Tag Archives: Watergate

Who will be the GOP ‘hero’?

Bill Press is old enough to remember the Watergate scandal. He also is a fierce Democratic partisan who cheered the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.

He’s now a Democratic Party “elder” who writes commentaries on occasion and speaks for Democrats who are engaged in a fight with another Republican in the White House, Donald Trump.

He wonders now whether there are any Republicans who will stand up to Donald Trump the way they stood up in 1974 to Richard Nixon. Press isn’t holding his breath. Neither are many of the rest of us.

Trump is fighting with House and Senate Democrats over the president’s assertion of executive power/privilege at the expense of the legislative power. Congress is demanding that Trump turn over his tax returns; Democrats want to talk to key White House aides; they are insisting on seeing the full, unredacted report filed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Trump is having none of it.

Press wonders whether any of the Republicans in the House and Senate who are standing up for Trump will begin standing up to him if he continues his assault on the constitutional concept of “co-equal power” shared by those three branches of government: Congress, the White House and the courts.

He fears the worst. Press concludes in an essay: “The difference is, under Watergate, there were brave Republicans willing to stand up to their president: Bill Cohen of Maine and Lawrence Hogan of Maryland in the House; Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania in the Senate. Today, especially among cowardly Senate Republicans, we’re waiting for the first one with enough guts to stand up against Trump. It looks like it’s going to be a long wait.”

It took a GOP congressional delegation to troop to the White House to tell President Nixon he didn’t have the votes to withstand a Senate trial once the House impeached him. That’s when Nixon quit.

Is there a hero among the current crop of GOP lawmakers? I fear not.

Chairman Nadler: We are in a constitutional crisis

I believe I will stand with U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who today declared that the United States of America has become ensnared in a “constitutional crisis.”

Is it worse than, say, the crisis that led to President Clinton’s impeachment in 1999? Or worse than the Watergate matter that came within one House vote of impeaching President Nixon, before the president resigned in 1974?

I do not know how bad this has gotten.

However, I believe Chairman Nadler is correct. We are in a crisis of a highly serious nature. The Judiciary Committee had just voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress before Nadler made his “constitutional crisis” declaration.

Donald John Trump has stuck it in the ear of Congress, invoking “executive privilege” and denying lawmakers access to anything — or anyone — involved in matters relating to The Russia Thing.

The president is suggesting Congress has no power to carry out its constitutional duties. Attorney General William Barr has refused to release the complete and unredacted report filed by special counsel Robert Mueller — and has refused to testify before Nadler’s committee.

The fight is on!

Where it goes remains anyone’s guess at this point. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to oppose immediate impeachment procedures against the president. Why? She knows the danger of impeaching the president, only to have him walk away with an acquittal in a Senate trial. Pelosi can count votes as well as — or better than — most members of Congress. I happen to concur with her view about the impossibility of an impeachment, at least at this juncture.

None of that lessens the dangerous territory into which the nation is heading, according to Chairman Jerrold Nadler.

House Democrats are furious. Trump is angry with them. It has become a monumental game of chicken between the two co-equal branches of government. Neither side is likely to blink.

The end game well could produce the ugliest battle any of us have ever witnessed.

I don’t know about you, but I do not yet have the stomach to witness it. The potential for permanent damage to our system of government is scaring me sh**less.

Trump tempts political fate by ordering witnesses to stay silent

I just have to ask: Is Donald Trump committing an act of potential political suicide by refusing to allow witnesses from his administration to testify before congressional committees?

Another president, Richard Nixon, sought to play the same card in 1974. It cost him bigly. President Nixon told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino he would get nothing more from the administration regarding the Watergate matter.

Rodino wouldn’t accept that. He was able to force the president to turn over pertinent material related to the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in June 1972. The rest, as they say, is history. The Judiciary panel approved articles of impeachment and then the president resigned.

Forty-five years later, Donald Trump is seeking to play the same hand. He is telling the current House Judiciary chairman, Jerrold Nadler, that he will withhold information from that panel as it seeks to uncover the truth into allegations of obstruction of justice into the Russia matter that’s been in all the papers of late.

Nadler doesn’t strike me as being any more likely to cave in to this president’s demands than Rodino was in 1974 when Richard Nixon tried to bully him.

I among those Americans who does not favor impeaching Trump. I want the House and the Senate to do their work. Special counsel Robert Mueller appears headed to Capitol Hill eventually to talk to both legislative chambers.

I want Mueller to state on the record whether he believes Trump committed a crime, whether he obstructed justice. If he won’t say it, well, we need to accept what we won’t get. Then again, if he says that president did commit a crime of obstruction, but that Mueller just couldn’t commit to issuing a criminal complaint, well . . . then we have a ballgame.

Richard Nixon’s stonewalling ended badly for his presidency in 1974. Donald Trump’s reprise of that strategy well could doom his own presidency.

