Jerrold Nadler might not think so, but voters might have a very different idea. As House Democrats scatter for the six-week-long August recess, the House Judiciary chair told CNN’s Jake Tapper that impeachment has no deadline, even with an election cycle about to kick into high gear. Tapper sounded skeptical on that point, and for good reason:
TAPPER: Congresswoman Jackie Speier told me a few days ago that she thinks, if impeachment proceedings have not begun by September, then that — then, really, there’s no point in going on and beginning them. Do you agree that there is a deadline of sorts, just because of the 2020 election?
NADLER: No, I don’t. We have to defend the Constitution. And we — and it’s not — we have to defend the Constitution against these kinds of unconstitutional and illegal deeds. And we have to make sure that a president who does that pays a penalty, so that the next — so that that kind of conduct is not normalized and legalized, in effect, for the next president.
So, we have to do this whatever time frame there is. And we’re doing it now. We’re engaged in an investigation into these different alleged crimes and into whether the president violated his oath of office to take care the laws are faithfully executed, to the various abuses of power.
If that’s the case, then why are House Democrats taking the sabbatical? If the Constitution needs to be defended and time is no barrier, shouldn’t its defenders stick around Washington? Even if Nadler thinks there’s no deadline in play, their lack of urgency undercuts Nadler’s claim that Donald Trump is serially offending the Constitution as president, even if he is offending people via his Twitter account.
Tapper accuses Nadler of trying to eat his impeachment cake and have it too. If the case on Trump is as clear as Nadler claims, where’s the impeachment inquiry? Nadler then argues they need more evidence to start one:
“My personal view is that [Trump] richly deserves impeachment,” House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler says.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) July 28, 2019
TAPPER: I just want to clear this up, because there does seem to be some confusion after your press conference on Friday as to whether or not the House Judiciary Committee is formally pursuing an impeachment inquiry could, because, in your filing, you ask the court to enforce a subpoena for Mueller’s grand jury material. You write — quote — “The Judiciary Committee is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment.” I want to clear this up here. You’re investigating possible impeachment, but you haven’t formally opened an impeachment inquiry. Are you trying to have it both ways here?
NADLER: No, we’re not trying to have it both ways. We said exactly what we are doing. We are investigating the question of — we’re investigating the corruptions of the administration, the abuses of power, what Mueller showed, the possible violations of the Emoluments Clause, all the things that might cause us to recommend articles from impeachment. There are articles of impeachment that have been recommended to the committee. And we are investigating and determining whether we should report those articles to the House. That’s exactly what we’re doing.
NADLER: And we’re going to court get more evidence.
Narrator: They’re trying to have it both ways. If Nadler’s arguing that the Constitution requires defending by starting with an assumption of guilt and then look for evidence to support that assumption, well … that’s certainly one perspective. Nadler then called Robert Mueller’s testimony “an inflection point” that proved Trump was guilty of obstruction, a claim Tapper torpedoes quickly:
TAPPER: Were you not aware that Mueller had walked that back?
NADLER: Well, what Mueller — Mueller very carefully in the report and there said that he did not make a decision, but he did not make a decision only because he thought — and he says this in the report — he thought it unfair to the president to say he was guilty and was likely guilty of a crime, when the president couldn’t defend himself in a trial that wouldn’t occur — that wouldn’t occur because he could not be indicted because of the Department of Justice’s decision.
But it is very clear from what the Mueller report lays out. It lays out five instances of obstruction of justice, and it lays out the three elements of the crime very clearly, with all the evidence that shows — that shows that he — that, had he not been the president, he would have been indicted for those crimes.
TAPPER: Right, but the exchange with Ted Lieu is misleading, because Mueller walked it back. He said he didn’t mean to say what he said to Ted Lieu.
The Mueller testimony was an inflection point, but not in the way Nadler had hoped. It might have fired up his caucus a little, but it fell flat with voters and didn’t at all move the needle on impeachment. Now, with voters having the chance to decide for themselves whether to keep Trump in office, impeachment becomes more and more irrelevant, especially since there’s no way in Hell that the Senate will produce 67 votes for removal. As the election approaches, impeachment looks more and more like a partisan electoral strategy — and voters will turn out in droves to punish it.
Impeachment does have a deadline; Nadler’s just unaware that it’s already passed.