Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 13, 1947, Jerrold Lewis Nadler attended Stuyvesant High School in New York, and then went on to earn a BA in Government from Columbia University in 1969 and a JD from Fordham University Law School in 1978. At Columbia he founded a student group known as the “West End Kids”—referring to the West Side of Manhattan—which sought to reform New York City Democratic politics by supporting liberal and anti-Vietnam War political candidates. True to his group’s mission, Nadler in 1968 worked for the presidential campaign of Democrat Eugene McCarthy, who ran on an antiwar platform.
After college, Nadler worked as a legal assistant for the Corporation Trust Company in 1970; a clerk for the law firm Morris, Levin & Shein in 1971; a legislative assistant for the New York State Assembly in 1972; a shift manager at the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation from 1972-76; and a law clerk at Morgan, Finnegan, Pine, Foley & Lee in 1976.
Nadler launched his political career in 1969, when he became District Leader of the New York County Democratic Committee, a post he held until 1971, and again from 1973-77. In 1977 Nadler was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he went on to serve for the next fifteen years. In 1985 he was defeated twice by David Dinkins in the race for Manhattan Borough President—first in the Democratic primary, and then in the general election when Nadler ran on the New York Liberal Party ticket. Four years later, Nadler lost to Kings County District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman in the Democratic primary for New York City Comptroller.
In 1992, longtime Democratic U.S. Congressman Ted Weiss died one day before his party’s primary election for New York City’s newly redrawn Eighth District. Using a weighted voting system, a convention of nearly 1,000 Democratic county committee members selected Nadler to replace Weiss on the November ballot. Nadler won easily and has had no serious challenge in any of his congressional re-election bids since then.
Upon his election to the House of Representatives, Nadler promptly joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus and became a leader of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.
Throughout his years in politics, Nadler has maintained close ties to socialist organizations. In 1977, for instance, he was a member of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), and by 1983 he had joined the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which grew out of DSOC. On May 1, 1989, Nadler served on the sponsoring committee for a New York DSA screening of the pro-union film Matewan. That same year, he personally asked New York’s DSA to endorse his candidacy for NYC Comptroller. In 1990, Nadler endorsed the New York mayoral campaign of DSA member David Dinkins. In July 1996, DSA’s Political Action Committee endorsed Nadler for Congress. Each year from 1995-97, Nadler spoke at the DSA’s annual Socialist Scholars Conferences, where he participated in panel discussions with such notables as Stanley Aronowitz, William Kornblum, and Frances Fox Piven. According to DSA’s rival, Social Democrats USA, Nadler remains a DSA member to this day.
In June 1993 Nadler spoke at a Hiroshima Day rally at the United Nations in New York, an event sponsored by the Metro New York Peace Action Council and several other anti-war groups. The demonstration was intended to build popular support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and, ultimately, complete nuclear disarmament. Other featured speakers included Leslie Cagan, Carolyn Maloney, Major Owens, and Charles Rangel.
In 1997 Nadler was one of 33 original co-sponsors of the Job Creation and Infrastructure Restoration Act which was introduced into Congress by California Rep. Matthew Martinez. This emergency federal jobs legislation, supported by the New York State Communist Party, was designed to create jobs at union wages in financially foundering cities by putting the unemployed to work on infrastructure projects such as rebuilding schools, housing, hospitals, libraries, public transportation, highways, and parks. Rep. Martinez had already introduced an earlier version of this bill in the previous Congress at the request of the Los Angeles Labor Coalition for Public Works Jobs, whose leaders were known supporters or members of the Communist Party USA.
“Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution says that a president ‘Shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.’ … Benjamin Franklin called impeachment, ‘a substitute for assassination.’ It is in fact, a peaceful procedure for protecting the nation from despots by providing a constitutional means for removing a president who misuses presidential power to make himself a tyrant or otherwise to undermine our constitutional form of government.
