By Michael McDowell
Primary Day is August 23rd and one thing is for sure: Manhattan will lose at least one of its most powerful political players. Following a badly bungled redistricting process, longtime allies, Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, suddenly find themselves competing for the same turf: New York Congressional District 12. Each has represented the East Side and West Side, respectively, since the early 1990s; today, Congresswoman Maloney chairs the House Oversight Committee, and Congressman Nadler chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
The Rag spoke with Congressman Nadler by phone about indictments, helicopters, Israel and Iran, the Supreme Court, and the importance of experience.
The following conversation has been condensed and edited.
WSR: Did you ever think you might represent the Upper East Side?
JN: No, never did. Heck, it’s been divided East/West since the 1870s, so it never occurred to me that it would change.
WSR: How do you feel about that now?
JN: I’m not happy about it, because it put me in the same district as Carolyn Maloney, whom I’ve worked with for many years, and has been a friend.
WSR: One of your opponents, Suraj Patel, has argued that you and Representative Maloney are, essentially, old and out of touch, “1990s politicians,” he said in a recent debate. You argue that voters should stick with age and experience, why?
JN: There is one major reason, and a question. Is the person still capable of doing the job? The answer in my case is, yes. As evidence, look at all we’ve accomplished in the last few months: we passed major gun legislation, the Protect Our Kids Act; we passed the Respect for Marriage Act to codify marriage equality; [and] we passed the assault weapons ban.
The way Congress works is that with experience comes clout. You build up seniority. No matter how capable a new member is, they cannot have the effectiveness of a senior member, especially not of a committee chair.
And there’s plenty of generational change happening. I’m working with young leaders, [Representatives] Hakeem Jeffries [D-NY-8] and Joe Neguse [D-CO-2], and others, to mentor them. But it’s still true that clout is something you shouldn’t surrender, because with clout comes not only the ability to pass legislation, but the ability to bring money home to the state and to the district.
WSR: Many Democrats are wondering, where are the indictments? Do you believe former Trump Administration officials, including former President [Donald] Trump himself, should be indicted?
JN: I certainly do. I suspect they will be.
The problem is that you don’t find out about an indictment until the grand jury votes and the indictment is announced, and that’s at the latter part [of the investigation], before the trial.
Now, you can draw hints from who’s being subpoenaed, and we’ve certainly seen the people around Trump being subpoenaed. So I suspect very much that we’re going to see a prosecution of Trump, and a lot of the people around him, for seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct governmental administration, among other crimes—even a [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] crime.
WSR: Do you see any good arguments against indictments?
JN: There is one argument that gets made, and that is that you don’t want to establish the precedent of indicting a presidency, and become like a banana republic where whoever wins investigates and indicts his predecessor, or one party wins and they indict the leaders of the other party.
But I don’t think that’s a very valid argument when you have an insurrection and the first attempt—that nearly succeeded!—the first attempt ever in our country’s history to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.
WSR: I know you’ve been working on a code of conduct for the Supreme Court, which you’ve moved forward. Are there any other oversight tools to rein in what many Democrats see as an out-of-control court?
JN: First of all, we’re not working on a code of conduct for the Supreme Court. All federal judges, other than the Supreme Court, already have a code of ethics. We simply want to apply the same code of ethics to the Supreme Court.
I think we do have an out-of-control Court. You saw that in [Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization], and in the [gun] decision outlawing Sullivan, which has been on the books since the 1890s in New York. I think [the Court] was deliberately packed by Trump and [Kentucky Senator Mitch] McConnell. The answer is in a bill I introduced about a year ago along with two colleagues and Senator [Edward] Markey of Massachusetts — add four judges to the Supreme Court.
That has been regarded as a very, very radical idea, but I think it’s not going to seem so radical as the Supreme Court keeps making more outrageous decisions. And remember, it’s not the first time it’s been done. President Lincoln expanded the Supreme Court. President Roosevelt tried to do so.
WSR: If re-elected, will you investigate or hold hearings regarding Justice Clarence Thomas’s alleged conflicts of interest?
JN: We’re under instructions [from Speaker Nancy Pelosi] to defer to the January 6th Commission on all things related, and until they are finished, I can’t answer that question.
WSR: You’ve had a long and accomplished career. If you had to pick just one more thing that you’d like to do, however many more terms you may serve, what would that be?
