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Rep. Jerrold Nadler: 'The Role Of Congress Is Not To Protect The President'

Rep. Jerrold Nadler explains to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd what the role of Congress is supposed to be when dealing with the sort of lawlessness we're witnessing from Trump, members of his family and his administration right now.
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Rep. Jerrold Nadler explains to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd what the role of Congress is supposed to be when dealing with the sort of lawlessness we're witnessing from Trump, members of his family and his administration right now.

The press has been playing this game of "gotcha" with Democrats on impeachment, which they know full well is an exercise in futility even if Democrats regain control of the House and the Senate refuses to vote to convict, which is unlikely given it takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to obtain that conviction.

Republicans have proven themselves to be completely unable and unwilling to put a check on Trump, but instead of badgering every Republican that agrees to an interview on these so-called news shows about why Republicans are refusing to do proper oversight of this administration, we're treated to segments like this one, where they're badgering Democrats on impeachment, and playing the "both sides" game with what Trump has done while in office, and conflating that with the Great Penis Chase of the 1990's with Bill Clinton.

Nadler, for his part, did a very good job responding to Todd, and with beating down the false equivalencies:

CHUCK TODD: Let me go to, after Michael Cohen essentially said the President of the United States was a co-conspirator with him in directing him to - a federal crime, should that trigger the start of an investigation in the Judiciary Committee that could end up going to impeachment or not? But the way our system works, is this the proper way it should begin?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Well, I think the Mueller investigation has to continue, first and foremost. And the Committee has to defend the Mueller investigation against the president's and the Republicans in Congress’ attempts to sabotage it, to discredit it, and to discredit the FBI and the Department of Justice. Congress is supposed to be a check and balance on the executive. We're supposed to guarantee accountability. Under the Republicans, it's been exactly the opposite. Chairman Nunes of the Intelligence Committee was caught on tape at a Republican fundraiser recently saying that he viewed his major role as protecting the president. The role of Congress is not to protect the president, it's to hold the president and any president accountable to the American people. And we ought to be holding investigations.


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CHUCK TODD: What would that look like today? Let's say you had a functional relationship with the other side, okay. We know right now that's tough inside the House. But if you did, what would that look like? You and Congressman Goodlatte would be doing what?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Well, first of all, we would, I hope we would confer with Mueller to see what we shouldn't do that would, that would, that would get in the way of his investigation. We don't want to step on, interfere with them by accident. But following that, we should be investigating all of these things, the possible interference, the interference of the Russians in our investigations, what we can do to make sure that that can't happen again, who in the United States aided and abetted that, if anybody, other crimes that may have been-- not just crimes, but other improper acts in terms of the campaign. We should be investigating all of those things and bringing them to light for the American people. And possibly seeing if there's any legislation we should do to prevent their recurrence in the future. But again, we should talk to the Mueller people first to make sure we don't step on their investigation.

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you this: You know, you were one of Bill Clinton's most ardent defenders during his impeachment. You called it at the time a "partisan coup d'état." If you were charged with running something that, some form of an impeachment investigation, if you're chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which what would happen if Democrats took over Congress, how would you make sure that somehow you handled this differently than your, than your Republican colleagues did 20 years ago?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: I would take the same attitude I took then. I said then that impeachment is a constitutional provision to protect the Constitution against the president, who would aggrandize power, who would ride roughshod over checks and balances, who posed a true threat to American liberty or to constitutional government and the rule of law. And to, and I said also at the time, and therefore, you should only do it under those circumstances. I also said at the time that you should not do an impeachment on a partisan basis. That, in order to do an impeachment properly, you’d have to think that the evidence of, of, of, of, of threatening impeachable offenses, threatening to the constitutional order, threatening to liberty were so overwhelming that by the end of the process, the overwhelming majority of the American people, including a lot of the people who supported the other side, would agree that you had to do it. And we certainly didn't have that then.

CHUCK TODD: Obviously, Watergate did eventually have that. Let me ask you this final question here: Back in 1999, you are, during the debate about whether or not President Clinton obstructed justice, you said at the time you weren't convinced that a president could obstruct justice. Do you still feel that way, that it’s not one of -- I think the quote, "It might not be impeachable." Put it this way: That obstruction of justice might not be an impeachable offense.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Well, I don't remember saying that, but if I said it, I said it. But no, I don't agree with that today. A president, anybody can obstruct justice. Obstruction of justice under certain circumstances might be an impeachable offense. Remember, there's a very big difference between a crime, which may or may not be impeachable, and an impeachable offense, which doesn't have to be a crime. An impeachable offense--

CHUCK TODD: So wait. There are some crimes that the president could commit that you would think is not impeachable?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Yes.

CHUCK TODD: Like what?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD: The affairs?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Well--

CHUCK TODD: Paying these campaign finance, this wouldn't, to you, rise to impeachable?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: No, that might, because it implicates subverting the election process.

CHUCK TODD: But you're skeptical, it sounds like.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: I don't know. I have studied that. But certainly I said at the time that perjury with regard to a private sexual affair did not threaten the constitutional order. It's a crime, but was not an impeachable offense. Perjury regarding an attempt by a president to subvert the constitutional order to aggrandize power probably would be an impeachable offense.

CHUCK TODD: All right. Jerrold Nadler. I have to leave it there. Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, representing New York City. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Thank you.

When is Chuck Todd going to start badgering Republicans for refusing to do their oversight duties, rather than badgering Democrats on impeachment?

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