“To impeach a president, it must be that serious…. The effect of impeachment is to overturn the popular will of the voters as expressed in a national election. We must not overturn an election and remove a president from office except to defend our very system of government or our constitutional liberties against a dire threat. And we must not do so without an overwhelming consensus of the American people and of their representatives in congress of the absolute necessity.
“There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come. And will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.”
In August 1999, Nadler defended President Clinton’s decision to offer clemency to 12 members of the notorious FALN, the Puerto Rican nationalist group that had detonated more than 130 bombs across the United States between 1974 and 1983, killing six people and injuring many more. As Ron Kolb writes in Townhall.com:
“The Clinton team fashioned that the terrorists sign a statement expressing remorse, but they all had refused to sign it, and then unbelievably were given a month to decide. As time was running out, both the House and Senate composed resolutions condemning Bill Clinton’s action, which they would soon pass overwhelmingly. A day before the House vote, it was announced that 11 of the 12 who had signed the statement would be leaving numerous Federal prisons in just two days. On the day of the House debate and vote on September 9, 1999, Nadler took to the floor for six and a half minutes and defended Clinton’s action as well as the FALN itself, saying there was no proof, even though at the time four of their members had been convicted of making bombs and a fifth had been convicted of killing someone with a bomb. The group had also claimed credit for many of their attacks in communiques, including their deadliest attack at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan [Nadler’s Congressional District] in 1975, killing four and injuring 60.”
In the 1990s as well, Nadler also became personally involved in an effort to gain clemency for former domestic terrorist Susan Rosenberg, who was serving a 58-year prison term for her role in the deadly Brink’s armored-car robbery of 1981. When Rosenberg was first up for parole in 1994, Nadler sent a letter to the New York Parole Board recommending her release, but the Board rejected his request. In late 2000, Rosenberg’s mother, who worshiped at Congregation B’nei Jeshurun—the same temple where Nadler was a member—assembled documents from her daughter’s parole hearings that purportedly showed her to be a model prisoner. The mother presented these materials to her rabbi, J. Rolando Matalon, who in turn gave them to Nadler, who finally passed them on to President Clinton as evidence that Rosenberg might merit consideration for a presidential pardon. In large part because of Nadler’s urging, Clinton, in the final 15 minutes of his presidency in January 2001, did in fact pardon Rosenberg over the strong objections of Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney in New York. After her release from prison, Rosenberg was given a job at Congregation B’nei Jeshurun. Faced with these facts, Nadler subsequently attempted to cast himself as nothing more than an impartial courier between the Rosenberg family and the White House.
One of Rosenberg’s accomplices in the 1981 Brink’s heist was Judith Clark, a fellow member (with Rosenberg) of the May 19th Coalition, which was a post-Vietnam War offshoot of the Weather Underground Organization. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recommended Judith Clark’s release to the State Parole Board in 2013, Nadler and a number of fellow House Democrats sent the Board a letter in which they likewise urged freedom for Ms. Clark. But the Board unanimously rejected their request, 3-0. Six years later, in 2019, Nadler sent a another letter urging the State Parole Board to release “Judy” Clark. This time the Board, which now included more Cuomo appointees, released Clark on a 2-1 vote.
An outspoken critic of George W. Bush’s strategy and tactics in the War on Terror, Nadler suggested that the 9/11 attacks could be blamed, at least in part, on the Republican president’s failure to take adequate steps to forestall them. “If the White House had knowledge that there was a danger or an intent to hijack an American airplane and did not warn the airlines,” said Nadler in 2002, “that would be nonfeasance in office of the highest order. That would make the President bear a large amount of responsibility for the tragedy that occurred.”
