Transcript: Rep. Jerry Nadler on "Face the Nation," January 19, 2020

Nadler: White House rebuttal to impeachment “errant nonsense”
Nadler: White House rebuttal to impeachment ... 07:22

The following is a transcript of an interview with Representative Jerry Nadler that aired Sunday, January 19, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin this morning with House impeachment manager and Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler. He joins us from New York. Mr. Chairman, good morning to you.

REPRESENTATIVE JERRY NADLER: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the- the White House legal team sent their response last night to the articles of impeachment: abuse of power, obstruction of justice. They, on the first, argue that there was no violation of any law. And on the second point, they argue that the president had the right to refuse to produce documents and witnesses due to executive privilege. How are you going to prosecute this case?

REP. NADLER: Well, both of those statements are arrant nonsense. There is ample evidence, overwhelming evidence. Any jury would convict in three minutes flat that the president betrayed his country by breaking the law. The GAO, the General Accountability Office, just came out this week and pointed out that withholding money from Uk- from Ukraine that Congress had appropriated is against the law. But we didn't need them to tell us that. And the reason he did that was in order to extort a foreign government to- to smear his political opponents for his personal benefits and to help try to rig the 2020 election as he worked with the Russians to try to rig the 2016 election. The same pattern. So, there is no question that working with a foreign- working with a foreign power, trying to extort a foreign power to interfere in our election is about as bad as you can imagine. The main fear the framers of the Constitution had, why they put the impeachment clause in the Constitution, was they were afraid of foreign interference in- in our domestic affairs. The second thing they say that he broke no law is absurd. Abuse of power is the central reason for the impeachment clause in the Constitution. It's all over the Federalist Papers. It's all over the debates in the constitutional convention. There is no question about it. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

REP. NADLER: And the evidence is overwhelming. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I- I- I want to ask--

REP. NADLER: And the last thing they said is- is-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. 

REP. NADLER: --is that- is that the president is entitled to withhold documents. No, he's not. The House of Representatives has the impeachment power under the Constitution. And that includes--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

REP. NADLER: --and the Supreme Court ruled that in the Nixon case that he has every right- that we must demand documents. He- he can't withhold all the evidence and by the way- and then say there's not enough evidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Well, on the question of witnesses, from what we are hearing from Senate Republicans, there will eventually be a vote on whether or not to hear from witnesses. Not a commitment upfront, but an agreement to talk about it and vote on it later. Is there any circumstance in which Democrats would consider, for reciprocity, having Hunter Biden come and testify?

REP. NADLER: You know, the question of witnesses in any trial, in any trial, all relevant witnesses must be heard. Whether if- if you're accused of robbing a bank, testi- testimony that I saw him rob the bank or he was somewhere else, he couldn't have robbed the bank, is admissible. It's not negotiable whether you have witnesses. And this whole controversy about whether there should be witnesses is just- is really a question of does the Senate want to have a fair trial or do they- or are they part of the cover up of the president? Any Republican senator who says there should be no witnesses or even that witnesses should be negotiated is part of the cover up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you're saying no way would Hunter Biden ever be called to testify?

REP. NADLER: Well, I'm saying that Hunter Biden has no knowledge of the accusations against the president. Did the president, as we said- as the evidence shows that he did, betray his country by conspiring with a foreign country to- to try to rig the election? Hunter Biden has nothing to say about that. They're- they're asking for Hunter Biden is just more of a smear of Hunter Biden that the president's trying to get the Ukraine to do. But the fact of the matter is, let the chief justice rule on- on--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

REP. NADLER: --the chief justice in the first instance rules on evidence. The Senate can overrule him. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

REP. NADLER: But no chief justice would- would- would think of- of admitting evidence that- that is not relevant--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I--

REP. NADLER: No trial judge would in any trial.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about evidence, because Lev Parnas, the business associate of Rudy Giuliani- some of the documents that he turned over were included in the briefs submitted by Democrats just last night. Are- many Republicans say, it shouldn't be admissible at all. Do Democrats want to hear him testify? And given his legal troubles, given his ties to Russian oligarchs, why do you think he is credible?

REP. NADLER:  Well, he seems to be credible because everything he says corroborates things we knew. New documents that- that he has brought out corrob- from the time, corroborate what he was saying. But the- the main credit, the main thing is all relevant evidence should be admitted. And the president has engaged in a- in a concerted attempt to deny all evidence. Everyone who testified defied the president testifying. I mean, Mike Pompeo ought to testify. John Bolton ought to testify. What is the president hiding? The president says don't let these people testify. If they were- if they had exculpatory evidence, he'd be saying let them testify.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, as you know, the White House argues that it sets a dangerous precedent for future presidents. But I want to ask you about--

REP. NADLER: There is no precedent--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --I want to ask you about--

REP. NADLER: That is- that is- that is nonsense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the president's legal team or at least some lawyers who are going to be speaking on behalf of the president, Alan Dershowitz among them, Ken Starr also added as someone who is going to be speaking before the Senate. What do you think of their additions to the team? What does that suggest to you as someone who will be prosecuting?

REP. NADLER: I'm not going to comment on their witnesses, except that Ken Starr thinks that,  apparently thinks that, asking a foreign government to involve itself in our elections is okay. But the president 20 years ago talking about a private sexual affair, now that's impeachable. I mean, he's- he's- it's ridiculous.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Alan Dershowitz says it's not a constitutional criteria for impeachment, abuse of power. It doesn't meet that standard.

REP. NADLER:  Well, I was surprised to see Alan Dershowitz say that. That's simply ignorance. If you read all the history of impeachments in the country, if you read the Federalist Papers, if you read the Consti- the- the Constitutional Convention debates from the 1780s, if you read the majority staff report of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, there's no question about that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. OK. 

REP. NADLER: It's ridiculous.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Chairman, we'll be watching. Thank you very much for your time this morning.