Nadler: Trump impeachment needed 'to vindicate the Constitution'

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerOfficials say foreign governments should not investigate presidential political opponents Dem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement Top Democrat holds moment of silence for Cummings at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) pressed Monday that he personally believes President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE should be impeached as senior Democrats try to defend their recent muddled messaging on the issue.

"Personally, I think the president ought to be impeached," Nadler told WNYC's Brian Lehrer.

He acknowledged that impeachment is unlikely to lead to Trump's removal, given widespread opposition from Republicans in the Senate. But he argued it is necessary to establish a standard for future presidents.

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"Impeachment is imperative not because he's going to be removed from office. The Senate won't do that. But because we have to vindicate the Constitution," Nadler said.

"We have to show that this kind of behavior — trashing the Constitution, trashing all the norms which guarantee democratic government, aggrandizing power to the presidency and destroying the separation of powers and thereby leading the president to become more and more of a tyrant cannot be tolerated. And it cannot be normalized," Nadler said.

"We have to make sure the next president or the one after him or her knows there's a real penalty to be paid. That's why the impeachment is necessary, even if we cannot get a vote in the Senate, in my opinion."

Nadler expressed frustration about the confusion over where Judiciary Committee Democrats stand in their process of investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment. He acknowledged that some lawmakers have been using different terminology, even as he argued the specific wording didn't impact the fundamentals of what Democrats are doing.

"We are involved in an investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the House. That is what we're doing. The term ‘impeachment investigation,’ the term ‘impeachment inquiry’ have no legal meaning. They're shorthand for an investigation into determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment," Nadler said.

"Other people have for various reasons have been more reluctant to use the term impeachment inquiry or impeachment investigation. But as I've said, those terms have no official meaning," he added.

Nadler has previously said publicly that he personally thinks Trump deserves impeachment, even as House Democratic leaders have declined to go that far.

"My personal view is that he richly deserves impeachment," Nadler told CNN's "State of the Union" in late July. "He has done many impeachable offenses. He's violated the law six ways from Sunday."

The House Judiciary Committee voted last week to formalize rules for hearings in its investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment.

But a day earlier, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: Tensions flare over Schiff, impeachment inquiry House Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Scalise, Cole introduce resolution to change rules on impeachment MORE (D-Md.) had to walk back his assertion that Democrats are not currently conducting an impeachment inquiry, which contradicted Nadler's position that such an inquiry is already underway.

In the same interview on Monday, Nadler was asked what Judiciary Committee Democrats would do in response to calls from liberals to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump urged to hire chief strategist for impeachment fight Anita Hill: Kavanaugh's confirmation filled me with 'profound sadness and disappointment' Majority disapprove of Trump Supreme Court nominations, says poll MORE following a New York Times story over the weekend on a new allegation of sexual misconduct during his time as a college student at Yale.

But Nadler indicated that Democrats are too busy focusing on whether to impeach the president.

"We're going to question the FBI director about this whole thing when he comes before our committee next month," Nadler said. "Frankly, we are concentrating our resources on determining whether to impeach the president. ... But we have to concentrate on that for the next few months."