In 2003 Nadler joined forces with two leftist Democrats, Congressman John Conyers and Senator Russell Feingold, in authoring an angry demarche to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, demanding that he “terminate” the Justice Department’s policy of using 56 FBI field offices to count the number of Muslim mosques, religious organizations and community groups in their locals districts. Wrote the authors: “We cannot sanction the targeting of Muslim populations and mosques, or any other community group or institution, to gather intelligence without any suspicion or cause that a specific individual or group of individuals, or a particular mosque or religious organization, is engaging in terrorist activities.” Of the well-documented ties between U.S.-based mosques, many of them financed by Wahhabi money, and Islamist terrorist groups, there was no mention. Instead, the authors cautioned the Justice Department “to follow the constitutionally prescribed channels of investigation.” That the FBI’s counting policy ran afoul of no constitutional directives was likewise ignored.
In 2003 Nadler, urged on by the ACLU and People For the American Way, introduced legislation aimed at defeating the Bush administration’s Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program, which sought to help the government root out terrorists by analyzing and cross-referencing various databases for evidence of suspicious patterns of Internet activity, travel, credit-card purchases, and donations to charities and political causes. By Nadler’s reckoning, the TIA initiative constituted a massive “assault on our rights” and represented “perhaps the closest realization of an Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ government to date.”
In a similar spirit, Nadler characterized the PATRIOT Act as an example of unnecessary “governmental intrusion” into the lives of Americans. Especially outrageous to Nadler was a PATRIOT Act clause enabling FBI investigators to access library records in the course of a terrorism investigation. “If [Attorney General] John Ashcroft has his way, bookstore customers could be investigated for something as arbitrary as buying Hillary Clinton’s new book,” warned Nadler. “People are outraged,” he added, “by the loss of civil liberties…. The government … should not be in the thought-police business.” Further, Nadler denounced the PATRIOT Act as “little more than the institution of a police state.”
In 2005, Nadler opened up a legislative front against the Patriot Act. For instance, he sponsored legislation to eliminate the PATRIOT Act’s “national security letter” provision, which allowed FBI field office directors to collect information on terrorist suspects. While even the ACLU, which mounted its own legal challenge to the provision, acknowledged that the provision antedated the Patriot Act, Nadler dishonestly denounced it as “unprecedented and dangerous.”
Following a failed July 2004 congressional insurrection against the Patriot Act, in which he played a key role, Nadler defended his efforts by stating: “We don’t want tyranny.” In 2005, Nadler emerged as the leader of a group of lawmakers vying for an overhaul of many of the surveillance powers enacted under the Patriot Act.
Nadler also criticized the Bush Administration for holding and interrogating terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
In 2003, Nadler joined forces with Rep. John Conyers and Senator Russell Feingold—both Democrats—in authoring an angry demarche demanding that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft “terminate” the Justice Department’s policy of using 56 FBI field offices to count the number of Muslim mosques, religious organizations, and community groups in their local districts. Wrote the lawmakers: “We cannot sanction the targeting of Muslim populations and mosques, or any other community group or institution, to gather intelligence without any suspicion or cause that a specific individual or group of individuals, or a particular mosque or religious organization, is engaging in terrorist activities.” They were silent, however, about the well-documented ties between U.S.-based mosques—many of them financed by Wahhabi money—and Islamist terror groups. Nor did they mention that the FBI’s counting practice ran afoul of no constitutional directives.
In 2005 Nadler became a member of the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.
A staunch supporter of the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN, Nadler on multiple occasions has run for office on the tickets of both the Democratic Party and ACORN’s Working Families Party. In 2008 he personally donated $6,000 to ACORN. In the spring of 2009, when allegations of ACORN’s corruption were becoming increasingly widespread, Nadler said he would support a probe of ACORN only if “credible evidence” of wrongdoing were to arise. “It’s not our business to say ACORN is terrible or ACORN is wonderful. That’s not a congressional job,” the congressman stated. “The evidence — I’ve listened to it — I think most of it is nonsense. If it’s true, it’s a law enforcement matter.” When the House of Representatives voted by a 345-75 margin to defund ACORN in September 2009, Nadler was one of the 75—all Democrats—who voted to continue the funding.
