: Among House Democrats we interviewed, there was overwhelming consensus that the chaotic hearing did nothing to galvanize public support for impeaching President Trump.

Instead, Democrats once again showed their frustration at Trump's brazen strategy of simply refusing to cooperate with Democrats' probes.

  • The White House prevented two former Trump aides, Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn, from testifying.
  • Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager who's eyeing a Senate race in New Hampshire, was so unforthcoming that at one point, all he freely volunteered was that his favorite NFL team is the Patriots.
  • "I will be as sincere in my answers as this committee is in its questions," Lewandowski said as the hearing began.

The big split: A division remains between Democrats who want to move toward impeachment regardless of how it plays politically — and those focused on preserving the House majority, and a broad enough public appeal to win the White House.

Several members on the committee tell Axios that despite personally supporting impeachment, they recognize Pelosi has a different job, and respect that she has to protect the caucus and the new majority.

  • "There are differences about timing and whether we do it at all," Rep. Gerry Connolly, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and recently came out in support of impeachment, tells Axios. "But we can live with ambiguity and we're not going to be pushed into arbitrary deadlines."
  • "The Speaker has to have the ability to see the entire field. She has to consider a lot of things I don't," Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla). said.
  • "The Speaker is a pretty good person to measure her own barometer. She'll know when she needs to act or not act," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

In one victory for Democrats, Lewandowski confirmed as "accurate" the Mueller report's account that Trump had asked him to direct then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller's investigation. Trump said that if Sessions would not meet with Lewandowski, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired.

  • Lewandowski never delivered the message. When Democrats asked if he "chickened out," Lewandowski said he took his kids to the beach instead. (AP)

Between the lines: Many Democrats still think there's an impeachment case to be made, but that investigations and court rulings need to run their course for months to come.

  • "We can’t get this close to getting some answers and then say we’re going to move forward with impeachment without getting the answers,” a Dem leadership aide told Axios.
  • "When we compile our record here in the Judiciary Committee, I believe it'll be so compelling that impeachment resolutions will flow naturally," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a key questioner yesterday.

Go deeper: Corey Lewandowski stonewalls House Democrats in impeachment hearing