Top House Dems Talk Impeachment 12/10 06:15
Top House Democrats have raised the prospect of impeachment or the real
possibility of prison time for President Donald Trump if it's proved that he
directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on
the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top House Democrats have raised the prospect of
impeachment or the real possibility of prison time for President Donald Trump
if it's proved that he directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to
the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other
"There's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office,
the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in
quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," said Rep. Adam Schiff,
the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee. "The bigger pardon
question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether
to pardon Donald Trump."
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,
described the details in prosecutors' filings Friday in the case of Trump's
former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as evidence that Trump was "at the
center of a massive fraud."
"They would be impeachable offenses," Nadler said.
In the filings, prosecutors in New York for the first time link Trump to a
federal crime of illegal payments to buy the silence of two women during the
2016 campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller's office also laid out previously
undisclosed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries and
suggested the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his Republican
campaign by playing to both his political and personal business interests.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and has compared the investigations to a "witch
Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was too early to say whether Congress would pursue
impeachment proceedings based on the illegal payments alone because lawmakers
would need to weigh the gravity of the offense to justify "overturning" the
2016 election. Nadler and other lawmakers said Sunday they would await
additional details from Mueller's investigation into Russian election
interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign to determine the
extent of Trump's misconduct.
Regarding the illegal payments, "whether they are important enough to
justify an impeachment is a different question, but certainly they'd be
impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the
president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently
obtaining the office," Nadler said.
Mueller has not said when he will complete a report of any findings, and it
isn't clear that any such report would be made available to Congress. That
would be up to the attorney general. Trump on Friday said he would nominate
former Attorney General William Barr to the post to succeed Jeff Sessions.
Nadler indicated that Democrats, who will control the House in January, will
step up their own investigations. He said Congress, the Justice Department and
the special counsel need to dig deeper into the allegations, which include
questions about whether Trump lied about his business arrangements with
Russians and about possible obstruction of justice.
"The new Congress will not try to shield the president," he said. "We will
try to get to the bottom of this, in order to serve the American people and to
stop this massive conspiracy --- this massive fraud on the American people."
Schiff, D-Calif., also stressed a need to wait "until we see the full
picture." He has previously indicated his panel would seek to look into the
Trump family's business ties with Russia.
"I think we also need to see this as a part of a broader pattern of
potential misconduct by the president, and it's that broad pattern, I think,
that will lead us to a conclusion about whether it rises to the level to
warrant removal from office," Schiff said.
In the legal filings, the Justice Department stopped short of accusing Trump
of directly committing a crime. But it said Trump told Cohen to make illegal
payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen
McDougal, both of whom claimed to have had affairs with Trump more than a
In separate filings, Mueller's team detail how Cohen spoke to a Russian who
"claimed to be a 'trusted person' in the Russian Federation who could offer the
campaign 'political synergy' and 'synergy on a government level.'" Cohen said
he never followed up on that meeting. Mueller's team also said former campaign
chairman Paul Manafort lied to them about his contacts with a Russian associate
and Trump administration officials, including in 2018.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the latest filings "relevant"
in judging Trump's fitness for office but said lawmakers need more information
to render judgment. He also warned the White House about considering a pardon
for Manafort, saying such a step could trigger congressional debate about
limiting a president's pardon powers.
Such a move would be "a terrible mistake," Rubio said. "Pardons should be
used judiciously. They're used for cases with extraordinary circumstances."
Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine and a member of the Senate
intelligence committee, cautioned against a rush to impeachment, which he said
citizens could interpret as "political revenge and a coup against the
"The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections," King said.
"I'm a conservative when it comes to impeachment. I think it's a last resort
and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation. We
may get there, but we're not there now."
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut urged Mueller to "show his cards
soon" so that Congress can make a determination early next year on whether to
act on impeachment.
"Let's be clear: We have reached a new level in the investigation," Murphy
said. "It's important for Congress to get all of the underlying facts and data
and evidence that the special counsel has."
Nadler spoke on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Rubio was on CNN and
ABC's "This Week," and Schiff appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation." Murphy spoke
on ABC, and King was on NBC's "Meet the Press."