In January 2011, when the new Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner, announced his intention to open the year’s first session of Congress with a reading of the U.S. Constitution, Nadler complained that Republicans “are reading it [the Constitution] like a sacred text.” Boehner’s “ritualistic reading” was “total nonsense” and “propaganda,” said Nadler, adding that the document’s need for amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed that it was, from its inception, “highly imperfect.”
In January 2013, Nadler applauded his state’s adoption of the strictest gun-control laws in America, though he still “would … have preferred stronger” restrictions on high-capacity ammunition clips. “Hunters don’t use large ammunition clips,” said the congressman, “and as far as self defense, I mean who are you defending yourself against? If you’re defending yourself against a robber … if you have a pistol permit or you’re carrying a gun because you work for Wells Fargo and you’re taking money in and out of a bank or something, two or three or four shots should be enough—period.” With regard to mob situations where business owners might be trying to defend their property against looters and rioters, Nadler said, similarly: “The same thing is the case…. One or two shots should be enough. You don’t want to start mowing down 30 or 40 people…. The police shouldn’t do that either…. The only people who should ever be firing large clips of ammunition is the military.”
During a June 2014 House briefing with Obama administration officials on the recent trade of five high-ranking Taliban commanders in exchange for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Nadler suggested that the Taliban, as non-state actors, had a status comparable to that of American soldiers who had fought the British during the Revolutionary War. When reports of Nadler’s statement sparked some public controversy, the congressman clarified: “I was told they [the Taliban] were unprivileged combatants, not prisoners of war, and I was trying to figure out the extent of that legal distinction. I was told they wore no uniform so I was curious if that gave them the legal status of militias in the American Revolution — who also did not wear uniforms…. In no way was I comparing their values, their efforts, and their cause to that of our founding fathers, and to suggest otherwise is absurd.”
In March 2019, the Daily Beast reported that Nadler, who was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had hired a consultant and public-relations executive named Ezra Friedlander to coordinate outreach to the Orthodox Jewish community for the congressman’s political campaigns. Four months earlier (November 2018), Friedlander had begun working for Irini Vyshinsky, the wife of Kirill Vyshinsky, head of the Ukrainian arm of the Russian state news media outlet RIA Novosti. Because Mr. Vyshinsky had illegally fomented support for the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 — a measure strongly opposed by the United States — he was now incarcerated in a Ukrainian jail, facing charges of treason. His wife had hired Friedlander’s firm to try to negotiate her husband’s release.
At a massive climate-change-awareness protest in front of the United States Capitol is September 2019, Nadler referred to President Trump as “The Ignoramus in Chief,” due to Trump’s allegedly unenlightened views regarding anthropogenic global warming. Also among his remarks at this event were the following:
“We talk about a climate crisis and indeed it is a climate crisis. The people have no idea how great a crisis it is or how pressing it is. People think, well, the sea levels are rising, it will cost us $100 billion to relocate, a few million people will drown in Bangladesh and India. But it’s much, much worse…. I have a 13-month-old granddaughter and I look at her, I get terrified because I don’t know if human life will survive 50 years…. [T]he climate scientists tell us that we may face the sixth mass extinction in the history of the globe. If the oceans acidify, which they are beginning to do, it will destroy the entire food chain and essentially all that will be left will be bacteria and maybe some plants. And none of us, none of our children, no mammals, no animals except for amoeba. This is what the scientists tell us we face in the next 50 years. We have to stop this. The green new deal, absolutely. We have to do that….
“[W]e have to start the pressure campaign to get rid of those ignoramuses in the senate and the Ignoramus in Chief in the White House. You know, Donald Trump says he knows better than all the scientists…. His gut tells him better. But what if he’s wrong? Is he willing to gamble all of human life on his gut instincts? The answer is yes, he is, and that’s why, among other reasons, we have to change who’s there in the White House and we have to make sure that people feel the depth and the immediacy of this crisis…. If we had a World War, God forbid, the country would mobilize. This is more important than a World War, and the country must mobilize. The world must mobilize for this.”
