WASHINGTON - House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in an interview that President Donald Trump is making it "increasingly difficult" to avoid impeachment but that his chamber is probably not headed in that direction.
Nadler, who would preside over impeachment proceedings in the House, also expressed frustration with Attorney General William P. Barr during the interview with CNBC, at one point calling him "just a liar" and alleging that Barr mischaracterized the special counsel's findings on coordination between Russia and Trump's campaign during the 2016 election.
Nadler, whose committee is planning hearings with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and key witnesses in his investigation, was asked by CNBC's John Harwood about the timing of any potential impeachment proceedings that might follow. Some Democrats have argued that Trump obstructed Mueller's probe and should be held accountable.
"It depends on what comes out," Nadler said. "It depends where the American people are, whether they want to go that way or not. I don't want to make it sound as if we're heading for impeachment. Probably we're not."
After Harwood noted that he's heard from other House Democrats who think impeachment proceedings will be launched eventually, Nadler said: "Maybe. It's hard. I don't know."
The Washington Post's Amber Phillips analyzes the intensifying standoff between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration and whether it could lead to impeachment proceedings. Photo by: REF:riegerj — The Washington Post
Nadler said that in his view, Trump can be impeached for only two things: "misuse of presidential power while president or for cheating in the election that gave him the presidency."
"Other than that, if he did something terrible before he was president, he robbed the bank, that's not impeachable," Nadler said. "It's a crime, but it's not impeachable."
Nadler also said he considers Trump a "con man" but argued that that is not grounds for impeachment either.
"He is thoroughly dishonest. He lies all the time. We know that. None of those are grounds for impeachment," Nadler said. "They're grounds for defeating him for reelection."
During the interview, which was published Wednesday, Nadler was also asked if he agreed with the recent assessment by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that Trump is "becoming self-impeachable" by fighting subpoenas from congressional investigations.
"He's making it increasingly difficult," Nadler said. "[T]hat's a way of neutering Congress, of making sure that Congress can't do its job, of turning the country into a dictatorship of a monarchical president. You can't function if you don't have information."
Nadler also took aim at Barr, claiming that the attorney general had misrepresented the findings in Mueller's report about interactions between Trump's campaign and Russia.
"If you read the Mueller report, there was tons of evidence that they knew the Russians were interfering with the election on their behalf," Nadler said. "They welcomed it, they wanted it, and they coordinated with it. Colluded, in a word. There's no question about that."
After Harwood pointed out Barr's different interpretation - that there was "no collusion" - Nadler said: "Bill Barr is just a liar. And he's just representing the president."
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nadler later said he saw two possible interpretations of how Barr has handled Mueller's report.
"The less charitable interpretation is he's doing whatever he has to do, to protect the president personally," Nadler said. "And he'll hide whatever he has to hide. Lied may be too strong a word, but he certainly misrepresented very strongly what was in the report."
Nadler said a "more charitable interpretation" is that Barr believes in "the so-called unitary theory of government, and this tyrannical theory that any president cannot obstruct justice."
"They're both dangerous," Nadler said. "One would have him being very dishonest; the other would have him being honest but very dangerous to the republic."
This article was written by John Wagner, a reporter for The Washington Post.