Trump is No Different from Nixon

Many of us may have forgotten, or never known, but the key crime, clear evidence for which resulted in the resignation of Richard Nixon from the presidency in August 1974 was obstruction of justice. What came to be known as “the smoking gun tape” recorded a conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, in which they discussed in some detail having CIA Director Vernon Walters tell the FBI to abandon its investigation into the Watergate scandal because they had the potential to revive the scandal around the Bay of Pigs incident, in which the CIA ended up looking like fools for organizing an abortive attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1961.

Deliberately trying to stop an ongoing criminal investigation is obstruction of justice, no matter who does it. It was the criminal hook the Republicans hung their impeachment of Bill Clinton on. Clinton chose not to resign, instead winning acquittal in the Senate, because the underlying alleged offense was trivial, the impeachment looked nakedly political, and Democrats in the Senate could easily vote to acquit him. In Nixon’s case, the underlying offense, as above, involved a gross abuse of presidential power and Republican members of Congress warned him that they would vote to remove him from office.

The big news now is the report that the Donald asked James Comey to end his investigation into the activities of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during a meeting between the two in February. Obviously, the facts are somewhat different. Nixon ordered his chief of staff to get the Director of the CIA to tell the FBI to stop an investigation. Trump, in characteristically blunderbuss fashion, met with the Director of the FBI and asked him directly to end an investigation that he found politically dangerous, or so it would seem. The White House, unsurprisingly, has denied the allegation, although whether the Donald will then admit it in a Twitter rant soon after remains to be seen.

But the important point is that Trump now stands quite credibly accused of exactly the same crime that resulted in articles of impeachment getting voted out of the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon and Nixon’s resignation soon thereafter. Whether any of the Republicans who currently control Congress will decide to put the well being of the country ahead of their Party loyalty and begin impeachment proceedings remains to be seen.

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