At the end of May, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said at a progressive Credo event in San Francisco that this Russia drama could be worse than Watergate. Yes, we’re back to this again (via The Hill):
A lot of people compare this to Nixon and they say, ‘That’s what got Nixon, was the obstruction of justice.’ And it’s true, but this is a lot worse because this one has connections to a foreign power, which the whole back-and-forth around obstruction of justice with Nixon did not include,” Warren said at a San Francisco event sponsored by Credo, a liberal advocacy group.
Warren told Credo Vice President and Political Director Murshed Zaheed that Democrats and liberal activists need to ramp up pressure on Republicans to push for answers on contacts between Trump’s advisers, the president himself and Russian officials.
First, there’s zero evidence to suggest any collusion occurred between Trump campaign officials and the Russians. There is nothing wrong with any of the meetings that took place between Trump officials and the Russians. The Democrats and the liberal news media set their sights on top aide Jared Kushner for reportedly wanting a back channel with the Russians. This is Manchurian Candidate stuff, right? No. The intelligence community saying that back channeling was normal, acceptable, and a long-standing practice undercut the whole narrative. Folks, Obama secretly reached out to the Russians. Shall we call a special counsel for that? The 18 undisclosed contacts Trump officials had with the Russians several months prior to Election Day pointed to no wrongdoing or collusion. Oh, and circling back to Kushner, he’s not a target of the probe, nor has he been accused of any wrongdoing. What about Attorney Jeff Sessions reportedly having another undisclosed contact with the Russians that NBC reported?
Where am I going with this? During Watergate, there was direct evidence linking the Nixon White House to the break-in and the cover up. There is no such connection with the Trump White House. Nixon never fired his FBI director. There was no slush fund. There was no misappropriation of campaign donations to be used in the aftermath of felonious activities. This isn’t Trump’s Watergate.
John A. Farrell wrote in Politico five reasons why the Russian collusion drama isn’t Watergate. For starters, Republicans control Congress, which makes impeachment unlikely. That wasn’t the case when Nixon was president. Farrell noted how Nixon had a popular domestic agenda, whereas Trump’s, while more palatable to conservatives, is divided among Americans. He also noted how the blowback from impeachment during the Nixon years, where politicians who supported it more or less survived. There were actual crimes that were committed with Watergate. With Clinton, it was seen as a purely partisan ploy to boot Bill Clinton. Democrats could face the same consequences, though again—it’s unlikely we ever get to this impeachment business since the Trump White House has committed no crime.
Farrell did note how the rise of conservative media blunts the reporting from the outlets like ABC, CBS, NBC, The Washington Post etc., but he also included unsurprisingly the most glaring difference of all [emphasis mine]:
Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and the others at the Washington Post became legends because they were outliers. The Post wasn’t all alone: Sandy Smith at Time magazine, Jack Nelson and Ron Ostrow at the Los Angeles Times, and a few other newsmen had big Watergate-related scoops in 1972. But most of the top columnists, editors and newsmen in Washington just didn’t believe that Nixon could be so stupid as to be involved with a bugging and a break-in. The Post itself had skeptics, and proceeded with caution.
Then Judge John Sirica blew the case open. Influenced by the Post’s reporting, he threatened the burglars with oppressive prison sentences unless they came clean about their superiors’ involvement in the Watergate caper. Burglar James McCord, a security expert for the Nixon campaign, was the first to crack. In March 1973, he confessed to Sirica, and then to Senate investigators, that the break-in had been ordered by the campaign and White House higher-ups, who were covering up the crime.
The frenzy was on.
Once Sirica’s actions shattered the Watergate cover-up and Nixon threw his top aides under the bus to save himself, the Senate Watergate committee performed its duty and held a summer’s worth of hearings. Testifying before the committee, Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean linked the president to the cover-up. And Senator Howard Baker, a Tennessee Republican, memorably framed the central question for the entire nation: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
The Watergate committee provided its own means for answering the question by unearthing the existence of a secret White House taping system. When, in October 1973, Nixon ordered Watergate special counsel Archibald Cox to be fired for pursuing the tapes too aggressively—orders that the attorney general and deputy attorney general refused, resigning rather than carry them out in what came to be called the “Saturday Night Massacre”—the country understood just what was at stake: Would Nixon’s taped discussions prove incriminating?
Nixon and his lawyers took his claims of “executive privilege” against disclosing the tapes to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court unanimously ruled against him, forcing the White House to release the tapes. Among the recordings was the “smoking gun” tape, in which Nixon ordered Haldeman to have the CIA block the FBI’s Watergate investigation—concrete proof that Nixon knew about and directed the obstruction of justice.
Again, such evidence doesn’t exist with Trump.