Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., revealed plans for House Democrats to investigate and impeach Justice Brett Kavanaugh for alleged perjury and investigate and impeach President Donald Trump for alleged treasonous collusion with Russia.
In post-election chats with various callers while riding the Acela train from New York to Washington, Nadler gave advice to a newly elected representative and discussed potential 2020 Democratic presidential nominees with another. He also lamented identity politics and the thriving economy and worried about Democrats losing working-class voters while gaining elite former Republicans and suburban women.
Nadler was headed to DC for a two-day planning session with his staff and Judiciary Committee staff. “We’ve got to figure out what we’re doing,” he explained in a phone call with a friend. Nadler requested that the friend’s name be concealed on the grounds he is a private citizen.
The two discussed two routes for investigating new Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. The first is to go after the FBI for how they handled the investigation into unsubstantiated claims he sexually assaulted women. “They didn’t even do a half-ass job,” he said. “They didn’t interview 30 witnesses who said ‘Interview me! I’ve got a lot to say!’” he said, while mimicking people waving their hands to be called on.
His other plan is to go after Kavanaugh because “there’s a real indication that Kavanaugh committed perjury.” He claimed that The Atlantic published an article about the allegations of a third woman. Then he claimed that when Kavanaugh was “asked at a committee hearing under oath when he first heard of the subject, he said, ‘When I’d heard of the Atlantic article.’ But there is an email chain apparently dating from well before that from him about ‘How can we deal with this?’” Nadler told the caller.
Nadler was apparently discussing a slightly different claim, since debunked, which is that Kavanaugh perjured himself when he denied hearing of The New Yorker’s disputed allegation involving Deborah Ramirez until the story came out. Considering that The New Yorker included a denial from Kavanaugh in its own controversial story, and was asking him about it right before publication, and he acknowledged all that in his Senate testimony, it’s unclear how fruitful such a perjury claim would be.
When the caller objected to the plan, Nadler pushed back, “That’s not technical, that’s real.” He conceded that maybe it was not a great plan, since even if Kavanaugh could be removed, it might not result in the political results desired.
“The worst-case scenario — or best case depending on your point of view — you prove he committed perjury, about a terrible subject and the Judicial Conference recommends you impeach him. So the president appoints someone just as bad.”
When the caller suggested going after Kavanaugh quietly, Nadler explained, “You can’t do it quietly because word will get out that the FBI or the committee is reaching out to witnesses.”
The caller then suggested that impeachment might still be worthwhile because the president elected in 2020 could nominate someone else. Nadler said the problem was that any investigation wouldn’t take long enough to last until the presidential election. “There are a finite amount of witnesses. I don’t see why it should take long at all,” he said. “We’re not talking about a 30-year scheme of getting money from Russians via hidden sources — that takes time.”
That was an apparent reference to Democrat beliefs in a dramatic and unsubstantiated theory that Trump conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election. He promised it would also be an avenue that Democrats would pursue vigorously at the launch of the new Congress.
Nadler said Russia investigations would be under a broad umbrella of holding Trump “accountable,” since it’s a more palatable argument than impeachment, that they would be going “all-in,” and much of what they get to would be “depending on what [special counsel Robert] Mueller finds.” Still, he said the Judiciary Committee would only be in a supportive role to Rep. Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee, which has “a way ahead start on that.” Still, he said Judiciary “will have a role” in the Russia investigations.
Nadler and his callers discussed 2020 presidential prospects, noting that Joe Biden would be hurt by the efforts to go after Kavanaugh since it would bring his role in the Clarence Thomas hearings back to prominence. “The only relevance of Clarence Thomas hearings is it will come back to hit Joe Biden over head if he runs for president,” Nadler said. Uproarious laughter from the caller could be heard on the other end of the phone. Other candidates were dismissed for being “too conservative” or “too conservative on economic issues for the party” or “not charismatic.”
In another call, Nadler said Republicans did better than expected on election night because of the booming economy. He suggested messaging that the economy is only helping wealthy people and not other classes, and worried that changes to the economic boom would be blamed on Democrats. He also complained that the new voters being recruited to join Democrats were “Rockefeller Republicans” who are liberal on social issues and that the new group makes Democrats more vulnerable to the charge they are no longer the party of the working person.
Nadler told one newly elected Democrat to start thinking about committee assignments.
Following the train ride, Nadler weighed in on Twitter about the news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned, using the language of accountability: “Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept. Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable.”
In March 2017, however, Nadler called for Sessions to resign: