By Michael McDowell
From a pandemic that has killed nearly 22,000 New Yorkers, to citywide protests many have compared to the marches of the 1960s, epochal change has coincided with the start of a new decade in New York City.
The Rag spoke with Congressman Jerry Nadler, who has represented the Upper West Side in the House for nearly 30 years, about the death of George Floyd, how the federal government can support the City’s recovery from coronavirus, and his plans to investigate (former?) President Trump in 2021. Nadler is facing a rare primary challenge from two contenders — Lindsey Boylan and Jonathan Herzog — on June 23.
This conversation has been condensed and edited. It’s the first of two parts.
WSR: Before we get started, at the Rag we’re all wishing your wife [who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer] a swift recovery. How’s she doing?
JN: Thank you. Well, she’s got chemotherapy every couple weeks, it knocks the heck out of her, but that will be finished at the end of July and hopefully she’ll be somewhat better then. Hopefully the chemotherapy is working, you can’t really tell—the side effects are very rough and she’s been going through that since early February.
WSR: George Floyd’s funeral was Thursday. In terms of legislative steps toward police reform, what do you have to say about banning the use of chokeholds, ending the Defense Department practice of giving surplus military weapons to local law enforcement—
JN: We’ll be announcing some legislation probably Monday in Washington, and we’ll hold a hearing on Wednesday. I look forward to moving the legislation to the floor of the House the week of June 22nd. The legislation, which I’m developing—working closely with the Black Caucus—will ban the use of chokeholds. It will also ban the militarization of the police, which is what you were just referring to.
It will do a lot of other things. It will develop a national registry of police officers, so that someone can’t be fired or disciplined in one place and then get hired in another, because they don’t know that he’s a veteran cop that was fired for bad conduct or disciplined. We’ll probably be ending the doctrine of qualified immunity, which prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law.
All of this will be in the legislation that we’ll be talking about next week and hopefully enacting, at least in the House, by the end of the month, and then we’ll have to try to push it through the Senate.
WSR: Closer to home, the NYPD budget has grown to about $6 billion. There have been calls to defund or cut the NYPD budget. Is that something that you would be in support of?
JN: Yes, it should certainly be cut. The City’s needs at this point are much more in terms of social services, jobs, feeding people, education, and health, and much less in police, especially during this pandemic, which unfortunately is going to be with us for awhile. We’re spending too much on the police. There should be substantial cuts to the police budget and a reallocation of those funds to where we need them.
WSR: We’ve seen a lot of talk about rent strikes, but residential and commercial landlords have mortgages and city taxes to pay. Many would argue that the federal government is the only entity that can run a deficit to absorb the economic impact of the coronavirus calamity. How will Congress save city and state budgets, as well as renters and mortgage holders who live in the district?
JN: That’s entirely correct. The federal government is the only entity that can run deficits. Almost all the states, certainly New York, have constitutional provisions in the state constitution that they must run balanced budgets. The federal government can run a deficit, can run a limitless deficit, and in this time, we ought to run very high deficits.
We passed the Heroes Act in the House about two weeks ago. The Senate Republicans haven’t started negotiating on it yet, though I’m predicting they will. It would give a huge amount of money—$1 trillion (and $3 trillion altogether)—to state and local governments, so that they don’t have to cut their expenditures to balance their budgets, number one.
Number two, it would have about $500 billion in it that is for payment of rent, and payment of mortgages and property taxes. I was one of the authors of this bill, which we’re trying to get passed in the Senate now.
WSR: On the subject of recovering from coronavirus, who will rescue the MTA?
JN: Well, again: only the federal government has the money to do that. In the Cares Act, which we passed about a month and a half ago, we provided $4 billion to the MTA, In the Heroes Act, which is the bill I was just referring to, we provide another $4 billion for the MTA. We may have to increase that. Under the Heroes Act that I mentioned, $1 trillion in aid goes to state and local governments. New York State would get about $34 billion of that. New York City would get about $17 billion of that. The MTA would get about $4 billion of that.
WSR: How do Democrats in Congress plan to protect the November election?
JN: That is a very serious question. There are several things we have already done and other things we have to do.
First of all, given the pandemic, you don’t want to force people to choose between their health and their vote. In the Heroes Act that I mentioned, we mandate that every state have total mail-in balloting, as an option. People could still go and vote if they wanted to, on Election Day or early voting, but every state would have to provide for total mail-in balloting.