JN: I’ve been advocating [for] building a rail freight tunnel [from New Jersey to Brooklyn] since I was in the [New York State] Assembly many years ago. It got delayed, but it’s on track — the Governor endorsed it in her State of the State message. New York is the only major city in North America where 93% of everything that comes [in] comes by truck. In the rest of the country, it’s about 43%. Trucks tear our highways apart; they emit tremendous carbon into the atmosphere—which is obviously no good for the climate and why [neighborhoods near] the Cross Bronx Expressway have the worst asthma rates in the world.
The rail freight tunnel will eliminate those problems: it will connect Bayonne to Bay Ridge and existing rail lines on the New York side with existing rail lines on the Jersey side; it will connect the city and the region.
WSR: Representative Maloney described herself as a tenacious, ceiling-shattering New York woman who gets things done. Who are you, and why are you the best rep for the district?
JN: I think I’m more principled. I think I’ve cast more courageous votes, and I’ve been correct on those votes. I’ll give you a few examples: she voted for the Iraq War, I voted against it. She voted for the Patriot Act, I voted against it, even though 9/11 was in my district. She voted against the Iran Deal, and I voted for it.
When I voted for [the Iran Deal] — [Benjamin] Netanyahu [then prime minister of Israel] came out against it. I watched as, one by one, every Jewish organization came out against it, even the most liberal, and every Jewish [Congressperson] in the Northeast came out against it. Remember, I have the most Jewish district in the country, and I really thought I was taking my political life in my hands, but I voted for [the Iran Deal] because I thought my political career was less important than Iran having a nuclear bomb and threatening Israel and the whole Middle East.
So, I would say that I’ve been a more principled progressive than Carolyn has.
WSR: How would you characterize the relationship between the Iran Deal and the security of Israel?
JN: Very, very important, because that deal is what keeps Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, and if that deal isn’t there, Iran could very easily get a nuclear bomb and Iran thinks their holy cause is to destroy Israel.
In fact, I don’t understand Netanyahu, who came to Congress in 2015 and said, don’t do the deal. But when [Netanyahu] said that, I had in my office the former heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad, and the former chief of staff of the [Israel Defense Forces], saying, for God’s sake, go with this deal.
WSR: The helicopters. What’s the latest?
JN: The latest is that we’ve been petitioning the [Federal Aviation Administration] and they won’t do anything about it, and we’ve introduced legislation in Congress which hasn’t passed yet. We’re going to continue trying to pass it.
We’re also asking the City of New York to deny the landing rights at the city-owned heliports in Manhattan. City administration could go a long way to solve this problem by doing that.
WSR: But the helicopters will still be coming over from New Jersey.
JN: And that’s why we have the federal legislation.
WSR: Whether it’s an ice cream or an egg cream, how have you been staying cool during what seems to be one of the hottest summers in the city in recent memory?
JN: That’s why God invented air conditioning.
Read the Rag’s interviews with the other 12th District congressional candidates, Carolyn Maloney and Suraj Patel.
More information about voting and voter registration is available here.
We know him already for 30 very long years.
It’s been (kind of nice) but it’s time to say goodbye.
He lost me at defund the police
Huh? That doesn’t even appear in the interview. What the heck are you talking about?
The greatest argument against term limits is the resultant loss of systemic memory. Jerry made the point how he mentors new members so they don’t have to waste valuable time climbing the steep learning curve that newbies must otherwise face. That’s an invaluable asset that we must not discard lightly. Jerry’s 30 years of service have rendered him a treasured and highly valued member of the Congress, not just as a Democrat, but as a source of political wisdom that all members can tap into.
That’s all very well, but isn’t that the same arguments Gail Brewer used to explain why she was “called” to again run for City Council?
How are these young future politicians ever going to get into office if older ones won’t ever go?
As a constituent (biz and residential) When the PPP loans first came out my business was desperate for help. I called and emailed his office and never got the courtesy of any type of email or phone call. I called Maloney’s office returned my call . She couldn’t really help but she did call. It makes this election easy. Remember if we lose either Nadler or Malone we lose powerful positions in Congress
Great interview. Nadler comes across much better than during the debate thanks to WSR carefully curated questions.
Are you going to interview other candidates including Republican?
There are no Republicans running in this race.
I don’t mean this particular race. May I ask you why you are “Irate” at someone whose opinion differs from yours? We are still a democracy …
Great interview, thanks! Seems crazy that, when redistricting
forces a city to lose one experienced, senior, political leader, that any pragmatic citizen would vote to throw out another and lose both. Bring in the new blood somewhere else. Maloney and Nadler Chair important Congressional Committees. If I had to keep one Chair, I might argue that Maloney has the better spot to save. But Nadler, for all his faults, does have a voting history (plus Maloney’s vaccine weirdness) on his side.
