Allegations that President Donald Trump directed his former personal attorney to commit felonies would constitute an impeachable offense if proven true, the Democrat set to head the House Judiciary Committee in the next Congress said on Sunday.
But Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York cautioned that even under such a scenario the committee wouldn’t necessarily proceed with the impeachment process.
“They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify impeachment is a different question,“ Nadler said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
In a sentencing memo filed on Friday, federal prosecutors stated for the first time that they believe former Trump attorney Michael Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction” of the president when he made hush payments to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign who claimed to have had affairs with Trump after he married his current wife, Melania.
“They would be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office,” Nadler said.
Still, he questioned whether the efforts to silence the women “rise to the gravity” of formally ousting Trump from office.
Twenty years ago, Nadler was a member of the Republican-controlled judiciary committee that voted to impeach then-President Bil Clinton for lying under oath about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
At that time, Nadler and other Democrats on the panel argued that Clinton’s actions did not rise to the level of justifying impeachment.
Nadler on Sunday said the hush money payments ― which prosecutors say would represent campaign finance allegations ― as well as the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have to be looked at “very seriously“ by the next Congress.
He accused the Trump campaign of engaging in a broader “conspiracy” to mislead voters.
Still, he echoed other Democratic leader and their allies in resisting claims by some in the party that impeachment proceedings targeting Trump already are justified. Many believe that moving forward with the process as soon as the new Congress convenes in early January could risk a backlash among voters ― especially before special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s actions has concluded.
Impeachment is a “last resort and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation,” Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We may get there, but we’re not there now.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who also appeared on “Meet the Press,” pivoted from the discussion about hush money payments to raising a general complaint about the laws governing campaign finances.
“There are thousands and thousands of rules, it’s incredibly complicated,” he said. “If someone makes an error in filing paperwork... it shouldn’t be jail time, it should be a fine... We’ve over-criminalized campaign finance.”