The impeachment of a president is a radical move in American politics. In fact, Rep. Peter W Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.), who led the House Judiciary Committee and oversaw the impeachment process against President Richard Nixon, cried in private after the vote. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), current chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said he might cry — “out of happiness.”
CNBC’s John Harwood asked Nadler if he would consider any “lessons from Peter Rodino or Henry Hyde.” (Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) headed the House Judiciary Committee during Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.)
“I don’t remember in detail about Rodino, except that he presided with dignity and fairness and he was reluctant to do it. In fact, the story is that when the committee voted to impeach the president, he went into his office and cried, even though he had helped to engineer the vote,” Nadler replied.
Indeed, Rodino told NPR’s Susan Stamberg that he went into a back room and shed tears for America after the vote to impeach Nixon.
“Notwithstanding the fact that I was a Democrat, notwithstanding the fact that there were many who thought that Rodino wanted to bring down a president as a Democrat, you know, he was our president,” Rodino said. “And this is our system that was being tested. And here was a man who had achieved the highest office that anyone could gift him with, you know. And you’re bringing down the presidency of the United States, and it was a sad, sad commentary on our whole history and, of course, on Richard Nixon.”
John Harwood asked Nadler directly, “Are you going to go in your office and cry?”
“I don’t think I’ll cry. I’m not that emotional. He was crying, presumably, that it was necessary. If it’s necessary, you’ve got to do it. We have to protect the Constitution, and protect a democratic form of government,” Nadler replied.
“If we succeed in doing that, maybe I’ll cry out of happiness,” he added.
This episode illustrates a key difference between the drive to impeach Nixon and the drive to impeach Trump. Even Rodino, the man leading Nixon’s impeachment, sensed that impeaching the president was a tragedy for the country. He cried over the pain and division that impeachment would cause.
Representing the rabid desire to destroy Donald Trump, Nadler said he might “cry out of happiness.”
Not only do Democrats want to impeach Trump even in the absence of a clear “high crime and misdemeanor,” but they would take immense pleasure in destroying Trump, regardless of the damage that will do to the country.
Nadler is so intent on bringing this president down that he sees himself shedding tears of joy if the House of Representatives votes to begin the process of removing him. To make matters worse, Nadler himself admitted that if impeachment is rushed, it could “tear up the country for the next thirty years.” What degree of damage to the country is he willing to risk? Is there any degree of damage to the country that will keep Nadler from crying “out of happiness” when Trump is impeached?
Most likely, the Senate will not remove Trump, unless some exceedingly heinous scandal truly emerges. Despite the constant harping, the Trump-Russia scandal — to the degree there is a scandal — is nothing like Watergate. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) knows that impeaching Trump will be far more trouble than it is worth.
It seems unlikely Nadler will get the chance to “cry out of happiness.” But his remarks are still tragic and revealing.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.