WASHINGTON – Democrats demurred Sunday on whether President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses after he was implicated last week in a potential crime but promised vigorous investigations if the party takes control of the U.S. House in the midterm elections.
"The role of Congress is not to protect the president," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It's to hold the president and any president accountable to the American people." Nadler is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, which would hold any impeachment hearings.
His comments came after a week of increasing talk about how or when Congress would decide whether the president's conduct meets the threshold for impeachment. In his Aug. 21 guilty plea to campaign finance violations, Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and "fixer," implicated the president in off-the-books hush money paid to a porn actress. Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, was found guilty the same day of bank and tax fraud.
Democratic leaders have downplayed talk of impeachment as the party tries to capture a majority of House seats in the midterm elections. Nadler and others said they want to let Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election reach its end. But they're promising thorough investigations that they say Republicans now in control of Congress have failed to undertake.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said on ABC's "This Week" that there hasn't been enough evidence about Trump's role in any potential wrongdoing. But he said Democrats would use the subpoena power to get answers, including securing the president's tax returns.
"The American people deserve to know if the president is as corrupt as the people who have pled guilty around him," Swalwell said.
Republicans have already seized on the threat of impeachment to fuel turnout in the midterm elections, imploring GOP voters to keep their party in power to protect Trump and their conservative agenda. Democrats need to win a net 23 additional seats to take the House.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said a powerful case for impeachment would be needed that hasn't been made yet to overcome Republican support for Trump.