We also provide $4 billion dollars in that bill for the expenses of the states in instituting mail-in balloting, because it takes time, and time is starting to run out to order paper ballots—among other things. That’s the main thing we have to do.
There’s another thing that we have to do, and that is cybersecurity for hacking attacks against the voter base or against the elections, by Russia or someone else. We passed legislation in the House to do that last year, but Senator McConnell and the Republicans refused to do it, maybe because they know that the Russians helped Trump last time and they want to enable them to help him again. That’s a separate danger.
WSR: If Biden wins in November, and Trump disputes the result or refuses to leave the White House, what will you do in Congress?
JN: You can’t really tell, until you see what Trump or [the Trump Administration] does. I think the biggest danger is that they screw around with the voting totals, perhaps electronically, and try to then contest it, saying this state is very close, that state is very close. All you can really do on that, besides providing cyber protection, is have a corps of lawyers in every state, ready to go, and to keep an eye on what they’re doing.
The worst-case scenario is that Trump simply refuses to leave the White House and tries to declare the election null and void somehow, and then it becomes a question of force. The armed forces have to obey the Constitution and not the incumbent president at that point.
WSR: Thinking about federal agencies that serve New Yorkers who live in the 10th, from the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, to the Environmental Protection Agency, do Democrats in Congress have a comprehensive plan to address what the Trump Administration has done to federal agencies and the bureaucracy?
JN: Well, we’re going to have to approach it agency by agency. I don’t know if you can talk about a comprehensive plan, because they’ve done so much damage to so many different agencies. There are certain things that they’ve done across the board that we’ll have to deal with across the board, and we are preparing for that. Unfortunately, as long as Trump is president and you have a Republican Senate, we’re not going to get any of this through.
Come January, God willing, when we don’t have a Republican Senate and we don’t have Trump, we’re teeing up a lot of legislation and proposals to undo the damage, to restore civil liberties, and to restore due process. For example: to say that the president can’t fire inspectors general except for cause, one thing, and to get around the administration’s thumbing its nose at congressional subpoenas, so there’s a lack of accountability.
This Justice Department—which is really Trump—[determined] that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, which is why Mueller, in the Mueller Report, said he couldn’t consider an indictment of the president.
I think we should re-examine that. I think that is wrong, and we should, as a matter of law, change that. The president should not be above the law. Any president.
Secondly, I think once Trump is out of office, then we’re going to have to indict and prosecute him for all of the crimes he’s committed, and let that set an example for future presidents.
WSR: If Biden is elected in 2020, you would move to investigate Donald Trump in 2021?
JN: Well I certainly think it ought to be done.
Look, Michael Cohen was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney in New York, for in effect paying off Stormy Daniels, which is an illegal campaign contribution. The Mueller Report said that he was ordered to do so by Person 1, whom they didn’t identify, but which is obviously the President.
If Michael Cohen was guilty and is in jail, the President was part of the same crime. And he ought to be prosecuted for that. He wasn’t prosecuted only because the Justice Department takes the position that you can’t prosecute a president, which I think is wrong. The president has obviously committed many other crimes, and no person is above the law.
I would think he would be prosecuted. That’s after the election because obviously he won’t permit the Justice Department to prosecute him.
Part two of this interview will feature Rep. Nadler on the issues. We’ll be checking in with Nadler’s challengers too. More information on voting and voter registration is available here.
Trump is going to win that will be the dispute. Suppose the new line will be Mexico fiddled with the elections 🙂
Jerry is always such a trip.
Impeach the president.
Defund the police.
Trump may not dispute the election.
He may actually win – again.
Oh…the horror….the horror.
So glad McDonald is about to open.
Lets meet there again Jerry, like in the good old days, when Bubba was pres and the living was easy.
The Trump presidency really IS horror. That’s no joke.
Let me remind everyone that just before this pandemic started, we were seeing quite regularly young kids getting bashed in the faces and their phones taken, there was the girl killed at Columbia (that news disappeared quickly) and there were many people upset and attending neighborhood meetings because of the crime. And now we are going to reduce the NYPD funding why exactly? This city got really bad crime wise in the 70s and 80s and nobody could do a thing. I hope that we are not headed back there but i fear that we are. Equating bad police with police in general is a bad idea. We need the police.
Yes, we do need police. But we also need justice, or would you disagree?
