Top Dem: Illegal payments would ‘certainly’ be impeachable offenses if directed by Trump

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that it would "certainly" be an impeachable offense if it's proven that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE directed illegal payments during his campaign.

But Nadler, likely the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, also questioned whether those payments were important enough "to justify an impeachment."

"They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question, but certainly they’d be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

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Federal prosecutors on Friday said that Trump directed his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, during the 2016 campaign to make illegal payments to two women claiming they had affairs with Trump.

It was the first time that prosecutors had made those accusations.

Nadler on Sunday called on Congress, the Department of Justice and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE to "get to the bottom" of the allegations against Trump.

Nadler added that Congress shouldn't "necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offense."

"There are several things you have to look at. One, were there impeachable offenses committed? How many? And secondly, how important were they? Did they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment?" he said.

"An impeachment is an attempt to, in effect, overturn or change the result of an election," Nadler continued. "You should do it only for very serious situations.”

Nadler also said there is "nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the president from being indicted."

"This country originated in a rebellion against the English king," he said. "We did not seek to create another king. Nobody — not the president, not anybody else — can be above the law."

— This report was updated at 10:45 a.m.