WASHINGTON — Jerry Nadler knows the hopes and fears of millions of Americans are riding on him and his impeachment investigation of President Trump, but the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee isn’t about to act rashly.
“If you’re going to impeach the president, you want more than Democrats and progressives to understand what you’re doing,” Nadler told the Daily News. “You have to have enough public support so that you’re not tearing the country apart, so that you don’t have half the country saying for the next 30 years, ‘We won the election — you stole it from us.’”
For much of the rest of the country and his own Democratic Party, deciding how to confront a president they see as an existential threat has spurred a debate pitting liberals who believe dire circumstances require fast, bold action against an older guard who thinks the stakes are too high to blow it by rushing things.
As chairman of the committee that would draw up articles of impeachment, Nadler is at the heart of that debate. But the veteran New York City congressman is in favor of a measured, cautious approach backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — which might never end in an actual impeachment of Donald Trump.
Nadler insists he’s been very clear since at least March that he’s investigating bringing articles of impeachment, and says that regardless of what some liberals want, the only way to persuade judges, moderates, the public and Pelosi to support the idea of a full-on House impeachment is to convince people methodically.
While there is a considerable portion of Democrats frustrated with Nadler, many of them believe he is at least trying and that Pelosi is the problem.
“Jerry Nadler, I think, generally wants to do the right thing but is generally a team player and is being told by Pelosi to keep it below the radar,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is backing primary challenges against other entrenched Democrats but not Nadler.
The way Green sees it, Pelosi is forcing Nadler to walk a tightrope, telling judges and liberals that he’s working to impeach Trump while keeping it low-profile enough to avoid alarming people who are not yet convinced Trump is a menace to democracy.
Pelosi, he said, needs to unleash Nadler if she really wants to get more of the country to agree Trump’s got to go.
“He can’t do that with a ridiculous below-the-radar impeachment strategy,” Green said. “It has to be big, and Nancy Pelosi is not helping him.”
With the 2020 election drawing closer, Nadler knows time is running short. But he didn’t elaborate on his specific plans beyond pointing to the court cases and testimony he is already known to be seeking. He did admit that an impeachment does not necessarily even have to focus on the issues surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“There are plenty of other things we have to look at,” he said, running down a list that suggested he’s got plenty of options he’d be eager to test. Among the allegations: “witness tampering, threatening witnesses, dangling pardons," he said, plus Trump’s penchant to enrich himself in apparent violation of the Constitution and his refusal to honor subpoenas.
Despite being in a difficult spot, Nadler appears to relish his role.
“To protect the Constitution and to protect the country against a president who is trying — I won’t say deliberately because I’m not sure he understands what he’s doing — but whose actions are potentially very destructive of liberty, of the structure and functioning of government, of racial relations, of everything in this country, is something that must be done,” Nadler said.
“And if someone’s got to do it, I’m just as happy that it’s me.”