New court filings show Donald Trump was “at the center of a massive fraud” against the American people, the incoming chair of the House judiciary committee said on Sunday.
Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat set to take over the panel in January, said Trump would have committed impeachable offenses if it is proven that he ordered his lawyer to make illegal payments to women to keep quiet about alleged sexual encounters.
“What these indictments and filings show is that the president was at the center of a massive fraud – several massive frauds against the American people,” Nadler said on CNN’s “State of the Union”.
Federal prosecutors said in court filings on Friday that Trump directed his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, to commit two felonies: payments made to women who said they had sex with Trump in return for their silence, in an effort to influence the 2016 election.
“They would be impeachable offenses,” Nadler said, though he added it would still be a judgment call for lawmakers whether the offenses were important enough to warrant impeachment proceedings, which should only be launched in the gravest circumstances.
Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” he said. “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.”
After Democrats take control of the House, Nadler said, they will aggressively investigate what happened during the campaign.
“The Republican Congress absolutely tried to shield the president,” he said. “The new Congress will not try to shield the president. It will try to get to the bottom of this in order to serve the American people and stop this massive fraud on the American people.
“What did the president know and when did he know it about these crimes?”
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said Trump’s alleged actions were “things that cannot and should not be ignored”.
“We want to know everything, and we will know everything that has happened here at some point,” Rubio said, also on CNN. “If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would be to any other citizen in the country.”
Appearing on CNN, ABC and CBS on Sunday morning, Rubio repeatedly said that a presidential pardon for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair whose links with Russia were detailed in court filings on Friday, would not be a good idea. Trump has publicly declined to take the idea off the table.
“I believe it’d be a terrible mistake,” he told ABC’s This Week. “Pardons should be used judiciously. They’re used for cases with extraordinary circumstances.”