The Hush Money Payments Could Be An "Impeachable Offense" If Trump Ordered Them, Top Democrat Says

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The Democrat who is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee in January spoke out about the legal filings connected to the president last week. New York Rep. Jerry Nadler called the alleged Trump-ordered hush money payments an "impeachable offense" on CNN's State of the Union Sunday. In recommending a harsh sentence for the president's one-time fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, the Mueller team on Friday detailed the payments made during the campaign.

Nadler stopped short, though, of saying Democrats would in fact impeach the president. "They would be impeachable offenses," Nadler said on CNN. "Whether they're important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question." The timing, Nadler said, didn't prevent the offenses from being used to impeach because they were "committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office."

Federal prosecutors said in the filings on Friday that Trump allegedly directed hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the campaign. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. "Totally clears the President. Thank you!" he tweeted Friday after, even though the White House only said the filing included "nothing of value that wasn’t already known." Bustle reached out to the White House for comment.

Nadler was still cautious to say that Trump wouldn't necessarily be impeached. "You don't necessarily launch an impeachment against the President because he committed an impeachable offense," Nadler told Jake Tapper.

He did lay out what would need to be considered. "One, were there impeachable offenses committed? How many? And secondly, how important were they? Did they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment?" he asked Tapper. "An impeachment is an attempt to affect or overturn the result of the last election and should do it only for very serious situations."

Even if the House Democrats decide against impeachment, the allegations, Nadler said, are serious. He told Tapper that the filings show that President Trump "was at the center of a massive fraud" in 2016, "committed against the American people." Nadler added that it's up to the Department of Justice and Congress to get to the bottom of what happened, what the president knew, and when he knew it.

Nadler also told Tapper that there could be another legal route in addition to impeachment. "There’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the President from being indicted," Nadler said on CNN Sunday morning. "Nobody, not anybody — including the president — can be above the law."

Tapper had asked if he agreed with the Justice Department guidelines against indicting a president, and if Nadler thought that could happen after Trump leaves office. Nadler said that he thought a president could be indicted during the presidency, but added that an indictment could also be handed down after a president leaves the White House.

The sentencing memo from Friday included other information that could be detrimental to Trump — not just the hush money payments. There was also information about the one-time plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and attempts to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin as far back as 2015.

Democrats will take control of the House Judiciary Committee at the beginning of January.