House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that he believes President Donald Trump should have been charged for his conduct detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into the president’s campaign’s ties to Russia.
“I believe that each of these incidents, documented in detail in the Mueller report, constitutes a crime,” Nadler said Tuesday. “But for the Department of Justice’s policy of refusing to indict a sitting President, I believe he would have been charged with these crimes.”
Nadler’s comments came at the beginning of a scheduled hearing where committee members were originally going to hear testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn. But on Monday, McGahn, a key witness given his proximity to the president’s legal affairs, said he would not appear — following a directive from Trump.
“The president has taken it upon himself to intimidate a witness who has a legal obligation to be here today. This conduct is not remotely acceptable,” Nadler said at the hearing, which featured an empty chair symbolizing McGahn’s absence. “We will not allow the president to prevent the American people from hearing from this witness. We will not allow the president to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law. We will not allow the president to stop this investigation, and nothing in these unjustified and unjustifiable legal attacks will stop us from pressing forward with our work on behalf of the American people. We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other.”
Nadler said Monday that he plans to hold McGahn in contempt for defying the committee’s request.
Tuesday’s hearing followed a similar course of events as a previous House hearing earlier this month that Attorney General William Barr chose to skip. The Judiciary Committee later voted to hold Barr in contempt for refusing to release an unredacted version of Mueller’s report.
The refusals to testify have followed months of White House officials denying requests to provide information in the various congressional investigations into Trump.
A growing number of House Democrats, who believe the White House is stonewalling the probes, have heightened their calls to open impeachment proceedings into Trump.
Shortly after Tuesday’s hearing, Judiciary Committee vice chair Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) became the latest Democrat to declare that “it’s time to start an impeachment inquiry.”
But other party leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have repeatedly resisted, and have advocated for a slower approach.
They reportedly clashed Monday night during several closed-door meetings on the subject of impeachment.
On Tuesday, Pelosi again tried to downplay reports of growing intra-party tensions over impeaching Trump.
Asked during a press conference if she was “under increased pressure to impeach the president from your caucus,” she said: “No.”