Nadler and the Impeachment of President Trump
In a July 2019 appearance on on CNN’s State of the Union, Nadler said: “My personal view is that he [Trump] richly deserves impeachment. He has done many impeachable offenses. He’s violated the law six ways from Sunday.”
On December 4, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee convened its first hearing in an impeachment investigation against President Trump. Before initiating the public hearing, Committee Chairman Nadler, in a closed-door session with Democrats, summed up what his approach to the hearings would be, as follows: “I’m not going to take any sh*t.”
After the hearings were over, Nadler appeared at a press conference in the Capitol Building on December 10, 2019, where he announced two articles of impeachment against president Donald Trump:
“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler. “The first article is for abuse of power. It is an impeachable offense for the president to exercise the powers of his public office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest. That is exactly what President Trump did when he solicited and pressured Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 presidential election….
“[W]hen he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry. This gives rise to the second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress….
“Our president holds the ultimate public trust. When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.”
For details about the grounds upon which the impeachment charges were brought, click here.
Nadler Denies the Violence of Portland Riots
A number of U.S. cities were overrun by violent riots that began in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who had died after apparent abuse by a white police officer. The mayhem, much of which was organized and spearheaded by Black Lives Matter and Antifa, was particularly protracted in Portland, Oregon. For example, on July 26, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security reported: “The violent situation Portland has witnessed for the past eight weeks continues with violent anarchists rioting on the streets as federal law enforcement officers work diligently and honorably to enforce federal law, defend federal property, and protect the lives of their fellow officers. As federal officers left the courthouse to respond to attacks on the fence, just like on previous nights they were met by rioters with hard projectiles, mortar style fireworks and lasers that can cause permanent blindness. Over the previous 24 hours, such assaults have resulted in at least 14 federal officers injured.”
Regarding the situation in Portland, journalist Austen Fletcher asked Nadler on July 26: “Do you disavow the violence from Antifa that’s happening in Portland right now?” The congressman replied: “That’s a myth that’s being spread only in Washington, D.C.” Within a few moments, a Nadler aide intervened to get the congressman away from the camera and escorted him to a vehicle nearby. “Sir, there’s videos everywhere online,” Fletcher said as Nadler walked away. “There’s fires and riots, they’re throwing fireworks at federal officers. DHS is there. Look online. It gets crazy, Mr. Nadler.”
Nadler Rejects Request to Recite the Pledge of Allegiance Prior to House Committee Hearings
During a February 4, 2021 hearing regarding the adoption of new rules for the House of Representatives, Nadler, in his post as Judiciary Chairman, abruptly dismissed Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz’s request to have Committee members recite the Pledge of Allegiance together at the start of their hearings.
“I want to extend a welcome to the new committee members,” Gaetz began. “I’m grateful to be back on this august committee and I understand and appreciate the significance and importance of the work that we do. I just think it would be nice in the spirit of national unity and national pride, which I know we all aspire to do to a greater extent, that at the beginning of each meeting, the chair — or one of the designees of the chair — would have the opportunity to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. We’re all aware that in these times, it’s important for the country to see members of congress working together on some things, and while I know we can deal with divisive issues in the committee, it would be my hope we could start every committee with a great unifying, patriotic moment. I yield back.”
“And the gentleman yields back,” Nadler replied. “I recognize myself to speak in opposition to the amendment. It’s unnecessary.”
Nadler’s Voting Record, Issue Positions, and Group Memberships
For an overview of Nadler’s voting record on a number of key issues during the course of his legislative career, click here.
As matters of principle, Nadler believes that:
Nadler has been a longtime member of the ACLU, the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Americans for Democratic Action. He formerly served on the advisory committee of the Progressive Majority.
Further Reading: “Jerrold Nadler” (Votesmart.org).