Jerry Nader has his very principled vote history, his incredible memory of the history of issues, his understanding of the need for the freight tunnel!, mentoring new congress members is a tremendous asset not to be passed over, his seniority of course and much more… He has a lot to offer. Age can be a real asset.
He’s right about the freight tunnel
Jerry Wadler . . . the Most Unctuous Grifter in DC
Says his biggest accomplishment is “impeaching ‘Bush’ twice”
NO mention of what he’s really actually done for the UWS after all these years on the dole.
Time to go!
Yup! It’s time for them both to go! Along with Schumer and Pelosi. They are all machine politicos. They do the bidding of their corporate overlords.
We need public funding of all candidates for office
Ok, as for Suraj’s interview:
This is not nearly as bad as Mondaire’s ad that seems to claim “identity” as actual accomplishments or qualifications for a job, who the heck actually would not be embarrassed to use that? Well….obviously that guy.
but – why does this guy seem to repeatedly tout everything but positions?
At least in this photo, no Shoney’s Big Boy hair.
I feel like he doesn’t want anyone to know just how “progressive” he really is. That’s what scares me.
Frankly, they are ALL too far left. We have no moderates from which to choose. Just trying to figure out the lesser of the evils, and that’s proving tough.
Several weeks ago I requested a comment from Rep Nadler about Medicare Advantage plans which is not only a local issue but a National one as seniors who have been forced into them often find out what scams they are. No response yet. Since I live in what is Nadler’s district now, I haven’t found a way to get the same question to Maloney.
I, too, have called and contacted Jerry’s office with no response. Why? Because he thought he was a shoe-in. Now that he has an opponent he’s getting panicky.
I look forward to seeing Jerry retire to a beautiful home, most likely in Florida where his substantial government pension will go so much further because of their tax structure.
It’s shoo-in. Nadler’s the best equipped to get things done for the district. No contest.
His past his sell by date…time for some new blood.
As with prior primaries for state offices this election will hinge heavily on voter turnout. Going by last months results no one is expecting a huge turnout.
Thus once again it seems likely a very, *very* small number of those who do vote will determine who is going to Washington, D.C. come November.
Really is too bad that New Yorkers just don’t realize importance of primary elections. Especially like elsewhere in nation districts are so tightly gerrymandered that whoever wins primary surely will carry general election, and that will be that.
That all being said Nadler appears to have things in the bag. He has opened a huge lead over both other candidates.
I have known Jerry, and been a constituent of his, for over 40 years. In that time, he has not only delivered for his constituents (as both Assembly member and Congressman), he has been one of the most courageous and principled legislators and elected officials in congressional history. He points (correctly) to his votes against the Iraq War, and against the Patriot Act (one of only six Democrats to vote against it). He also points (correctly) to his vote for the Iran deal. These are not small matters.
He also oversaw both impeachments of the wannabe-dictator-in-chief, and had an important role to play in the Mueller investigation – all of which he carried out with professionalism, diligence and integrity.
And if we are going to be honest about campaign financing, a look at OpenSecrets and other campaign-tracking sites reveals that Jerry takes FAR less “corporate cash” than most other representatives (particularly including Ms. Maloney, who is among the corporate cash queens), and even then, it is groups like trial lawyers rather than the fossil fuel or pharmaceutical industries. Maloney took 3X as much from corporate PACs, and 2X as much from corporate contributors in general. Given that ALL elected officials take SOME degree of corporate and/or PAC money, Jerry actually falls at the bottom of that list, while Maloney is somewhere in the middle.
I agree with Jerry’s main point: if an elected official continues to be capable (or more) of “getting the job done” (providing for his/her constituents and negotiating in Congress), then there is no good reason to remove them. In fact, by doing so one takes away that long-tested ability (what he calls “clout”) and also eliminates critical “institutional memory” and mentorship.
I never voted for Jerry simply because he was a Democrat. I voted for him because he is an incredibly effective representative. And it is not entirely fair to blame Jerry if someone in his office does not get back to a constituent; I’m sure Jerry is just as unhappy about that as the constituent is, since it DOES reflect on him.
I love Jerry Nadler and was so upset when I learned about the redistricting – he’s served our community well over the years, and has been a staunch advocate for our district’s (and the country’s) Jewish community in particular.