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Let Corey Be Corey

September 18, 2019
Let Corey Be Corey
(GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Corey Lewandowski wants to beat a woman. I’m talking about incumbent New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Why, what did you think I meant?

Yesterday Corey Lewandowski admitted to the world that he is a liar and he did it under oath, during his congressional testimony, while hoping to use the media attention as a rollout for a Senate campaign. It was one of the trumpiest displays of Trumpism the world has ever seen.

Even for Lewandowski, who is famous for his displays of thuggishness, this was impressive. You’ll remember Corey as the president’s campaign manager when the president’s campaign consisted of him and three other people—Roger “the endless defendant” Stone, Sam Nunberg, and Paul “rotting in jail” Manafort.

Smug Corey sat next to two empty seats, one that should have theoretically been occupied by Rob Porter (you’ll remember Rob Porter as the guy who—allegedly!—beat not one, but two of his wives) and the other that should have been occupied by Rick Dearborn—both of whom were directed by the president not testify before the House judiciary because of . . . mumblegrumbleprivilegewhateverwumpwump.

If you watched the entire thing (and the only reasons for that would be as penance or masochism) what you saw is that Corey is more or less the same person as Donald Trump, only without the charm. He sat there with his state-trooper wannabe haircut and a tight smile. As Vox explained (get it?) the interview:

[W]as mainly about one episode of potential obstruction of justice outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report: President Donald Trump’s request to Lewandowski, in June 2017, that he deliver a message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, pressuring him to retake control of the Russia probe and restrict it only to future election interference. Lewandowski never gave the message to Sessions.

Corey didn’t really answer questions from the duly-elected representatives of the people. Mostly he obfuscated and tried to run out the clock. Though he also pretended not to be able to find things in the Mueller report. And was rude and disrespectful. In other words, the guy whose big value-add on the 2016 campaign was insisting that they should let Trump be Trump, decided to just let Corey be Corey.

And it mostly worked for him. Trump sure liked it.

Then at some point things sort of went south when Corey admitted that he’s a liar and he bragged that he has “no obligation to be honest with the media.” So there? Realizing that he was in a hole, he tried to dig out, a little bit: “What I’m saying is, they have been inaccurate on many occasions and perhaps I was inaccurate that time.” It was a deeply Trumpy move, blaming the media for his own lying. Kind of like the abuser who says that he had no choice because his wife just made him so angry.

Congressional Republicans tried to help Corey out. Doug Collins, for instance, tried to run out the clock by asking for numerous roll calls and by giving a seemingly endless opening statement in which he accused Jerry Nadler of ethics violations. Which is, kind of an amazing thing for a Republican to worry about while the president of the United States is using the federal government as an ATM.

And Congressional Democrats did their fair share to help Corey, too. Though in fairness to them, they did it inadvertently by being toothless. They were saved only in the final half hour when criminal lawyer Barry Berke took over the questioning. It’s almost as if criminal lawyers are better equipped to deal with the Trump administration than normal politicians are. Who could say why. It’s a mystery.

Berke did a brilliant job by playing clips of Corey lying on television and then asking Corey if he lied. It was a simple idea that had somehow completely eluded the Democrats on the committee. “That wasn’t true, was it, sir?” Berke asked Corey. And that’s when Lewandowski said the thing under oath that will probably not help his Senate campaign. “I have no obligation to be honest with the media” is probably going to be on Corey’s tombstone some day and it seems possible—just possible—that he may come to regret it.

But maybe not.

It’s important to remember that Corey wasn’t testifying for the media attention, or to fulfill his civic duty, or to do what’s right. No, Corey was testifying for an audience of one: for the president of the United States, whose White House counsel had directed “Mr. Lewandowski not to discuss the substance of any conversations he had with the president or senior presidential advisers about official government matters, unless the information is expressly contained in the report.” Corey invoked this shield many, many, many times. And in the end, the president was pleased by Corey’s performance and rewarded him with numerous tweets. “Such a beautiful Opening Statement by Corey Lewandowski! Thank you Corey!” In fact, he thanked his lying little minion twice.

“Sometimes we think the boss is just waiting for the right time to bring us back.” Lewandowski and Bossie wrote in their love letter to the president titled—funnily enough—Let Trump be Trump.

Watching his performance yesterday it’s pretty clear that Corey never really left in the first place.

Molly Jong-Fast

Molly Jong-Fast is a contributor to The Bulwark and the author of three books. Follow her on Twitter @MollyJongFast.