After a private meeting among leading House Democrats on Tuesday, June 4, in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly said she wanted to see President Trump end up “in prison,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler appeared on CNN to answer questions from Wolf Blitzer about Democrats’ plans to further investigate and possibly impeach President Trump.
When asked if he felt pressure from within the House Judiciary Committee to pursue impeachment, Nadler avoided the question initially, but also admitted, “Right now, we don’t have the support [for impeachment]. It may very well come to an impeachment inquiry. We will see.”
Reports continue to surface that Nadler and Pelosi have yet to see eye to eye on whether impeachment proceedings would be feasible or effective, despite mounting pressure within the party. Pelosi’s main concern is that Democrats may ultimately fail to win enough public support for impeaching the president, a gambit that could cost Democrats votes in the 2020 election.
“We are going to go step by step,” Nadler told CNN. “We’re investigating all the things we would investigate frankly in an impeachment inquiry. We are starting with the Mueller Report, which I think shows ample evidence of multiple crimes of obstruction of justice and abuse of power….We need to educate the American people.”
Democrats already know that if impeachment passed in the House, the effort to convict would almost certainly die in the Senate. The task, it would seem, is to use public hearings as a forum to expose incriminating evidence against Trump on national television. However, such a spectacle would need to be carefully managed in order to build political support. The case against Trump cannot appear too thin, and sharp cross-examination from Republican lawyers during an impeachment trial could spoil the effect.
That is where hearings before Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee come into play. The House Committee is scheduled to begin its own set of hearings next week to review in detail the report of Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller III. Nadler is also seeking to have Mueller testify in person, though Mueller stated in his farewell remarks last week that he does not want to be involved in hearings going forward.
Concurrently, the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, and the House Oversight Committee are pressing forward with investigations into the 2016 election and Trump’s finances with the aim of finding new evidence against Trump that could factor into an impeachment inquiry.
In the end, if Democrats can assert that President Trump could have, or should have, been impeached—even if he isn’t—then this may serve as a moral and political victory for their party heading into the next election cycle. However, if the Democrats cannot build a convincing enough case against the president, then the outcome on election night might turn out to be the opposite.