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Jerry Nadler: 'I think the President ought to be impeached' but public has to be on board

CNN logo CNN 2019-09-16 By Jeremy Herb, CNN
Jerrold Nadler wearing a suit and tie: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, speaks to members of the press in May in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images) © Stephanie Keith/Getty Images House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, speaks to members of the press in May in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said Monday he believes the House should impeach President Donald Trump, and now it's his committee's job to convince the public that it's the correct course of action before the House moves forward.

"Personally, I think President ought to be impeached," Nadler told WNYC's Brian Lehrer.

Nadler's comments were some of the most detailed he has offered thus far about his rationale for the House to pursue impeachment. He said that he believes the House should act on impeachment, even if the Senate will not remove the President, because Congress has to "vindicate the Constitution."

"We have to show that this kind of behavior -- trashing the Constitution, trashing all the norms which guarantee democratic government, aggrandizing power to the Presidency and destroying the separation of powers and thereby leading the President to become more and more of a tyrant cannot be tolerated. And it cannot be normalized," Nadler said. "We have to make sure the next President or the one after him or her knows there's a real penalty to be paid. That's why the impeachment is necessary, even if we cannot get a vote in the Senate."

The New York Democrat cited multiple allegations his committee is investigating, including Trump's alleged violations of the Emoluments clause of the Constitution, public corruption, obstruction of justice and abuse of power, as well as defying congressional subpoenas.

But Nadler acknowledged that the House should not go forward with impeachment unless it has the public's support — not just because the public would view it as undemocratic and it would "tear the country apart," but also because the votes won't be there without public support. 

"We cannot impeach the President against the will of the American people," he said.

He argued that the public has not heard most of the evidence against the President, which is why the committee has to hold impeachment hearings, beginning with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is expected to appear Tuesday under subpoena for a public hearing. Nadler said he has designated the hearing as an impeachment hearing, but expressed skepticism Lewandowski would say much about the episodes where he's cited in the Mueller report, as the White House has previously directed other witnesses not to talk about anything that occurred during the Trump administration.

"We have to show that there are adequate grounds for impeachment, that there are imperative grounds for impeachment, and convince people," he said. "If that happens, if people are convinced after the hearings that the President should be impeached, then we'll be able to get the votes."

Nadler said it should be clear that his committee is conducting an impeachment investigation, though it's something that flustered House Democrats last week as the Judiciary Committee voted to formalize the rules of its investigation. In the interview Monday, Nadler blamed the press for the confusion, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to call the committee's probe an impeachment investigation — which the Justice Department cited in its court filings late last week to deny the committee access to Robert Mueller's grand jury materials.

The Judiciary Committee chairman was also asked about new allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh from The New York Times this weekend. Nadler said he's got questions for FBI Director Chris Wray about the FBI's handling of the Kavanaugh investigation during his confirmation, but also said the committee is concentrated on its impeachment investigation.

CNN is not reporting any details of the accusation and has not independently corroborated the account. The Times on Sunday evening published an Editor's Note to its original story saying the female victim declined to be interviewed, and her friends told the authors she does not recall the incident.

Nadler, who reiterated his belief that the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh's past was a "sham," said he would address the issue with Wray when he testifies before the committee and then decide if the committee would take further action. Nadler has previously asked the National Archives to produce documents related to Kavanaugh's time in the George W. Bush White House.

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