Trump's New York bete noire hounds him once more in Washington

Washington (AFP) –


Congressman Jerry Nadler's aggressive actions against a member of Donald Trump's inner circle have ramped up the Democrat's feud with the US president, marking the latest tussle in a decades-long grudge match between the two New Yorkers.

Nadler went into battle in the 1980s against Trump's Manhattan real estate projects as a state assemblyman, and the two have never made up since.

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Nadler is once again a thorn in Trump's side, the driving force behind investigations into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by the president and his administration.

It is a far cry from their Big Apple brawling.

Today Nadler wields extraordinary power when it comes to keeping the executive branch in line, as any proceedings to impeach the president would be initiated in his committee.

Nadler has bluntly accused Trump of "disobeying the law," and on Wednesday declared that the nation is "now in a constitutional crisis."

In perhaps the most direct challenge of Trump's power in their combative relationship, Nadler took the provocative step of conducting a vote to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress.

- Permanent rivalry? -

At 71, Brooklyn native Nadler is 364 days younger than his White House nemesis.

The pair first came to loggerheads when Nadler, representing Manhattan's affluent Upper West Side in the state legislature, opposed a huge Trump development that would transform the historic district.

The project on the site of a dilapidated railroad yard originally envisaged a 150-story skyscraper, the world's tallest, with Trump occupying the lavish penthouse.

But opposition from residents led in part by Nadler forced the real estate magnate to substantially revise his ambitions.

When Nadler gained a seat in Congress in 1992, he continued to pressure Trump, successfully suppressing the use of federal funds in support of the project.

In a book published in 2000, "The America We Deserve," Trump took his revenge, singling out Nadler as "one of the most egregious hacks in contemporary politics."

This January, when he became Judiciary chairman, Nadler put the billionaire president directly in his sights.

The investigation he has launched, demanding documents from 81 people, companies and institutions, shows Nadler and fellow Democrats eyeing Trump for possible corruption, collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice.

In the latest twist, Nadler launched contempt proceedings against Barr for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents.

A defiant Trump punched back, using his executive privilege to throw a secretive blanket over material related to special counsel Rober Mueller's probe.

An editorial in Thursday's Wall Street Journal suggested Nadler overreached with Barr, likening the committee chairman to "a crooked sheriff in a low-budget Western."

- 'Fat Jerry' -

Trump has a take-no-prisoners style, and he has attacked Nadler over his weight, once telling the politician he should "lose 200 pounds" (90 kilograms).

Nadler underwent stomach reduction surgery in 2002 and radically changed his diet. He shed pounds but remains hefty for his five-foot, four-inch (1.63-meter) frame.

Trump, who himself is clinically obese according to his latest physical, has continued the assault.

He branded Nadler "Fat Jerry" in a March meeting with Republicans, according to The Washington Post.

Nadler, a staunch defender of civil and LGBTQ rights and of public transport, appears to wear Trump's animosity toward him as a badge of honor.

If any of the multiple investigations of Trump do produce evidence of serious wrongdoing, Nadler will have the point position in impeachment proceedings.

But for the moment, he remains cautious about what the investigations will produce on Trump.

Last month Trump declared victory over Nadler in their real estate dispute, but signaled on Twitter that their feud might be permanent.

"I changed course (slightly), became President, and now I am dealing with Congressman Nadler again," he tweeted.

"Some things never end, but hopefully it will all go well for everyone. Only time will tell!"