The one person who seemed to sum up the Democrats’ reaction to Michael Cohen’s guilty plea — and subsequent allegations against President Donald Trump — was Rep. Jerry Nadler.
There’s long been speculation that the New York Democrat is considering impeachment hearings against Trump and anyone around him regardless of what the evidence might entail. A report from the day after the midterms had the powerful ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee ranting on a train about impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He also talked about going “all in” on Russia.
Well, Russia might not work out, but how about Cohen? On TV this weekend, Nadler talked in grave terms about Cohen’s claim that Trump directed him to pay Stormy Daniels as part of a non-disclosure agreement and paid him back. This would, according to Nadler, be a sufficient reason to remove Trump from office.
“They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they’re important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” Nadler said in an appearance on CNN.
“Certainly, they’re impeachable offenses, because, even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.”
This is hardly a surprise; from Day One, Nadler has called Trump “not legitimate” as a president. But the media is lapping it up.
They seem to forget two things. One, campaign finance issues — and it’s questionable as to whether this falls under the aegis of campaign finance — are generally settled without impeachment proceedings, mostly because they aren’t important enough to justify an impeachment.
The second is, well, how does Congress have any room to talk?
Is Congress going to release the names of everyone in Congress who has been implicated in a sexual harassment claim which was kept silent by a taxpayer funded shush fund–before or after they try to impeach President Trump for using his own money for something perfectly legal?
— thebradfordfile™ (@thebradfordfile) December 10, 2018
Yes, $17 million of taxpayer money has been spent on settling, among other things, sexual harassment claims in Congress, and we pretty much don’t know anything about the cases. As CNN noted, the names of those involved are withheld not only from the public but also from party leadership.
“A source in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office told CNN that Ryan is not made aware of the details of harassment settlements. That source also said that the top Democrat and Republican on the House administration committee review proposed settlements and both must approve the payments,” the network reported in November 2017.
“Similarly, a source in Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office told CNN that Pelosi also is not made aware of those details, and that they are confined to the parties of the settlement and the leaders of the administration committee.”
This is essentially the cozy system that the establishment has set up so that it doesn’t have to face repercussions from sexual harassment lawsuits, discrimination suits and the like. There are also other rebarbative elements of how the system is set up, too long to detail here but enraging in their own right.
But this is perfectly legal.
Trump, meanwhile, paid a much smaller sum to women who allege he had consensual sex with him in order to obtain an NDA. Because of the methodology of obtaining it and the question of whether or not it should have been included in campaign finance reports, we’re now talking impeachment.
Apparently, Nadler isn’t going all-in on Russia, he’s going all-in on Stormy. I guess it’s easier.
So, yes, Nadler can continue to claim that “the president was at the center of a massive fraud — several massive frauds against the American people.” That doesn’t actually mean anything. If we scrutinized the campaign ledgers of everyone in high office for any sort of problem, we’d probably have to extirpate at least half of them from their position.
Now, here’s the thing: I haven’t seen the Mueller report. Neither has Nadler. For all I know, Trump is implicated in a panoply of heinous crimes and his ties with Russia were way more extensive than we thought. Or it could be a very big nothingburger, albeit a nothingburger dressed up like a very appetizing somethingburger and advertised incessantly in the media like it was the Arch Deluxe circa 1992.
I still have my money on the latter, and I think Nadler does too. He heavily qualified whether the alleged campaign finance violations rose to the level of impeachability.
“You don’t necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offense,” he said. “There are several things you have to look at.”
“One, were impeachable offenses committed, how many, et cetera. Secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment? An impeachment is an attempt to effect or overturn the result of the last election and should do it only for very serious situations. That’s the question.”
My guess is that Nadler finds they were very important, committed with great frequency and rise to the gravity where one should undertake an impeachment — an impeachment which would overturn the result of the last election, which elected a president Nadler has already declared as “not legitimate.”
The rest of us might look at the report and realize this has nothing on what Congress has been doing for years. Whether that makes it right is an entirely different question, but the contrast will still make a huge difference in terms of how Americans view any attempts at impeachment.
After all, Trump used his own money to pay for an NDA through a liaison, which would generally garner a minor fine at most if you even concede it was a campaign-related expense. Congress used $17 million of your money to pay for its mistakes, some of which involved sexual harassment. They took every possible step to make sure you didn’t know about it.
And they made it all perfectly legal.