Key Democrat says Trump allegations could be 'impeachable'

Washington (AFP) –


A key Democratic lawmaker said Sunday that if new allegations against US Donald Trump are proven, they would amount to "an impeachable offense."

As the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler would play a central role should the new Congress, now with a Democratic majority in the House, move to open impeachment proceedings.

Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether federal court filings Friday alleging that Trump directed his personal attorney to make illegal hush-money payments to two women constituted impeachable offenses, Nadler said "They would be," if proven.

But as he and other Democrats wrestle with the politically explosive question of how to respond to the investigations touching Trump and his inner circle -- including the question of possible collusion with Russia before the 2016 election -- they cautioned that much remains unknown.

"You don't necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offense," Nadler said. The alleged offenses must be proven, and their gravity be found sufficient to act, he added.

- 'We have reached a new level' -

Even if the House should take the exceedingly rare step of launching impeachment proceedings, Trump's Republicans control the Senate, where the final and decisive vote would take place.

A Senate Democrat, Chris Murphy, echoed Nadler in cautioning that "it's important to get the full report from the special investigator," Robert Mueller.

But Murphy then emphasized the seriousness of the allegations leveled Friday by Mueller and separately by federal prosecutors in New York.

"We have reached a new level in the investigation," the Connecticut senator said on ABC's "This Week."

"This is a president named as a co-conspirator -- allegations he committed at least two felonies to try to manipulate the 2016 election."

"I think you are beyond the stage that led to impeachment proceedings against President Clinton," he said, later adding, "The president stepped into the territory that ultimately led to President Nixon resigning."

Clinton was impeached by the House in 1998 but acquitted by the Senate; Nixon resigned in 1974 as impeachment loomed.

- 'No way to spin this' -

"This investigation is now starting to put the president in serious legal cross-hairs," Murphy said. "He should be worried. The whole country should be worried."

A prominent Republican senator, Marco Rubio, was more cautious, even while restating his support for the Mueller investigation.

Americans, Rubio said on ABC, need "all the facts and information" before making judgments.

Still, he conceded that the legal filings and other reporting paint a dark picture, indicating several people in Trump's campaign team had contacts with Russia, despite the president's earlier denials.

"There's no way to spin this. This is not a positive development for the people involved," Rubio said.

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, was cautious about the possibility of impeachment but suggested that Trump might face additional jeopardy.

"There's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict him," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation," alluding to the fact that many legal scholars do not believe a sitting president can be indicted.

"He may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time."