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Impeachable offences don’t mean House will act on Trump, senior Democrat says

Congress should consider if an action was important enough to warrant what’s in effect an attempt to overturn the election

Jerry Nadler says he believes it would be an "impeachable offense" if it's proven that Mr Trump made illegal hush-money payments. AP
Jerry Nadler says he believes it would be an "impeachable offense" if it's proven that Mr Trump made illegal hush-money payments. AP

It would be an impeachable offence if president Donald Trump were proven to have told his lawyer to pay hush money during the campaign to women who claimed to have had affairs with him, but that doesn’t mean he should necessarily be impeached, the Democrat set to lead the House Judiciary Committee said.

Those are “two different considerations”, New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler said on CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday. “You don’t necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offence.”

Congress should consider whether an action was important enough to warrant what’s in effect an attempt to overturn the election, which should be done “only for very serious situations,” Mr Nadler said. Still, he said, “The new Congress will not try to shield the president” as he said Republicans have.

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Manhattan prosecutors said in a court filing on Friday that Mr Trump directed his lawyer Michael Cohen to make the payments to silence women during the 2016 campaign.

Mr Nadler also said he wants to pass legislation to extend the deadline for prosecuting the president until after he leaves office, in case the Justice Department sticks to its legal opinion that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s Face the Nation that when Mr Trump leaves office, “he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”

“We have been discussing the issue of pardons that the president may offer to people or dangle in front of people,” Mr Schiff said. “The bigger pardon question may come down the road, as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said on ABC’s This Week that he’ll continue pushing for legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired. The planned departure of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at the end of this year makes the matter more urgent, said Mr Murphy.

“I imagine that he was one of the people that was attempting to convince the president not to fire Mueller,” said Mr Murphy of Connecticut. “With his departure, certainly the person who replaces him, are concerns that Mueller may be on the chopping block are, I think, more serious and this legislation becomes more important.”

Separately, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on CNN and ABC that Mr Trump shouldn’t pardon former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who faces possible years in prison after Mr Mueller said he lied to prosecutors in violation of his plea agreement.

“It would be a terrible mistake,” Mr Rubio of Florida said on ABC. “Not only does it not pass the smell test, I think it undermines the reason why we have presidential pardons in the first place” and could lead to a debate about amending the president’s authority to pardon.

Updated: December 10, 2018 03:26 PM

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