BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Taking a brief break from the Washington political pressure cooker and the Mueller Report drama, Jerrold Nadler was in Chelsea Saturday to receive an honor — and some rousing encouragement — from the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club.
Since January, the 14-term West Side congressmember has chaired the House Judiciary Committee, which is leading its own probe into whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump committed obstruction. As such, Nadler is the man of the hour, at the center of the action, and his fellow politicos said that’s right where he should be. And it’s where Nadler said he wants to be, too.
C.R.D.C., at its Annual Brunch, at Zia Maria restaurant, at 318 W. 23rd St., presented Nadler with an award of special recognition for Outstanding Service and Leadership to the Preservation of Democracy.
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried has known Nadler since their days at the elite Stuyvesant High School. They were part of a group of ambitious young Democrats dubbed the West Side Kids, who strove to win election to political office and have an impact.
In introducing Nadler to the Chelsea club, Gottfried said of his longtime ally, “He’s one of the smartest people I ever met, and one of the smartest people in government today, and one of the most progressive.
“He is profoundly and fiercely devoted to the Constitution of the United States, democracy and due process.
“How many of us get to be at the center of the struggle to preserve our country and our democracy?” Gottfried asked. “There is nobody who should be in that role more.”
As Nadler took the podium, the crowd chanted as if he were a prizefighter entering the ring, “Jeh-ree! Jeh-ree! Jeh-ree!”
In his remarks, Nadler noted he was drawn to politics early on, around age 12 or 13, out of interest in civil liberties and concern over “forced confessions.”
“Our country is threatened now,” he said. “It has been once before, but then we had a civil war.”
Nadler said the worst situation of all is “when you have a president that is trying to become a monarch.”
“It’s not as if he’s been plotting,” he added of Trump. “He’s just doing, without thought. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.”
He accused Trump of trying to take control of funding appropriations, which he said is Congress’s role, and over all of posing a “challenge to the right of Congress to have a role in what’s going on.”
On that latter note, he was referring to his committee’s inability to obtain the unredacted Mueller Report and supporting information.
On collusion with the Russians, Nadler said, “There was… .
“We have a president whose campaign clearly knew about it and encouraged it, but according to the Mueller Report, it didn’t reach the standard of criminal conspiracy.”
The veteran representative noted he had sent a letter the day before to U.S. Attorney General William Barr demanding he comply with a subpoena and turn over the unredacted report, setting a deadline of Monday.
“We’re going to have a confrontation this week,” Nadler predicted. “On Monday we’ll go to contempt citation against the attorney general — and there will be a struggle.
“It may take a year to enforce subpoenas,” he conceded. “It doesn’t happen fast. He may succeed on running out the clock on a lot of this.”
Nevertheless, it’s important to “vindicate congressional power” versus an overly aggressive executive branch, Nadler added.
“We’re engaged in a struggle,” he continued. “I don’t know what form this will take — whether we’ll impeach him or not. I don’t know if it makes sense since the Senate won’t impeach.”
As for his current role in the spotlight, Nadler, who lives on the Upper West Side, said, “It’s fair to say I always wanted to live in exciting times. I never anticipated this.”
Ultimately, he said, the goal is to preserve the sanctity of American democracy.
“We have to hand off this government in at least as good a form as we got it,” he stressed.
Earlier at the brunch, state Senator Brad Hoylman had announced that the Senate this week would pass legislation to allow the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to provide Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.
“How important it was to get a Democratic state Senate,” Nadler said, “and also important to have a Democratic House rather than a bunch of sycophants.”
As Nadler wrapped up, a male club member exhorted, “Go get ’em, Jerry!”
Asked by this paper, before his speech, about last Saturday morning’s news — that the latest economic statistics show U.S. unemployment at a 50-year l0w — Nadler said it really has been going on for 10 years.
“The economy — because of what the Obama administration did at the beginning of the recession in 2009, the stimulus bill, we saved the auto industry — since then, we’ve been on steady economic growth,” he said. “And, in fact, the overall growth rate in the Obama years was better than the overall growth rate in the Trump years.”
On May 19, the Village Independent Democrats and Downtown Independent Democrats will co-host a moderated discussion with Nadler.