Category: Impeachment
Forget What They Say — House Democrats Are Readying for Impeachment
| December 23, 2017 | 7:05 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, Impeachment, Jerrold Nadler | No comments

Forget What They Say — House Democrats Are Readying for Impeachment

The selection of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) as the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee was the clearest sign yet of how seriously House Democrats consider the possibility of a full-blown constitutional showdown with Trump.
Jerry Nadler behind poster reading hashtag Trump for Sale

To fill their top spot on the House Judiciary Committee, Democrats had a choice between experts in two critical policy arenas — a constitutional-law ace with firsthand experience battling Donald Trump, and an architect of sweeping immigration legislation.

By a wide margin, they chose the constitutional-law expert. Why? To ready themselves for a battle with President Trump that could end with impeachment proceedings.

The selection of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) as the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee was the clearest sign yet of how seriously House Democrats consider the possibility of a full-blown constitutional showdown with Trump.

You wouldn’t know it from how many of them talk. When it comes to the i-word, most Democrats have walked a tightrope — with even Nadler hesitant to mention impeachment in interviews before votes were cast Wednesday.

Leaders have cautioned the rank and file not to push for impeachment, because the public might view it as an overreach. The House’s few remaining moderate Democrats from swing districts have regularly warned the party’s liberal flank against making the 2018 midterm elections about Trump or the investigations into his presidential campaign.

“Look, Robert S. Mueller III is on the case,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), from a western Illinois district that swung to Trump last year. “We’ve got to let him do what he’s going to do and let the facts go wherever they’re going to go. In the end the truth comes out, but I don’t think we need to rush anything more than that.”

Bustos had a one-word reply when asked what issues Democrats need to focus on in the next 11 months: “Jobs.”

Yet Nadler anchored his candidacy for his new position, vacated with the resignation of Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), on the 13 years he has spent as chairman or ranking Democrat on the panel’s Constitution subcommittee and, more recently, its courts subcommittee.

He also politely reminded Democrats in recent days of his efforts, beginning in the mid-1980s and continuing into last decade, to impede Trump’s efforts to develop portions of New York’s Upper West Side, which Nadler has represented in the New York State Assembly, and subsequently the House, for more than 40 years.

Nadler won a secret ballot 118 to 72, demonstrating that this caucus wants to be ready to clash with Trump if it vaults into the majority after next year’s midterm elections.

“There is nobody better prepared, if the president messes around with the Constitution, to handle it than Jerry Nadler,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the vote.

Will Trump be impeached? It’s far less likely than some Democrats are suggesting(Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Schumer, a confidant of Nadler’s since the 1970s, did not have a vote in the race, but he echoed the sentiment of many House Democrats.

It was not meant as a slight to the importance of immigration, an issue that Nadler’s opponent, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), had argued was the party’s main focus.

And these internal elections for leadership posts and top committee slots often turn largely on personal relationships that lawmakers build over decades in office. This race was no different.

Nadler had the backing of most, if not all, of New York’s 18 Democratic lawmakers, as well as many members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The CBC has long held that seniority (Nadler was elected in 1992 and Lofgren in 1994) should be the most important factor in these posts, rather than qualities such as the ability to raise money. That’s because many of its members come from poorer, urban districts and do not have the wealthy donor bases of some of their colleagues.

Yet Lofgren hails from a state with 39 Democrats, and with more than 60 women casting ballots in the Democratic leadership races, she was considered a strong challenger for a post that Conyers vacated amid sexual harassment allegations.

One Democratic handicapper familiar with recent internal races expected Nadler to win by about 15 votes. Instead, he won by more than double that margin.

What changed the calculus?

“The constitutional argument,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) said in explaining the broad support for Nadler. Democrats, he said, must “prepare for the coming storm.”

[House votes to kill Texas lawmaker’s Trump impeachment effort]

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) played down any division within her caucus, suggesting that the race was spirited but helpful in highlighting key issues. “It was a good, healthy race,” said Pelosi, who stayed neutral. “I thought they both made a very good showing.”

Schumer said he first met Nadler when he “a West Side kid, one of the leaders of the West Side political movement.” The Brooklyn Democrat won his first assembly race in 1974, and Nadler won his two years later.

After a failed 1985 mayoral bid, Nadler won his House seat in 1992 and became a force on the Judiciary Committee, particularly as a top defender in 1998 of President Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings.

“History and the precedents alike show that impeachment is not a punishment for crimes but a means to protect our constitutional system,” he said then in his opening statementduring the committee’s proceedings. “And it was certainly not meant to be a means to punish a president for personal wrongdoing not related to his office.”

A fairly doctrinaire liberal, Nadler represents a district where Trump received just 19 percent of the vote last year. He refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, saying that he was “legally elected” despite allegations of Russian interference. Instead, Nadler said then, Trump’s actions inflaming racial tensions made him “not legitimate” as president.

By May, after the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director, Nadler told CNN that there might be a “very strong case” for obstruction-of-justice charges against Trump.

Democrats are careful to say that Nadler will not push too far or too fast on any impeachment proceedings. “He doesn’t rush to judgment about anything, very deliberative,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), a friend of more than 25 years.

