I’ve been thinking about President Trump’s situation, and its parallels with what Richard Nixon did in the infamous Watergate scandal 45 years ago.
In 1974, I was a reporter in Baltimore. I had just spent 16 months as a Ford Foundation Fellow in Washington. One of my nine co-fellows from around the world was a great guy named Wesley Pomeroy, a former assistant U.S. attorney general and police chief in Berkeley, California, who arranged and managed security for the Woodstock Music Festival. Wes still knew a lot about what was going on in Washington. He and I talked often, so that I came to know a lot about the Watergate scandal. I even did a one-on-one interview with Bernard Barker, the Cuban leader of the Watergate burglars.
If you make a list of the crimes that resulted in President Nixon’s impeachment, you will see how much they look like what Donald Trump has done.
Nixon conspired with others and violated criminal laws that ultimately brought him to impeachment:
• He obstructed justice by paying money and offering clemency and other benefits to influence the testimony of witnesses.
• He made false statements and declarations.
• He obtained information from the Justice Department for the purpose of diverting, thwarting and obstructing criminal investigations into his actions.
• He lied and suborned perjury, and made direct and personal efforts to encourage and enable witnesses to give misleading and false testimony.
• He committed bribery by directly or indirectly offering things of value, including clemency, as attempts to influence testimony to grand juries and the congressional judiciary committees.
Some of the most powerful obstruction of justice evidence against Nixon involved telling the FBI it couldn’t look into the Watergate break-in, for national security reasons. Nixon reached out to the Central Intelligence Agency in an effort to cover-up the Watergate scandal.
Looking like Nixon, Trump directed the heads of three U.S. intelligence agencies to undermine and thwart his investigation.
Like Nixon, 45 years ago, Trump has repeatedly made and facilitated false declarations about the investigation.
Like Nixon, he has offered pardons and clemency to witnesses. And like Nixon he has illegally obtained information from the Justice Department for the purpose of diverting or thwarting the investigation into his actions. He asked FBI Director James Comey to lay off the Russia investigation and, when Comey wouldn’t do that, Trump fired him.
Only last week, the Mueller investigation disclosed that Paul Manafort, Trump’s convicted campaign chairman, had been feeding inside information to Trump and his attorneys while he was supposed to be cooperating with Mueller. In this, Trump has been co-opting a convicted felon while openly dangling a pardon.
I was one of the first to recognize that Manafort was a bad guy, noting on my blog, at http://onepercentsearcher.blogspot.com as early as May 23, 2016, that Manafort had joined Trump as his campaign chairman but previously had made millions helping the vicious Ukrainian, President Viktor Yanukovych.
Trump has hated and feared Special Counsel Robert Mueller from the moment that Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein appointed Mueller. Just last week he shouted that Rosenstein should be jailed and charged with treason because, “He should never have appointed the special counsel.”
From the beginning, Trump directly told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he shouldn’t follow the ethics policies of the Department of Justice and recuse himself from the Russia investigation, because Trump would lose the control he had of the Russia investigation through Sessions. He told Sessions in April 2017, out loud and in writing, that he should stop the FBI’s Russia investigation “Right Now!”
In June 2017, Trump ordered his White House lawyer, Dan McGahn, to fire the special counsel. McGahn wouldn’t do it. He repeated it again, just a few months ago, in September.
In August 2017, Trump reamed out the Republican majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, for refusing to protect Trump from investigations. He repeatedly directed McConnell and other Republican leaders to stop the Senate Intelligence Committee from investigating Russian interference in our 2016 elections.
Last month, after firing Sessions as the U.S. attorney general, Trump replaced him with an acting attorney general who could willingly act as his spy and, potentially, stop the Mueller investigation.
We no longer need a trail of bread crumbs to follow what Trump is doing. Like Nixon, he has committed impeachable offenses, out front and on the public record.
(Bomboy has written for more than 60 national magazines and is the author of six books.)