During the 2016 presidential election, after the F.B.I. announced that it had found damning emails pertinent to the investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump praised former director James Comey for heroic and excellent work.
“I think it’s the biggest story since Watergate.”
Little did Trump know that a few months later he would be the president, and the very same James Comey he had praised before his election, would create a scandal that is as big, if not bigger than Watergate.
On a warm Sunday, June 18, 1972, a headline featured on the front page of The Washington Post. It read: “5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats’ Office Here.” Pulitzer-prize-winning Post journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, broke a story that was to shake the foundations of the political hegemony in Washington.
Woodward and Bernstein reported that five men, all wearing surgical gloves, had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Washington, D.C. headquarters at the Watergate office complex. At around 2:30 a.m., the burglars, three of them Cuban nationals, were arrested by three plain-clothed police officers. One of the five men was a former Central Intelligence Agency operative.
Initially, it was unclear why these men had broken into the Watergate offices, but it was soon revealed that they had been sent to bug the DNC headquarters. Some file drawers, containing sensitive DNC information, had been found open. It was alleged that the men were going to photograph the contents.
As reported by Woodward and Bernstein, when the men were apprehended by the police, they had with them “at least two sophisticated devices capable of picking up and transmitting all talk, including telephone conversations. The F.B.I. had found a sizeable amount of cash on the burglars, and it was soon determined that the cash had come from a slush fund that was directly connected to the re-election campaign of then-President Richard Nixon.
Tape recorders were discovered in Nixon’s office, and it soon became evident that the president had been spying on, among others, the DNC. An impeachment process was soon launched on Capitol Hill, which led to Nixon’s immediate resignation in an attempt to secure a more dignified exit. The scandal also led to the successful prosecution of 48 people involved in the illegal clandestine activities.
One of these people was Mr. John Dean, who had been a key player in the Watergate cover-up. Dean was fired in April 1973 and pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction of justice. He was subsequently disbarred from the legal profession.
Mr. Dean served a jail term after he had been indicted, and at the time he noted that “it is not what you expect, to go from the White House to the big house, so to speak.”
But nowadays, the 78-year-old ex-lawyer travels worldwide to present lectures on presidential abuses of power and promotes the four books he has written about Watergate.
After Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in August of 1974, the U.S. government to steps to significantly limit the scope of presidential powers. However, in a recent New York Times article, Mr. John Dean noted that presidents are reluctant to give up their powers once they get into office. It is this fact that concerns Mr. Dean the most about the current Donald Trump administration.
“I’m not sure Trump, or Bannon, or whoever is guiding that place, has figured out all their powers. The incompetence is the only thing giving me comfort at the moment.”
Mr. Dean told The New York Times that his former boss, Nixon, was very similar to Trump in many ways, however he also noted some key differences. According to Dean, Nixon was never as unpredictably spontaneous as President Trump.
“The private Nixon and public Trump are very similar. The difference is Nixon, who was so highly disciplined, prepared ad nauseam for press conferences. He had huge briefing books, which he used as a management tool because he got the departments and the agencies to get answers to all the questions he would be asked.”
The alleged ties between Russia and the Trump administration show “every signal” that “something serious is going on,” Dean said. He added that “if this was nothing but the witch hunt that Trump claims, you could make it go away in a week.”
— Hillary In Pictures (@HillaryPix) May 17, 2017
Speaking to the Independent recently, Mr. Dean said that right now about half of the U.S. population isn’t sure whether Donald Trump is insane or just an angry person.
“We’ve never had a president like this, and that’s why I have nightmares.”
Sen. John McCain, a Republican of Arizona, said that the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey to was now “at a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale.”
“We’ve seen this movie before. The shoes continue to drop, and every couple days there’s a new aspect.”
The senator sternly urged Donald Trump to come clean and avoid delay, adding that the longer the president skirts these allegations, the longer they will hang over his administration like a thick dark cloud. McCain also expressed grave concern that Trump was hosting Russian foreign ministers in the oval office, saying that it is even more “unacceptable” that Trump decided to share classified information during that meeting.
Speaking to Democracy Now, Elizabeth Holtzman, a former U.S. congresswoman who was on the panel of the House Judiciary Committee that initiated the Richard Nixon impeachment proceedings, said there was a real connection between Trump’s actions and Watergate.
“The real connection with Watergate is the firing of Comey by President Trump, which appears to be, on the face of it and given all the circumstance around it, an effort to cover up and to prevent an investigation of whether Russia colluded with him and his campaign over interference in the American election, and whether he’s still colluding with the Russians.”
Senator Mark Warner told Fox News on Sunday that Trump’s dismissal of James Comey “sure seems to have reverberations of past history.”
“When we’ve seen presidents who secretly tape, that usually does not end up being a good outcome for a president.”
President Donald Trump may not yet realize the seriousness of Comey’s allegations against him, but experts believe that the crime of obstruction of justice has been committed. There are seven words that Trump might come to regret for the rest of his life.
“I hope you can let this go.”
James Comey says he has evidence that Donald Trump asked him to drop the investigation into allegations that former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about having met with the Russian ambassador during last year’s presidential campaign.
Trump is the new Nixon.
Image by Occupy Democrats pic.twitter.com/k1t8XwwFmk
— JJ. M. (@JR777771) May 13, 2017
The Associate Press reported that an associate of James Comey said the former F.B.I. Director had recorded a series of notes about his meetings with Donald Trump. The reason for making these notes was that Comey found some of Trump’s conversations with him to be very troubling. According to the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, Comey wants to testify about his encounters with Trump but wants to do so in public.
Commenting on the future of President Trump’s current White House staffers, Mr. John Dean said that “anybody who is there now, if they’re anywhere close to the problems, they’re probably going to need an attorney, and it’s going to get expensive.”
“I think a lot of people are going to get hurt.”
Mr. Dean warned current White House staff that their careers would likely be over if they did not quit their jobs right now.
“You don’t find people who mentioned they worked at the Nixon White House unless they were high enough and conspicuous and had to admit it.”
According to U.S. federal law, the crime of obstruction of justice occurs when anyone attempts to derail official investigations. The destruction of evidence or killing of witnesses are examples of how this crime can be committed. However, the language of the law is quite broad. In Title 18, sub-sections 1503, 1505, and 1512 the language makes it very clear that if someone maliciously or intentionally “obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding” they are liable to be prosecuted for obstruction of justice.
Do you think James Comey has enough justification for accusing Donald Trump of this severe crime? Let us know in the comments below.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]