Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, sparred with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff over how the House would handle impeachment proceedings against then-President Donald Trump in 2019, with Nadler arguing that the process was “unconstitutional”, according to a new book.
The dispute broke out over Pelosi’s plan to hold a vote on a resolution outlining impeachment proceedings against Trump, according to excerpts from “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump” that were obtained by Fox News.
Nadler argued with Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chairman whom Pelosi tapped to lead the effort, raising concerns that the Judiciary Committee would be unable to cross-examine witnesses as it typically does.
“It’s unfair, and it’s unprecedented, and it’s unconstitutional,” Nadler told Schiff at one point, according to co-authors Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian, reporters for Politico and the Washington Post respectively.
“I don’t appreciate your tone,” Schiff reportedly replied. “I worry you’re putting us in a box for our investigation.”
Trump was facing impeachment over a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked the leader to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden and his father Joe Biden, then a Democratic presidential candidate.
After being sidelined by Pelosi, Nadler made an “effort to get back” into her “good graces,” according to Bade and Demirjian, who reported that the longtime Upper West Side rep’s aides “sucked up to her staff relentlessly” to emphasize that his panel was prepared to help in the impeachment effort.
The brown-nosing proved successful and Pelosi and Schiff ultimately reconsidered the role of the Judiciary Committee, although they had “their own ideas about how he [Nadler] should run his committee process.”
“Pelosi simply didn’t trust the panel — which was stacked with liberal crusaders and hotheaded conservatives — to handle the rollout of the complex Ukraine narrative with the careful, compelling treatment it required,” Bade and Demirjian write, according to Fox News. “She couldn’t afford another Nadler screwup. The Judiciary chairman could focus on the legal business of crafting the articles of impeachment and have academics testify, she allowed. But that was it.”
In response, Nadler hired attorneys and his staffers examined records and books describing impeachment drives against former Presidents Richard Nixon and Andrew Johnson.
His team’s research found both that presidents had been able to defend themselves at impeachment hearings before the Judiciary Committee and that the president’s lawyers could attend hearings and cross-examine witnesses, as well as call their own.
But Schiff was adamant that Trump would not be able to confront his accusers, a stand that Nadler could not abide.
“If we’re going to impeach, we need to show the country that we gave the president ample opportunity to defend himself,” Nadler told them, according to the book.
The authors write that the Californians worried about what Trump’s lawyers would say at the hearings, and feared it could jeopardize Democrats’ messaging before the 2020 election.
Nadler’s staff said Trump’s impeachment should look “more like Nixon” but Schiff’s team opposed that plan, saying “f–k Donald Trump,” the authors allege.
“Stick close to the Nixon and Clinton cases,” Nadler cautioned at one point amid Republican outrage. ”You have to arm yourself against these process complaints.”
In one meeting with Schiff’s people, the book says, Judiciary Committee counsel Aaron Hiller warned Nadler would “insist on these hearings.”
But Dan Goldman, Schiff’s lead counsel and now a Democratic nominee for Congress in New York’s 10th district, was not impressed.
“Jerry Nadler? With him, everything is negotiable,” Goldman said at the time, the book claims.
The tensions came to a head when Schiff sent Nadler a draft of the resolution laying out the rules for the impeachment proceedings which ignored the New Yorker’s demands.
“These lawless HPSCI bast–ds!” a Judiciary Committee aide reportedly exploded, using the intelligence committee’s formal acronym.
“It’s dumb,” another reacted. “It’s illegal!”
Nadler confronted Schiff at a subsequent meeting.
“They’re going to argue we don’t have due process for Trump. Why make that argument real?” Nadler asked before warning Schiff: “I write the rules of my committee, not you. I resent you telling me how to run my committee.”
“I don’t really care about your resentment,” Schiff responded. “Neither the Speaker nor I agree.”
Pelosi, according to the book, wanted to make Trump’s impeachment a “national security issue.”
“Eighty percent-plus [of Americans] say it’s not okay for the president to ask for foreign assistance [in an election] — despite Trump asserting that he can do it. I just think we need to make this case to rural voters, evangelicals, and Republicans,” she said.
Pelosi even used the words of Judge Andrew Napolitano, then a Fox News contributor, to suggest a way to sell the impeachment to the president’s supporters.
“We need to play up Napolitano saying he committed impeachable offenses,” Pelosi allegedly said. “The public awareness on the details of this is very low … So we need clarity and repetition over and over again. ‘National security threat.’ ‘Abuse of power.’ ‘No one is above the law.’”
Trump was impeached by the House in December 2019, but was acquitted by the Senate in February 2020.