Donald Trump was an adult during the Watergate scandal, which began during the 1972 presidential election, ended two years later when President Richard Nixon resigned the office and left town, and kept the entire country rapt for the entire period in between.
The scandal began when men who were working on behalf of President Nixon’s reelection campaign got caught having broken into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate hotel and office building. At first, the connection to the president was not clear, and Nixon hoped to keep it that way. As the details began to emerge, the Senate began an investigation. Testifying before the Senate committee that was inquiring into the scandal, Alexander Butterfield revealed that Nixon had a system installed in the Oval Office to record all of his conversations.
Thus began the battle over release of the tapes, which Nixon would finally lose when the Supreme Court ordered him to release transcripts of the tapes. Those transcripts revealed that Nixon had discussed with his chief of staff trying to get the CIA to stop the FBI investigation into the Watergate break in by claiming that the incident had national security implications — obstruction of justice, and in a way only the president could commit. No one else has the power to try to persuade the CIA to do anything.
In July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted out articles of impeachment. Soon after, a delegation of prominent Republicans, including Senator Barry Goldwater, visited Nixon in the Oval Office and told him that the Senate would likely vote to remove him from office.
Nixon was a horribly corrupt megalomaniac, but he was very smart and he actually understood well how the U.S. government was supposed to work. He just believed that his personal agenda was so hugely important that pursuing it at all cost justified ignoring basic principles of governance in our republic.
Maybe Trump wasn’t paying much attention during these events. Still, it seems pretty obvious that anyone who plans to run for president should understand the events of Watergate to ensure that they avoid making the same mistakes, or just plan to govern honestly and scrupulously, thus ensuring that Nixon style crimes would not occur during one’s presidency.
Not Trump. He committed essentially the same crime.
That was stupid. The events are still contested. We have James Comey’s version of his conversations with Trump in which Trump seemed, to Comey, to ask him, in his capacity as director of the FBI, to stop investigating Trump’s short lived first national security director, Michael Flynn, who stood suspected of having lied to Congress under oath and to the FBI, among other offenses.
Given that Trump does not seem to understand that we have a Constitution, what the point of a Constitution is — the specification of the proper structure and procedures of our limited government — or the details of our Constitution, it also seems unlikely that he grasps the allegation of obstruction of justice or why Comey’s testimony to the U.S. Senate prompted the Department of Justice to appoint Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate the question of illegal Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Nixon did not go quietly. He fought the investigations into the Watergate break in and his attempts to cover up his connections to it. He fired the first special prosecutor. He gave speeches. He only turned over transcripts of his recorded conversations after the Supreme Court ordered him to. He left office only after removal by impeachment trial in the Senate seemed inevitable. He honored the norms and rules of U.S. government mostly in the breach. But he knew what they were. He realized that he would be unable to govern at all if he defied the Supreme Court, or even if he survived the trial in the Senate, so badly compromised would be his presidency. So he resigned.
From what we know of him, it seems highly unlikely that Trump, the spoiled child, will leave as quietly as Nixon did. Nixon did not have Twitter to communicate his noxious thoughts to the country with, but he would likely have used it much more judiciously had he had it. But Twitter is just the symptom. The disease is Trump’s badly warped personality, the victim of some childhood horror that we will likely never know about. Trump stopped developing psychologically at about age eight and has succeeded, to the extent he actually has, only by dint of his good fortune at having a rich father, who protected him during his own lifetime, then left him a fortune.
Trump is like Nixon in having committed obstruction of justice, but he is different from Nixon in being a very stupid person. Worse, he is mostly lazy, but energetic about being stupid.
Trump is stupid Nixon on meth.