FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2018, file photo, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., talks to media during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump

It could be an “impeachable offense” if it’s proven that President Donald Trump directed illegal hush-money payments to women during the 2016 campaign.

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.

“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 centre of a massive fraud.”

“They would be impeachable offences,” 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 hunt.”

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 offence 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 co-ordination 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 offences 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.

Read more: Trump looking at several candidates for new chief of staff

Read more: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met Russian, offering ‘political synergy,’ U.S. says

“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 decade ago.

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 president.”

“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.”

Hope Yen, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Many questions for Langley teachers as return to school approaches

Immune-compromised teachers are among those waiting to hear about plans

Postcards from kids in Aldergrove to uplift isolated seniors amidst COVID

United Way launched Intergenerational Postcard Club in August, matching up kids with older pen pals

Slo-pitch league to resume play

Township approves resumption, with restrictions, league president says

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

35,000 doses of fentanyl part of huge Maple Ridge bust

Largest seizure in RCMP detachment’s history included submachine gun, body armour

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read