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Rep. Jerry Nadler Is Under The Spotlight As Impeachment Inquiry Moves Into Next Phase

NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Susan Glasser of The New Yorker about Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and his role in the next phase of the impeachment inquiry.

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Transcript:

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's focus now on a man about to step into the spotlight - Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which is about to take over the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. The first hearing is set for tomorrow morning. So who is Jerry Nadler and what should we watch for as he takes the baton? Questions to put to Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

Hi, Susan.

SUSAN GLASSER: Hi there.

KELLY: So who is Jerry Nadler? What do we need to know about him?

GLASSER: Well, one thing that's pretty fascinating is that Jerry Nadler has basically made almost a career of going up against Donald Trump. He is a longtime Democratic congressman from the west side of New York City, which means he's very familiar...

KELLY: These guys have history.

GLASSER: Exactly. Exactly. He wears it like a badge of honor. He was once called the arch enemy of Donald Trump by a local paper in New York a couple decades ago.

KELLY: Oh, really?

GLASSER: Yeah.

KELLY: And he has been in Congress since '93, I just looked up. So that was when he was already in Congress and he was already taking an interest.

GLASSER: I think it was before then. He was also, I believe, a city council member before he was the Democratic member of Congress. And remember, there was the Trump big project on the west side that was very controversial. And Nadler was a leading opponent of it for many years.

KELLY: Fascinating. All right. So I want to get a sense of how Jerry Nadler might conduct himself, what kind of hearings he might be planning, what kind of role he might be planning for his committee. We do have some sense of how he might run a high-profile hearing because it was - his committee was one of the two, along with the Intelligence Committee, that over the summer held the hearings with Robert Mueller, special counsel. How did Nadler navigate that? What might that tell us about what he has planned for this next round with Ukraine?

GLASSER: Well, look, it's no secret that he does not occupy the place in the current Democratic firmament that Adam Schiff does, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who just ran the impeachment hearings surrounding the Ukraine affair.

KELLY: And what do you mean, not the same firmament?

GLASSER: Well, you know, Schiff is both an extremely close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and perceived by Democratic members of the caucus to be an extremely effective public advocate. Nadler is a much lower profile chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He is not a regular on cable TV and a staple of President Trump's rhetoric, if you will, that Adam Schiff is, who's become sort of enemy No. 1. Nadler has both a lower key persona and he's just not as much a creature of the current media moment as Schiff is. He's not been as adept at it (ph) and I think his colleagues, it's no secret, did not have the same level of confidence in him to take charge of this very complicated, fast-moving Ukraine story.

KELLY: So you're raising or maybe hinting at a couple of things. One is Jerry Nadler is less prone to speak in media-ready soundbites. Another is just how he will deal with - he has a bigger committee, a committee that is known for being more unruly than the Intelligence Committee, which Adam Schiff runs. What do we know? What is your sense of how he might deal with Republicans who will be on his committee and who will be ready to try to derail his efforts?

GLASSER: Well, that's right. I think it is an important point you're making. The Judiciary Committee is perhaps the most partisan and fractious. So there's a huge contrast in the two. I think the House Judiciary, for better and often for worse, reflects the nature of the House of Representatives itself today, which is to say two sides shouting past each other into the night. And that makes it, I think, pretty hard for Nadler. He also has a ranking member who is much more aggressive.

KELLY: This is Doug Collins of Georgia.

GLASSER: Exactly - who's a lawyer, who is focused on process and will be looking to further make the chairman's life difficult as we move into this writing articles of impeachment phase of the impeachment.

KELLY: I want to bring in Jerry Nadler himself. We have a little bit of tape from him. This is from a July interview he gave to CNN. It was right after Robert Mueller testified, and Jerry Nadler was talking about President Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JERRY NADLER: My personal view is that he richly deserves impeachment. He has done many impeachable offenses. He's violated the law six ways from Sunday.

KELLY: So to flag his words there, this was Jerry Nadler in July saying Trump richly deserves impeachment. He's come under fire for that from Republicans saying, how can he run a fair hearing now? He has a bias issue. It was on full display months ago.

GLASSER: You know, both sides have not exactly been shy at showing their hands here. And so one thing to watch for now that it's going to be in House Judiciary is whether they still try to include some of the Mueller report's content in articles of impeachment.

KELLY: Susan Glasser of The New Yorker, thanks as always.

GLASSER: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.