The House Judiciary Committee is too tied up with “impeaching the president” to take immediate action on a potential investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Monday.
“We have our hands full with impeaching the president right now and that’s going to take up our limited resources and time for a while,” Nadler said on WNYC when pressed by host Brian Lehrer.
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It’s a significant comment that comes even as advocates for formal impeachment proceedings against Trump have argued the Judiciary Committee is capable of juggling its Trump-focused investigations with other issues in its broad jurisdiction — including immigration and criminal justice policies.
Nadler’s interview comes amid calls from some Senate Democrats and presidential candidates to impeach Kavanaugh after a New York Times story over the weekend reported a new allegation of sexual misconduct against the justice from his time as a student at Yale.
Nadler said his first move to investigate Kavanaugh would come next month, when FBI Director Christopher Wray appears for a previously scheduled hearing that will now feature a significant focus on the Supreme Court justice’s past — and whether the FBI’s background check was thorough enough. Nadler said his panel’s primary focus would be determining whether Kavanaugh lied to the Senate.
“These deeds that he allegedly did years ago would be very relevant to a senator voting for or against his nomination,” Nadler said.
At the time, Nadler complained that the Senate only got a fraction of Kavanaugh’s records from his White House tenure, which ran from 2001 to 2006, when he served in the White House counsel’s office and later as staff secretary. He said it was urgent to receive because of the potential for Kavanaugh to rule on policy matters that may have come up during his time in the White House.
Last month, Nadler asked the National Archives to release a large cache of records related to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s time in George W. Bush’s White House.
Nadler’s comments on Kavanaugh preceded some of his strongest comments to date on impeaching Trump. Nadler emphasized that in his view, it’s “imperative” that Trump be impeached to deter wrongdoing by future presidents. He also said Congress already has all the information it needs to make that decision. What’s missing, he said, is educating the public on those findings.
“In my personal opinion, impeachment is imperative not because he’s going to be removed from office — the Senate won’t do that — but because we have to vindicate the Constitution,” he said. “We have to show that the kind of self-dealing enrichment that this president is engaged in … that the kind of public corruption he’s been involved in, that the kind of obstruction of justice that the Mueller report documented — five instances of which met all the requirements for an indictment and the president would have been indicted for those five instances had the Justice Department not had a policy of not indicting presidents no matter what — we have to show that this kind of behavior … cannot be normalized.”
Nadler’s position on impeachment puts him much further ahead on the issue than Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has said the House must continue to investigate and litigate against Trump before making a determination on what to do. She’s acknowledged that public sentiment does not favor impeachment but insists that the decision won’t be political but rather based on the factual merits.
Nadler hinted at the divide among Democrats, noting that some of his colleagues are reluctant to use the terms “impeachment inquiry” or “impeachment investigation” to describe what the House is doing. Nadler, though, described a Tuesday hearing that his panel will convene on obstruction of justice allegations against Trump as an “impeachment hearing.”
“We are involved in an investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the House. That is what we’re doing,” he said. “The term impeachment investigation, the term impeachment inquiry have no legal meaning. Shorthand for an investigation into determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment. That’s what we’re doing and we’re doing it officially.”
“I have said this in very certain terms as many times as I can as definitely as I can now. Other people have, for various reasons, have been more reluctant — been reluctant to use the term impeachment inquiry or impeachment investigation,” he said. “But as I’ve said those terms have no official meaning.”
As for the prospect of an actual impeachment vote int he House, Nadler said there is a math challenge within the Democratic caucus to get 218 votes of support for impeachment.
“There’s a maximum of 236 possible votes, namely 235 Democrats and Justin Amash” — the former Republican who shed his party affiliation after coming out in support of Trump’s removal, Nadler said. “We have to through the hearings that we’re going to hold now — a very aggressive series of hearings on very serious offenses committed by the president … We have to show that there are adequate grounds for impeachment that there are imperative grounds for impeachment.”