Top House Democrats have raised the chance of impeachment or the real possibility of prison time for President Donald Trump if it’s proved that he directed unlawfully hush-money payments to women, including 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,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee said. “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 on Friday in the case of Trump’s past personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as proof that Trump was “at the center of a massive fraud.”
Nadler said “They would be impeachable offenses,”.
In the court filings, prosecutors in New York for once link Trump to a federal crime of unlawful payment to buy the silence of two women during the 2016 campaign.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office also exposed earlier sealed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries and suggested the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his Republican campaign by acting to both his political and personal business interests.
Trump has refuted wrongdoing and has likened the investigations to a “witch hunt.”
Nadler, D-N.Y., noted it was too early to determine if Congress would follow impeachment proceedings based on the illegal payments alone due to the fact that lawmakers would need to measure the weight of the offense to justify “overturning” the 2016 election.
Nadler and other lawmakers noted on Sunday they would wait for more details from Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign to decide the extent of Trump’s misconduct.
Concerning the illegal payments, Nadler said “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,”.
Mueller has not state when he will complete a report of any findings, and it isn’t definite that any such report would be made available to Congress. That would be the job of the attorney general. Trump said on Friday he would appoint former Attorney General William Barr to the post to replace Jeff Sessions.
Nadler revealed that Democrats, who will control the House in January, will intensify their own investigations. He said Congress, the Justice Department and the special counsel need to dig deeper into the accusations, which comes with questions about whether Trump lied about his business arrangements with Russians and about possible obstruction of justice.
He said “The new Congress will not try to shield the president, “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 emphasised the need to wait “until we see the full picture.” He has earlier shown that his panel would seek to look into the Trump family’s business ties with Russia.
Schiff said “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,”.
In the legal filings, the Justice Department stopped short of accusing Trump of plainly 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 stated they have had affairs with Trump more than a decade ago.
In different filings, Mueller’s team explain how Cohen communicated with 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 exposed that he never followed up on that meeting. Mueller’s team also told that former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort lied to them about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials, including in 2018.
Marco Rubio, Republican Sen. of Florida described the latest filings as “relevant” in determining Trump’s fitness for office but said lawmakers need more information to pass judgment. He also warned the White House about considering a pardon for Manafort, stating that such a step could provoke congressional debate about restricting a president’s pardon powers.
Rubio said such a step would be “a terrible mistake, “Pardons should be used judiciously. They’re used for cases with extraordinary circumstances.”
Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine and also a member of the Senate intelligence committee, warned against a rush to impeachment, which he said citizens could read as “political revenge and a coup against the president.”
King said “The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections, “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.”
Chris Murphy, Democratic Sen. of Connecticut encouraged Mueller to “show his cards soon” so that Congress can make a decision early next year on whether to act on impeachment.
Murphy said “Let’s be clear: We have reached a new level in the investigation, “It’s important for Congress to get all of the underlying facts and data and evidence that the special counsel has.”