NO ONE disagreed with justice, and those cops are going on trial. BUT HOW HIS LOOTING and tossing molotov cocktails “justice”.
you will reply “social justice” and we will reply, you can put lipstick on your disease-ridden and ALWAYS death-infecting COMMUNIST PIG called “social justice” it’s still a PIG.
agree CB – silly. Justice for whom? Fewer resources to solve crimes incentivizes only criminals and so benefits no community.
what a silly comment. what does reducing the budget for the NYPD have to do with justice?
Nothing. It is catering to the mob. Nailer never did anything useful.
Defunding police is ridiculous, absolutely not related to police reform.
The NYPD was defunded in the 70s. It took nearly 30 years for the city to recover and become livable again. While our retrograde mayor seems intent on sending us back to the 70s and 80s, I expect better from Nadler. By the way, stop with the robocalls, Jerry.
Why is NYC getting only 17M of the 34M allocated to NY when it was, and remains, so disproportionately impacted by Covid and so vital to the economic health of NY? Tell us exactly where the money is going and why, Jerry.
Cutting the NYPzD budget is a terrible idea. Who will protect us? Last year, there were 36,000 violent crimes(homicide, rape, assault and robbery)-tifs year over 13,000 already. All innocent victims. Yet, no one is marching or protesting their misfortune. We must prevent future victims, by supporting the NYPD not “defunding” it. (The violent crime figures are Citywide)..
Tom Burnett-President of the 24 Precinct Community Council.
One more time and louder for the people in the back:
Cops do not prevent crime, they cause it through the ongoing violent disruption of our communities, as well as the hoarding of funds that would have a far better economic return if they were invested in the community.
Crime isn’t random – it’s usually a symptom of when a society isn’t able to meet peoples basic needs so they are forced to find another way to get them.
Defunding the police doesn’t mean instantly stripping every single police department of their funds. What it does mean is strategically reallocating resources and funding away from the police and towards community-centric solutions. Think about it – if someone is having a mental health crisis why do we send someone with no health training and a gun to solve it? Models need to be based around safety, support, and prevention. The people who respond to situation should be those who are best equipped to deal with that specific situation, and more often than not, a cop is not the best person to respond.
Plenty of Democrats I’ve talked to are not voting. The Machine has plans to concede 2020 and for Cuomo in 4 years to run and win in 2024. And Stringer has the Mayor’s office in the next Mayoral Election. You read it hear on the WSR first!
The 2024 Coumo plans were scrapped after the media as a whole began reporting about the 10,000 seniors who died from Covid in nursing homes.
I’d like to know how people of color feel about less funding for police. People who live in high crime areas typically can’t afford to be cavalier about such things.
All you have to do is read the signs at any protest, and you have your answer.
I’m not eager to introduce the police into most situations. It more often than not makes the situation worse. If you see the police as protectors then you’re just living a different reality from me.
Politicians advocating a cut in the budget for police should have their own security details, including cars and drivers, eliminated.
NYC should not receive one dime of federal money as long as it continues to flout federal immigration laws (as a “sanctuary city”) and mismanaged its locally derived revenue so poorly driven in part by the benefits provided to public sector unions.
OK Nadler —
What do you do when you dial 911 and nobody comes?
What would Jerry do if he dialed 911 and nobody came???
I grew up in country where police “no go” areas were established. The result was local thugs carried out their own justice. Shootings, beatings and maimings for the most trivial perceived offence. No courts, no due process, no appeal. Be careful what you wish for
He is CRAZY!!!! NYC needs waaaayyyyyy more police. Its citizens want to be safe!!!
Essie apparently feels she speaks for the “citizens” of NY.
Every day there are demonstrations of thousands of people in NYC, in every borough and almost every neighborhood, demanding an end to racist policing practices and a re-thinking of policing, including a rolling back of over-policing.
I have participated in 3 of these demonstrations. In one, on Sunday, we marched down Queens Boulevard and received a very positive response from people in the apartments lining QB, in Forest Hills, Rego Park, and other neighborhoods. A few didn’t like us; many, many more did.
Of course, it’s a free country (for now). You are welcome to get out and demonstrate for MORE police, and to prove that you represent the majority.
Someone I don’t think you will do that.
Marching against police brutality doesn’t necessarily mean everyone agrees on reducing and defunding police. If five percent of New York City residents marched we would see over 450,000 marchers. This is not a majority and may not win an election in NYC. Protesting against defunding of police is not a big issue and will not happen unless the media suddenly talks about it 24/7. Of the 4.5 million registered voters in NYC how many will agree to reduce and defund police. Relying on our elected officials isn’t always the best option due to their ideologies. If this is an important issue a referendum should be held and let the voters decide what is needed.