In Fight for Judiciary Slot, Democrats Broach the ‘I’ Word: Impeachment
| December 21, 2017 | 6:56 pm | Donald Trump, Impeachment, political struggle | 1 Comment

In Fight for Judiciary Slot, Democrats Broach the ‘I’ Word: Impeachment


Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York has pitched himself to be the top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committe. Credit Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York has a bold pitch to take over the top Democratic spot on the House Judiciary Committee — that he is best positioned to lead impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

“As our constitutional expert, and with his demonstrated leadership on impeachment in the 90s, Nadler is our strongest member to lead a potential impeachment,” Mr. Nadler wrote on a pocket-size leaflet outlining his record.

Not so fast, says Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, his main opponent for the slot. Not only was she on the committee when Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, but she was a part of its staff during the proceedings against Richard M. Nixon two decades earlier — a better model, she argues, for taking on Mr. Trump.

Democrats have no shortage of priorities before the Judiciary Committee, which handles a range of hot-button issues, including immigration, guns, abortion and domestic surveillance. But with Democrats increasingly bullish about their chances of retaking the House next year, the candidates fighting for control of the committee have dispensed with niceties and are openly campaigning on the “I” word: Impeachment.

“It may never come to that. We have no idea what Bob Mueller will provide,” Ms. Lofgren said in an interview last week, referring to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating links between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.

House Democrats will choose between the two seasoned Democrats on Wednesday, when they vote to replace Representative John Conyers Jr., who held down the top Democratic seat on the panel for a quarter century before accusations of sexual misconduct forced him into unexpected retirement earlier this month. And as rumors sweep through the Capitol that Mr. Trump could soon fire Mr. Mueller, Democrats have whipped themselves into a frenzy, seeing themselves as possibly the last line of defense.

“We’re in the fight of our lives in 2018 and the rule of law is at the center of all the controversy,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, a freshman from Maryland who is a constitutional law scholar. “The position is central to our ability to stand up for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

Given its broad policy portfolio, the committee tends to attract some of the most partisan members from both parties, and over the years the committee has earned a reputation as one of the most cutthroat in Congress. Impeachment hearings in 1998 devolved into partisan brawls, and the Judiciary Committee chairman at the time, Henry Hyde of Illinois, became the chief prosecutor of Mr. Clinton in his Senate trial. Mr. Hyde also became a target of Democratic partisans, accused of his own marital infidelity three decades before Mr. Clinton’s sex-charged proceedings.

That experience is clearly informing the fight now for the Democratic top slot.

Mr. Nadler, 70, who represents parts of Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Brooklyn, pitches himself as a fighter with a lifelong commitment to civil rights and civil liberties and an expertise in constitutional law — a distinction he argues will count should the House explore an impeachment case against Mr. Trump.

He also has a claim on being one of his party’s oldest Trump foils: In the 1990s, he was a prominent opponent of Trump projects on the West Side of Manhattan. His crusade against Mr. Trump earned him little love from the New York developer. Mr. Trump, then a frequent Democratic donor, called Mr. Nadler one of the three worst politicians in America.

“No, I don’t relish having a constitutional crisis,” Mr. Nadler said in an interview in his office last week.

He continued: “Yes, I do relish fighting to protect the constitutional order, to protect people, to protect our democratic system. Yes, if we have to have that fight, I want to be a leader here.”


Representative Zoe Lofgren of California has made the case that her state is underrepresented in top committee posts and that she is better positioned to advance immigration reform. Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Ms. Lofgren, 69, an immigration lawyer from the south San Francisco Bay Area and one of the most senior female Democrats in the House, has tacked a slightly different course. She has made the case that California is underrepresented in top committee posts and that she is better positioned to advance immigration reform — a claim that got a boost last week in the form of a letter of support from Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, an Illinois Democrat who is viewed as one of the foremost immigration reform advocates among Democrats.

But Ms. Lofgren has also argued that she can offer the committee something Mr. Nadler cannot — a woman as its leader.

The issue has taken on added weight at a time when revelations about and changing views of sexual misconduct are rapidly reshaping Congress and the committee itself. Mr. Conyers, 88, resigned amid accusations that he had sexually harassed former employees and reached a confidential settlement with one who said she was fired after rejecting his advances. At the same time, Democrats have moved quickly and assertively to try to claim the mantle as the party of women.

“This is part of the whole panoply of how we show to the country we are listening,” Ms. Lofgren said, pointing out that women occupy only five of the top Democratic slots on the House’s 20 standing committees.

House Democratic leaders have elected to keep quiet, fearing accusations of undue influence at an inopportune moment. Representative Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, is thought to be supporting Ms. Lofgren, a fellow Californian and longtime confidante, but her silence has been received by at least some lawmakers as a sign that they should be free to vote for Mr. Nadler.

The Democrats’ steering committee is scheduled to vote on Tuesday and will make a recommendation to the party caucus, ahead of its full vote on Wednesday. Mr. Nadler may have a structural advantage because Democrats tend to give weight to seniority and he has served on the committee two years longer than Ms. Lofgren.

But Democratic lawmakers and senior party aides said they expected the results to be close — in part because both Mr. Nadler and Ms. Lofgren are thought to be safe hands in which to place the committee’s agenda.

“It’s a critical position right now,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona. “They are both very good and capable people.”