“During the past year the wildest accusations have been given banner headlines and ready credence as well.” – Richard Nixon, 1972.
“The Fake News is working overtime.” – Donald Trump, 2018.
Mr. President, we now have indictments that would link the Russian government — not the fat person you imagined on a bed somewhere — to an attack on our election system.
With these indictments come something you don’t want us to ponder: even more similarities between the last scandal that removed a president and that which swirls around you right now.
Forty-four years apart: two burglaries of the Democratic National Committee — one in 1972 with screwdrivers in the dark of night, one in 2016 with hackers in the light of day.
The one in ’72 involved Cuban burglars. This one involves Russians.
This scandal involves a whole bunch more than a political theft.
It involves Russians waging a concerted social media war of bogus posts to benefit the man who would claim “fake news” as his own coinage.
It involves Russians attempting to compromise state voting systems.
It involves Russians obtaining, according to the indictment, information on 500,000 voters in Iowa.
It involves Russians hacking “into computers of a company that supplied software used to verify voter registration information” according to Trump’s own Justice Department.
Trump has responded as we might expect to this. He headed to Moscow and Vladimir Putin’s knee with candy and flowers.
Oh, and the White House pronounced itself cleared of any culpability.
Every time Team Trump does this, be reminded of the 1972 statement by Richard Kleindienst, Richard Nixon’s man in the Justice Department, that an “extensive” investigation had cleared the president and his associates of law-breaking.
Actually, the investigation had just begun.
Two years later, Kleindienst would be convicted of misleading Congress and would, like 48 others who broke the law, get a taste of jail time.
Watch Republicans and Trump supporters absolutely frantic to discredit the FBI. Be reminded that the White House went to great extents to corral the FBI investigation into Watergate.
Indeed, the probe into Nixon would have been squelched were it not for Mark Felt, No. 2 at the FBI, who kept the investigation alive despite administration interference. Such a heroic role actually dwarfed Felt’s better-known role: serving as Deep Throat to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
The budding Mueller probe began just over one year ago, and it’s impossible to know where its investigation will take us. However, with 27 individuals indicted so far, three convicted already, and key figures prepared to cooperate, a “witch hunt” it is not.
Whatever the case, and whatever emanates, this is a far bigger deal than Watergate.
Mueller’s first conviction remains the biggest: the guilty plea from former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn for lying about his interactions with the Russian ambassador before Trump assumed office.
On behalf of the administration-to-be, Flynn is alleged to have offered to waive sanctions Russia had earned for, what? For its attempts to influence the 2016 elections.
By the way, Flynn has yet to be sentenced, and that means there’s still time for him to cooperate with Mueller regarding what Trump knew and when he knew it.
One of the other people facing criminal indictment, Paul Manafort, was in the Trump Tower meeting when he and others, including Don Jr., met with Russians expecting “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Then they said it was about adoptions. Then they changed their story.
No, this is far from over, and Trump is far from being cleared. After all, we have this from him on the campaign trail: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
“Forget the myths the media have created about the White House. The truth is these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.” – Deep Throat, 1974.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.