New evidence suggesting that President Donald Trump directed his onetime fixer Michael Cohen to break campaign finance laws could constitute an impeachable offense, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York told CNN’s Jack Tapper Sunday.
Sunday’s comments are significant because Nadler is the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which drafts articles of impeachment.
“They would be impeachable offenses,” Nadler said. “Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question. But, certainly, 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 went on to say that the outgoing Republican majority in Congress effectively shielded the president from legal exposure, but that the new Democratic majority would not do so. From his new perch as Judiciary chair, Nadler is expected to investigate the administration on a range of topics.
Special counsel Robert Mueller released a charging memo recommending a “substantial” prison sentence for Cohen on Friday. The document alleges that Cohen executed a $130,000 hush payment to Stephanie Clifford, who appears in adult films under the name “Stormy Daniels,” at Trump’s direction.
Prosecutors and election law experts have suggested the payment amounts to an “in-kind” campaign contribution which should have been reported to federal officials.
Clifford has since sued Cohen to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement she signed in exchange for the settlement. As Tapper noted in Sunday’s segment, prosecutors have not yet publicly established that Cohen was working at Trump’s behest.
The White House maintained the president’s innocence in a pair of statements late Friday, while Trump himself tweeted that Friday’s filing “totally clears the president.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Nadler said he does not agree with Department of Justice guidelines which provide that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Those guidelines govern the special counsel’s investigation, though federal courts have never explored the issue in earnest. The Supreme Court may ultimately decide that question and related issues which the Mueller inquiry has raised, like whether Trump must comply with a subpoena.
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