(1)Do you truly believe that if the police force were shrunk, then gangs and thugs and criminals would just close up shop as well – our of the goodness of their hearts and neighborliness perhaps? (2) Does it evade your notice that what gives you the peace and neighborly zone in which you luxuriate to protest a cause, any cause, is the effectiveness of the very LEOs you seem to so disdain?
Defund the police at a time when the NYPD needs MORE resources to deal with the awful bail reform passed last year in Albany? Are these people serious? Police has been busy arresting and re-arresting (and arresting again) perpetrators that are immediately sent home, courtesy of this blind bail reform. Looters included. Want to save public funds? Don’t make the police work twice or three times as hard by letting peeps off the hook just so you can talk about how wonderful empty jails are. Empty jails are wonderful when they are a reflection of low crime, not when they are artificially emptied out. And please think twice before re-electing Linda Rosenthal and O’Donnel. Both opposed the minor tweaks make to bail reform – still far from fixing it but our UWS elected officials were even against minimally improving the lopsided mistake approved last year. And I’m sure Helen Rosenthal will happily vote to defund the NYPD. we UWSiders better pay attention and vote better next time
100% agree. Time to vote better and NEW who support their constituents’ best interests, not their own.
The concept of defunding the police isn’t new and it’s not something that happens in an instant. What we’re talking about here is a slow and gradual defunding of an already bloated department that has zero accountability. If you have watched the news at all in the past two weeks, I bet you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t sick to their stomach seeing footage after footage of abusive cops showing their true attitudes with no regards to the fact that the whole world could see them. This wasn’t news to anyone who’s been paying attention or had to walk the streets as a black person, especially during stop, shut your mouth, and frisk. Instead of having tons of cops who live outside of the communities they work in, an example would be replacing them with community members who are trained in defense and are licensed social workers who actively look to diffuse a situation instead of escalating it. We have run out of options, the police are out of control and the unions show zero potential at reining in their members. They are killing Americans and smiling on camera as they do it. What other options do we have? And reforms obviously haven’t worked, but that begs the question, how do you reform genocide anyway?
Seven victims shot in Brooklyn last night. Not one was shot by a policeman. Where are the marchers and protesters? What a horrible time to be threatening to cut NYPD budgets.
Bail reform, decriminalization, early inmate release, and the outward disdain for law enforcement by our mayor and city council have already taken its toll on both the NYPD and the law-abiding residents of NYC. Now these mob-pandering nuts want to dismantle the entire department. Do they think really that somehow crime will just magically disappear because would-be criminals will be in a better mood? It’s like rewarding children with candy for not brushing their teeth.
Jerry appears to be so sure that the president will lose in November, and then contest the results. Yet the only people complaining, marching, rioting in the streets after the 2017 inauguration were Democrats.
Does he really think Republicans would have done that had Hillary won? Plenty of Republicans were disappointed that Obama won due to his “fundamentally” wanting to change our country (at which he certainly appeared to have almost succeeded) yet there were no riots by the Right.
I think Jerry ought to stick to doing what’s best for his constituents right here in the neighborhood instead of trying to make a name for himself.
As of now, the only name I keep hearing is “that fool Jerry Nadler.” 🤡
Even more importantly, I do hope his wife makes a full and complete recovery from that terrible disease.
I’m assuming WSR is going to have an interview with Rep Nadler’s challengers, Lindsey Boylan and Jonathan Herzog, as well…….. right? Or is this the WSR’s ‘official’ endorsement??
Lindsey Boylan or Jonathan Herzog would be so much better. Why do we keep sending him back expecting a different result? He takes money from Facebook and Google and we wonder why the US has weaker privacy laws than the EU. They’re getting rich off of our data and we get nothing.
Want to briefly commend WSRag for its of late disinterested manner of comments moderation and inclusion of reasonably differing pov’s. If you want ‘woke’ its the fair minded upper westsiders reading and commenting quite reasonably incensed and clued in about the derelictions of duty with their increasingly crazy agendas here in NYC and DC by our often (mis)representatives in Wash and Albany not to mention City Hall at our expense. We do not view our neighborhoods or the quality of our lives here as ‘space to destroy’. I will also commend NYPD on the whole in their measured ‘responses’ to the abetted chaos many pols continue to condone to our faces. Thanks and stay all.
I love Jerry Nadler and will be voting for him in the primary! Thanks for doing the interview! I’m proud to be represented by such a progressive leader.