Trump’s Watergate Moment?
The Watergate Scandal of 1972-74 gained such notoriety that any scandal in the succeeding 47 years receives a “Gate” suffix (TravelGate, BridgeGate, WeinerGate, FileGate, SharpieGate, etc.). As we are now in the first stages of UkraineGate, I think it’s important to be clear as to how close the parallel is between what Nixon did covertly and what Trump is doing in plain sight.
All these years later, folks may have forgotten what “Watergate” was all about. In its simplest terms, operatives from the Committee to Re-Elect the President (aptly acronymed “CREEP”) broke into the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, in search of damning materials about Nixon’s opposition. What was initially deemed a “third-rate burglary” grew into a scandal that led to the resignation of the President of the United States.
What most people would cite as Nixon’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” that led to Congressional charges of abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and contempt of Congress was the cover-up after the break-in. Nixon and his “men” devised elaborate schemes (all captured on audiotape!) about how to quell the growing scandal. The now-infamous White House Tapes documented the Byzantine machinations of Nixon and his minions in their efforts to cover-up who, exactly, was behind the break-in. Had Nixon been a more honest broker, he simply would have claimed he knew nothing about the break-in beforehand (which he didn’t) and some “rogue actors” were “overzealous” in working for CREEP. But Nixon chose the dishonest route --- because he did, in fact, know about the existence of “the Plumbers,” a covert group of investigators created after the publication of the Pentagon Papers (classified files about the Vietnam War that Daniel Ellsberg leaked to the New York Times). The group was supposed to plug up any other “leaks” to the press. Under the guidance of Attorney General and CREEP campaign chairman John Mitchell and others, however, the Plumbers became covert operatives who were used to subvert the Democratic Party’s nominating process --- guaranteeing that Nixon would run against the least imposing candidate possible. Engaging in “dirty tricks” (planting false news stories, starting rumors about candidates and their spouses, actively disrupting Democratic rallies, etc.) the Plumbers --- led by E. Howard Hunt, Charles Colson, G. Gordon Liddy, and Egil Krogh --- not only subverted the Democratic Party (Nixon ultimately crushed the Democratic candidate George McGovern, 520 to 17, 49 states to 1) but, more significantly subverted the democratic process. They fixed the election.
Fast forward to 2019 and we find we have a President who barely denies he received assistance from the Russian government in the 2016 election but is now blatantly, publicly recruiting foreign governments (so far Ukraine and China) to help him win the 2020 election. By late July of 1974 Nixon and the Republicans in the Senate could read the writing on the wall: the American public had clearly turned against the President and the Republicans in the Senate would have to vote to remove him from office. We can only infer that a deal for a Pardon was struck between Nixon and his appointed Vice-President, Gerald Ford (Nixon’s elected Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned a year earlier, pleading guilty to tax evasion --- to avoid a charge of public corruption for taking bribes when he was Governor of Maryland and Vice President!). Be that as it may, Trump is blatantly, publicly attempting to FIX the 2020 election --- just as Nixon’s Plumbers did in 1972. The high crime is in full sight. Will the American public slowly but surely turn on this President as they did in 1974 --- resulting in another resignation? Or will be see the entire impeachment process play out and hope that 20 Republican Senators have the integrity to do the right thing?