Citing Trump impeachment 'charade,' Nadler's Democratic challenger demands primary debate

Michael Isikoff
Chief Investigative Correspondent

A Democrat who is mounting a surprisingly robust campaign to unseat House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has challenged him to a debate in part over what she charges has been his bungled effort to impeach President Trump.

“He’s absolutely fumbled on this,” Lindsey Boylan, 35, a former New York state economic development official, said of Nadler in an interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.” “He’s actually given credence, through this muddled, elongated, prolonged process of nothingness, to the idea that [impeachment] is entirely politicized. And that is the worst and most dangerous thing he could do because it gives some people the impression that this is exclusively about politics, when what it’s about is the soul and the heart of this country.”

There is little indication that Nadler, a 26-year congressional veteran who represents New York’s 10th District, is ready to take public note of Boylan’s challenge, much less appear on a debate stage with her. (His spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.) But there are plenty of signs that Boylan, who has been touted by some political observers as the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and reported raising an unexpected $264,657 last July, has already had a huge impact on Nadler, pushing him to launch a long-shot impeachment inquiry.

All through 2018 and well into this year, Nadler consistently downplayed the idea of trying to prematurely remove Trump from office, taking his cues from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that a partisan impeachment vote would only be doomed to failure in the Senate and could backfire on Democrats politically. “I don’t want to make it sound like we’re heading for impeachment — probably we’re not,” Nadler said at a press breakfast on May 15, nearly a month after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s alleged efforts to cover it up.

But then — as a number of commentators have noted — Nadler appeared to start hearing Boylan’s footsteps. Pronouncing herself a proud progressive, she announced her candidacy in April and began releasing videos that mocked Nadler for his failure to stand up to Pelosi and aggressively go after Trump, such as one titled “Impeachment Now.”

With memories still fresh of Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning 2018 upset of veteran New York Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley, Nadler began to change his tune. On July 26, the week after Boylan reported her healthy fundraising haul, he told reporters the Judiciary Committee would go to court in an attempt to obtain records and demand testimony so it could consider “whether we should recommend articles of impeachment to the House.”

Two days later, on July 28, he told CNN that Trump “richly deserves impeachment.”

Nadler’s shift drew notice. “Could concerns about a primary challenger be behind Nadler’s impeachment posturing?” ran the headline in the Washington Post on a column by veteran Republican consultant Ed Rogers, who compared Boylan to a “more experienced version of Ocasio-Cortez.”

“Absolutely, no question,” Boylan replied when asked if she thought her primary challenge is what prompted Nadler to initiate what has now become a formal impeachment inquiry. Her challenge, she said, “has clearly piqued him. I wished it piqued him more — and I wished it piqued him earlier because we should be impeaching this president.”

Boylan spoke to “Skullduggery” on a day when former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, refusing time and again to answer any questions and clearly frustrating Nadler’s efforts to build on the evidence of obstruction contained in Mueller’s report. It was, Boylan said, a further indication that Nadler’s impeachment efforts had become a “charade.”

Lindsey Boylan and Jerry Nadler. (Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: AP, Getty Images)

“It’s the dream within a dream. It’s like the impeachment within the impeachment,” Boylan said. “When are we going to get the real thing? ... The way it looks now, we’re back and forth. We don’t know where we’re going. We’re waiting for something new to unfold.

“When is the vote?” she said, repeating the line twice and then adding that it should have been “months ago.”

It is difficult to assess just how much of a threat Boylan poses in a Democratic congressional primary that isn’t scheduled to take place until next June (although there has been talk of moving it up to April 28, when New York Democrats will vote in the state’s presidential primary). Nadler has been a Democratic stalwart ever since he was elected in 1992 with strong and consistent liberal views very much in sync with a district that includes Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Greenwich Village.

But it is also a district where contempt for Trump and support for impeachment run high — sentiments that Boylan is seeking to capitalize on. And she is hammering Nadler hard on his fealty to Pelosi.

“Congressman Nadler is listening to the speaker of the House because he knows that’s where his source of power comes from,” she said. “That is not leadership for his district, that overwhelmingly supports impeachment. That is not leadership in terms of making hard decisions.”

Download or subscribe on iTunes: ‘Skullduggery’ from Yahoo News

Boylan’s credentials to replace Nadler are relatively modest — although far more substantial than those of Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender, when she took on Crowley. The daughter of a Marine and a graduate of Wellesley College and Columbia Business School, she joined the staff of New York state’s economic development agency, working her way up to chief of staff and later deputy secretary in the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

She sees herself very much in the mold of Ocasio-Cortez and would clearly welcome her endorsement. (“She’s compelling,” Boylan said. “She’s authentic and she’s got a message that resonates with people’s needs.”) So far, there’s been no talk of that, said an Ocasio-Cortez spokesman who steered clear of addressing the awkward politics of the celebrity congresswoman aligning herself with a bid to unseat her New York City colleague. But Boylan also drew a distinction between herself and Ocasio-Cortez, noting that as an economic development official, she backed Amazon’s bid to locate a new national headquarters in Queens.

“I wanted 25,000 jobs paying $125,000 each, or $150,000 each average,” she said. “I wanted that diversification for the economy for New York City.”

But most of all right now, she wants a debate with Nadler. “I’m expecting it. The district is expecting it,” she said. “They deserve a debate and they’ll have one” — even, she adds, “if it’s me standing alone.”

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