For two months, Representative Jerry Nadler has been the Maytag repairman of the House impeachment inquiry: idled and isolated as his colleague Adam Schiff has presided over a parade of witnesses in public and private hearings before the Intelligence Committee.
But now, as the focus of impeachment shifts to the Judiciary Committee that he chairs, Nadler, a scrappy Democratic veteran of New York’s and Washington’s political wars, will be back in the spin cycle and up to his elbows in hot water. He will find himself tested—not only by comparisons with Schiff, whose performance Democrats have praised, but also by his own committee, which is far more fractious and unruly than the California Democrat’s.
Andrew Kirtzman, a seasoned New York journalist turned political and communications consultant who has watched Nadler for years, sums up his situation: “Schiff did such a remarkable job running those hearings with military precision. But Schiff didn’t have to balance having Republicans be able to present their own witnesses. It’s going to be much more of a brawl in the Judiciary Committee, so the comparisons with Schiff are going to be kind of cruel, and to some extent unfair.”
Nadler assumed chairmanship of the committee when Democrats took control of the House in January, and despite his long alliance with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, their relations have sometimes seemed strained in the months since. Over the summer, Nadler, who has said that Donald Trump “richly deserves impeachment,” not-so-quietly chafed at Pelosi’s reluctance to begin such proceedings. For her part, Pelosi was not-so-quietly irked at increasing pressure from Nadler and his staff to do so. Then, in September, Pelosi seemed to throw some shade at Nadler’s management of a carnival committee hearing in which Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowksi bobbed and weaved and resisted answering questions for the better part of four hours; she later privately told her Democratic caucus that she would have held Lewandowksi in contempt “then and there.”