For those of us that lived through the turmoil of the late-1960s/1970, I have previously remarked that our current times have an eerily familiar sound and feel to that time. So it is with the current drumbeat marching us undeterred towards our fourth instance of presidential impeachment proceedings. This fourth instance (out of 45 presidents) seems like a drama we have already seen before, a repeat of history with minimal rewrites of the script. Consider the following:
1. The President:
1974: Republican President Richard M. Nixon (RMN).
2019: Republican President Donald J. Trump (DJT).
2. The President’s Goal:
RMN: To obtain political dirt on his reelection Democratic opponent, George McGovern.
DJT: To obtain political dirt on a leading reelection Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
In both instances, the central issue was/is about using illegal “dirty tricks” to win reelection.
3. The Crime:
RMN: The break-in and wiretapping of the DNC headquarters (June 1972), and using the power of the federal government to cover it up for two years.
DJT: Soliciting help from a foreign leader in generating political dirt, coerced by illegally withholding Congressionally-mandated military aid to that leader, and using the power of the federal government to cover it up (April → October, 2019)
4. The Perpetrators:
RMN: His reelection committee; Howard Hunt, Gordon Liddy, several Cuban freedom fighters.
DJT: His personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, multiple Ukrainians (foreign and naturalized citizens) now under indictment.
5. Principal Enablers:
RMN: Aides Haldeman, Ehrlichman, ex-AG Mitchell, Acting FBI Director Gray; other staffers.
DJT: Secretary of State Pompeo, Acting Chief of Staff/Director OMB Mulvaney; AG Barr; various other staffers.
6. The Congressional Investigation:
RMN: Senate Watergate Committee, conducted on a bipartisan basis. Assisted by Special Prosecutor appointed by Department of Justice.
DJT: Joint House Intelligence Committee (lead), Foreign Affairs Committee, Oversight Committee, but not conducted on a bipartisan basis. No special prosecutor made available by DOJ for House committees; seeking the details of the prosecutorial work of Robert Mueller.
7. Revealing The Inside Story – Breaking Through The Wall Of Silence:
RMN: John Dean; Jeb Magruder; Alexander Butterfield; others then followed.
DJT: An unnamed CIA whistleblower; Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch; Ambassador William Taylor; others then following.
8. The Guilty Confession (“The Smoking Gun”):
RMN: The “White House tapes,” recorded in the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Nixon’s private office.
DJT: The “notes” of Trump’s phone call to Ukraine president. (Official transcript remains hidden on private server and unreleased.)
9. The Firings:
RMN: Fired his Attorney General (Elliot Richardson), the Deputy Attorney AG (William Ruckelshaus) in order to force the Solicitor General (Robert Bork) to fire the investigating Special Prosecutor (Archibald Cox) pressing for the release of the White House tapes. The pushback was so strong that Bork appointed Leon Jaworksi as replacement Prosecutor, who then continued (successfully) to go after the tapes. (The “Saturday Night Massacre.”)
DJT: Has fired more of his appointees at this point in his term than any other president to this date, including numerous senior members of the DOJ, FBI and CIA who have not supported his defense claims.
10. The Stonewalling:
RMN: Fought turning over any documents under “executive privilege,” until overruled by the courts. Tapes turned over by Supreme Court ruling.
DJT: Citing “executive privilege,” fighting turning over any documents; forbidding any Executive Branch testimony (people testifying anyway); claiming a president cannot be subject to ANY step in the judicial process (including being investigated); claiming impeachment process itself is illegal; appealing (mostly losing) adverse court decisions.
11. The Impeachment Charges:
RMN: Charged with obstructing justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress.
DJT: Likely to be the same; other charges potentially to be added.
12. The Outcome:
RMN: On July 30, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three Articles of Impeachment and sent them to the House floor for a vote. On August 7, senior Republican Senators Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott, and Representative John Rhodes advised Nixon that he had no chance of surviving an impeachment vote by both political parties. Nixon resigned as President the next day, before the full House could formally vote on the Impeachment charges. President Gerald Ford issued a full and unconditional pardon of Nixon on September 8. In all, 69 associates of Nixon were indicted on various charges; 48 were found guilty. After his resignation, around 1/3rd of the American voters continued to express support for Richard Nixon.
DJT: To Be Determined.
How this current impeachment process, or the election in November 2020, will ultimately work out is unknown. Virtually nothing has been foreseeable and expectable for the past three years. Will it follow historical precedent? Will it chart a brand new course? What is assured is that America’s structures will be further pulled apart, our relationships with each other will be even more deeply divided, and our country’s core values will be tested as never before. This course of events will prove unhealthy and dangerous regardless of one’s political views and positions, requiring years of deliberate work thereafter to set right. In the end, will facts, the rule of law, and our principles of Constitutional government prevail? The jury is literally still out on these critical questions.
© 2019 Randy Bell https://ThoughtsFromTheMountain.blogspot.com