When House Republicans impeached Bill Clinton, in 1998, for lying about his affair with the former intern Monica Lewinsky, Nadler emerged as one of Clinton’s most ardent and public defenders, trading his obscurity for a brief moment in the national spotlight. The impeachment, he warned in the House Judiciary Committee, was a spectacular misuse of the power granted to Congress by its founding fathers, a “partisan coup d’état.”
.. The #MeToo movement had just claimed the eighty-eight-year-old congressman John Conyers, of Michigan, who resigned after multiple women came forward to accuse him of harassing and propositioning them.
.. That left a prime opening to succeed Conyers as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, which would oversee an impeachment of Trump if Democrats were to win control of the House in November’s midterm elections.
.. a leaflet he wrote and handed out to Democratic members said he was “the strongest member to lead a potential impeachment.”
.. Nadler, a stubborn seventy-year-old who spent the better part of two decades battling to stop Trump from rerouting the West Side Highway.
.. if and when it comes to impeachment, he will in no way be a neutral arbiter of the President’s fate but an implacable foe who has already pronounced judgment on Trump’s fitness for office.
.. After Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey, last spring, Nadler said that there was a “very strong case” that it constituted obstruction of justice.
.. saying, “This President presents the greatest threat to constitutional liberty and the functioning of our government in living memory.”
.. he believed that Trump’s refusal to retaliate for the Russian intervention was as serious as if an American Commander-in-Chief had failed to respond to the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
.. “It’s a fundamental attack on our way of life. It’s a very fundamental attack on the U.S.
.. “What if Roosevelt had said, after Pearl Harbor, ‘We’re not sure who did it. Maybe it was the Chinese. Maybe it was somebody else’? And used that as an excuse not to respond?”
.. A vocal and growing minority of House Democrats is not waiting for the results of Mueller’s investigation to make that judgment on impeaching Trump.
.. a resolution to begin the process of impeachment authored by Congressman Al Green, of Texas, has twice been put to a vote. In early December, it received fifty-eight Democratic votes.
.. forty-one per cent of Americans support impeachment
.. “We started this knowing it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Steyer told me. “And that it has to do with the information reaching the American people so that people understand this is a deeply unfit and dangerous American President.”
.. But Steyer’s rallying of the Trump-hating party base has put him at odds with Nadler and other Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, who believe it is both premature and politically damaging to call for impeachment now.
.. Bernie Sanders has publicly pleaded with Steyer and others to avoid “jumping the gun” and pushing for Trump’s removal before it’s possible to achieve it. Other Democrats, especially the campaign strategists who have to advise the Party’s candidates in the midterm elections, fear that impeachment is a political loser with voters, who will cast ballots on more traditional pocketbook issues.
.. “But I would also quote Nelson Mandela: ‘Everything is impossible until it happens.’
.. He considers Steyer’s Need to Impeach campaign “premature at best,” he told me. “I don’t think it’s constructive. We don’t have the evidence now that would be convincing enough to people to justify impeachment.”
.. As a political matter, Nadler added, “I don’t think the election campaign should be fought on the basis of impeachment or no impeachment.
.. In Nadler’s reading of history, Nixon was forced from office because Democrats enlisted enough Republicans in the impeachment case to make Nixon’s presumed conviction in the Senate, by a two-thirds majority, likely; then and only then did Nixon step aside.
.. In the Clinton case, conversely, Democrats stuck together and voted en masse against the House impeachment, and Republicans were unable to secure a conviction on the basis of just their own party’s votes in the Senate.
.. Removing the President is a dramatic move against the popular will; in effect, Nadler said, “you are nullifying the last election,” which is not something to be undertaken “without having buy-in, at least by the end of the process, by an appreciable fraction” of Republicans as well as Democrats.
.. The alternative? “Twenty or thirty years of recriminations. Of almost half the country saying, ‘We won the election; you stole it from us.’ You don’t want to do that. Which means you should not impeach the President unless you really believe that, by the end of the process, you will have not only Democrats agreeing with you but a good fraction of the people who voted for him.”
.. he successfully urged Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on just what would constitute an impeachable offense, an exercise that convinced him that “the real test for an impeachable offense is, is this a threat to the constitutional order, to the protection of liberty, to the checks and balances system that the Constitution sets up?”
.. “The impeachment clause was put into the Constitution as a political tool with which to defend the republic, to defend the constitutional order, to defend against a would-be tyrant.”
.. he expected that Mueller, like previous special counsels before him in the Clinton and Nixon cases, would deliver a report to Congress laying out his evidence related to the President, and he promised it would have to be sufficiently serious and specific.
.. I would certainly have to be convinced if I were going to help lead it—that the President has committed impeachable offenses, and that those impeachable offenses are so serious that the constitutional order is threatened if he is not impeached and removed from office,” Nadler said. “That’s the real test.”