In 1973/74, America experienced its worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War. The Watergate affair that brought down Richard Nixon was the grand finale of a nation torn apart for 15 years by divisive issues of civil rights, the upset of the established social order, a generational revolution, nine years of a seemingly endless no-win war, and governing by political assassination. It was an ugly time that shaped a world and domestic view for generations.
Near the end of this historical arc, a band of Nixon campaign operatives hatched a plan to hack the Democratic National Committee. Given the technology of the day (pre-personal computers), it was intended to be a burglary of paper records. Unfortunately for the team, but fortunately for the country, they got caught in the act. What could have been a footnote in history instead became the baseline for measuring government cover-up and illegality at the highest levels.
A small crime story attracted the attention of a few investigative journalists, then gradually many. A judge looked at the simple burglary case and decided, “there is more here,” and proceeded to press out the larger facts. Thus began a journey down a path of cover-up, bribery, and lies that went well beyond the original story and cast of characters. Finally, a Special Prosecutor was appointed to pursue what was the role of high government officials in conducting illegal activities, and who were those individuals. Concurrently, a bipartisan Senate Committee was formed to conduct a similar inquiry, ultimately asking the question, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”
The Special Prosecutor did his work doggedly as he went after the full facts of the Watergate break-in. As did the Senate committee as it brilliantly personified our best bipartisanship. And then the day came when the Special Prosecutor pushed for access to the Nixon tapes of private White House conversations – tapes that ultimately held the “smoking gun” of Nixon’s collusion in the Watergate cover-up. As a last-ditch attempt to try to protect himself, the President fired the chief accuser, along with the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General who had refused to carry out Nixon’s termination order. “Time to move on” was the President’s mantra. In the end, the courts ruled Nixon had to turn over the tapes and obey the law. In the public reaction that followed, Nixon was done. To save himself from certain impeachment, Nixon resigned – the only President to do so. In the end, he was in fact a crook. A cadre of his associates went to prison; others had damaged reputations to rebuild. The cover-up far exceeded the original crime.
44 years later, a similar story is eerily recurring on our TV/computer screens. A group of “dirty tricksters” (i.e. Russians) is caught trying to unduly influence a presidential election by nefarious means. A top campaign aide – Michael Flynn, intended to become a top security aide – is caught lying about his conduct and relationship with that group; lies unwittingly repeated to the public by the Vice President. A career Department of Justice official and Acting Attorney General – Sally Yates – who brings knowledge of this deception to the White House Counsel is fired by the President shortly thereafter, ostensibly for another reason while her role with the Flynn issue goes publicly unacknowledged. The accusations against Flynn languished for nearly three weeks until the press digs out the story. Only then did Trump fire Flynn – not for his actions and connections, but for lying to the Vice President. Senate and House committee investigations pop up looking into the extent of Russian dirty tricks and various Trump-campaign and Russian connections. Only this time the Watergate bipartisanship and “pursuit of Truth” are not as evident. Once again, a President blames “the Media” for inflaming the story. He sends out a multitude of denials of any wrong-doing by anyone – all while continuing to sing the praises of Flynn. Then, following public testimony by FBI Director James Comey confirming criminal investigations of Trump associates, and the stunningly capable testimony of Sally Yates about the White House handling of the Flynn issue, Trump moves into action. He does his usual Twitter impugning of Yate’s character, which falls flat given the credibility and authenticity of her testimony. But more importantly, he fires Comey – the chief investigator. “Time to move on” was once again a President’s mantra. Journalists were sent scrambling to the newsreel vaults looking at the Nixon archives.
Ostensibly, Comey was fired for his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email issue, conduct Trump had praised on the campaign trail. This is all very old news, and beyond credulity that Trump cares one twit about fairness to Hillary. Trump’s decision was also purported to be based upon advice from a newly installed Deputy Attorney General as a way to give the FBI “a fresh start.” Yet he was told to put that recommendation in writing by Trump who had already decided to fire Comey a week earlier. The recommendation was also endorsed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had supposedly recused himself from any involvement in the FBI’s Russian investigation – hence the made up “cover story” of the Clinton email handling. Once again, the man leading the investigation into the actions of the President and his aides was fired by that President. Once again a White House and his agency appointees have little remaining credibility regarding the investigations. But as of this time it is unclear whether there is a Congressional Committee, or court system, prepared to defend the rule of Law and pursuit of Truth.
We have watched this pattern from Trump for two years now. He is a man who lives in a protective bubble of a self-created image who will defend that bubble at all cost. He will exaggerate, lie, deny, or accuse his accusers however necessary, and without accountability, to protect that bubble. It is now clear that he will also simply disbelieve counsel from agency professionals, and will even fire anyone who comes bearing bad news or threatens to puncture Trump’s bubble. Since virtually none of the cover story is believable, we are left only with conjecture and speculation about what collusion and ill-doings have happened in this White House.
Clearly Mike Flynn is in a heap of trouble for his actions, non-declarations, and lies to cover them up. But one also to ask, what makes him seek immunity for “telling what else he knows?” And why does Trump continue to keep speaking so positively about him? Clearly other Trump campaign people are hiding something, and the FBI and Senate investigations are closing in on them. Else how could they have known in advance of the forthcoming DNC email leaks? And why would Trump have so forcefully announced during the campaign, “Russia, if you are listening – and I hope you are – I hope you find Hillary’s missing 40,000 emails,” unless he was aware of Russian hacking? Where else would such an off-the-wall statement come from?
This is not a witch hunt. This is not made up stuff. Supposed “fake news” media reporting has, over time, been consistently confirmed. There is substance of some kind here. But by following the Nixon playbook almost to the letter, Donald Trump invites speculation and encourages accusations. At no time has Trump cooperated or been forthcoming with any investigation. Instead, he has actively tried to block the investigations or create more phony side distractions. Firing from behind Presidential barricades of silence or unsupportable explanations never works out in the end. The bloodhounds and “Woodward & Bernstein wanna-bes” have been turned loose; things will begin to move more quickly, with tentacles reaching out many directions. Eliminating the investigators just confirms that something needs to be hidden. We have seen this movie before. We know how it ended. If the sequel insists on following the original script, we already know how this will also end. Firing those you legally can will not stop the investigations. It will actually encourage those you cannot fire. Trying to block a legal investigation did not work for Nixon, and it will not work for Trump. In the end, it will be every man and woman for themselves. At which time Trump’s defensive wall will come down, one brick at a time, opening a window into life behind the facade. The bubble will finally burst. Then what?
It is an important story of one shoe after another continuing to drop that we all need to follow closely. It matters.
© 2017 Randy Bell www.ThoughtsFromTheMountain.blogspot.com