Sen. Graham embodies GOP hypocrisy on impeachment

I want to stipulate up front that I do not favor impeaching Donald J. Trump, at least not at this moment. I need more “proof” that he has committed an impeachable offense than what we’ve seen to date.

However, I am laughing out loud at the talk we’re hearing from Republican members of Congress who are performing a remarkable act of duplicity while ignoring the issues surrounding Trump’s troubles. These matters mirror in many instances the same issues that drove them to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1999.

The star of this duplicitous comedy is Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Two decades ago, he was a House member from South Carolina. He “managed” the GOP impeachment effort on the floor of the House; Graham, after all, is a lawyer who at the time of President Clinton’s impeachment served as a judge advocate attorney in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

He argued passionately that lying was an impeachable offense. Yes, the president committed perjury by swearing to tell a grand jury the truth, but then lied about his relationship with what’s-her-name.

The much younger Rep. Graham, though, took it farther. He said that efforts to block congressional inquiry into those matters were impeachable. Yes, he said that the Clinton team’s alleged effort to impede the congressional inquiry constituted a “high crime and misdemeanor” worthy of impeachment.

Isn’t that precisely what is happening now? Donald Trump has instructed his entire White House team to resist subpoenas being issued by various House committees. He even is seeking to block someone who no longer works in the White House — former WH counsel Don McGahn — from testifying. The president — to borrow a time-honored term born during the Watergate scandal of the 1970s — is “stonewalling” Congress on various matters that lawmakers deem important.

Where does Sen. Graham and most of his GOP colleagues stand on all of that?

Huh? Oh! The silence is deafening.

Tax returns? Give ’em up, Mr. POTUS

U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has the law on his side, or so it would appear.

The Massachusetts Democrat is using his power as a congressional committee chairman to get his hands on Donald Trump’s tax returns. He is citing a statute that requires the Internal Revenue Service to hand over any request that comes from Congress.

The president’s lawyers say the chairman is overstepping his bounds.

C’mon. Let’s settle this thing.

Turn them over

Donald Trump has pledged to turn over the returns once the IRS completed a “routine audit.” That audit was under way in 2015. It takes three years to conduct a routine audit? I do no think so, no matter how “big” the numbers are that Trump has suggested.

It has been matter of political custom — not the law — for presidents to release their tax returns, to open them up for public review. The custom began in 1976 after the Watergate scandal had driven President Nixon from office.

We needed to know then — and we do today — how our presidents earn their income, to whom they might be indebted, and whether they are paying their fair share of taxes. They are, after all, demanding — along with Congress — that the rest of us pay our fair share.

I’m going to set aside for the purposes of this post any discussion of The Russia Thing.

I want to know all I deserve to know — which I happen to believe is a lot — about the president’s fortune. How he amassed it. I want to know whether he skirted federal tax law. I want to know about his debt obligations; after all, Trump said he is “the king of debt.”

None of this should be kept secret from the nation he was elected to lead. Donald Trump, though, is now going back on his pledge to release those returns. He has unleashed his legal team to fight Chairman Neal’s request for the returns.

If the president has nothing to hide — which he has declared many times — then he should have no difficulty showing us what those returns contain. Isn’t that what clean-as-a-whistle politicians do?

There remain many more hurdles for Trump to clear

Robert Mueller III’s submitting of a report to Attorney General William Barr signals the end of a long, national marathon.

The special counsel turned his findings over to Barr today. He’s done. Finished. He can go home now, put his feet up and relax.

I have been watching and listening to cable news broadcasters wonder about the report and whether it means that Donald Trump is home free.

I can answer that one. No! It doesn’t mean that at all!

The wait begins

We don’t know the contents of what Mueller has found. He said today there are no more indictments coming from his office; Mueller didn’t talk about what federal prosecutors in New York might do.

Mueller began this probe two years ago into whether the Donald Trump campaigned “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016. Has he found collusion? It beats me, man. We’ll know eventually.

If the special counsel finds no criminal activity to prosecute, that doesn’t mean he didn’t find unethical behavior; it doesn’t preclude Mueller scolding the president for conduct that he might find reprehensible.

With no finding of criminality, does that end any talk of impeachment? Well . . . no. The impeaching of a president is a political act. There need not be criminal acts involved for the House of Representatives to impeach a president. The House came within a chip shot of impeaching President Nixon in 1974, but it did not have a criminal charge to hang on him; Nixon quit before the full House actually voted.

The question of impeachment will center on whether Mueller has found enough misbehavior to warrant such a drastic act. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to impeach the president. Why? She knows the Senate won’t convict him in a trial.

So, where do we stand?

AG Barr is believed to be preparing to decide in fairly short order whether to release the findings to Congress and then to Americans out here among us.

I hope he makes as much of it public as possible.

If the AG does the right thing, then we’ll know all we need to know.

House doesn’t need a criminal charge to impeach, however . . .

Donald J. Trump put his cheesy side on full display at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting today. He hugged Old Glory as he walked onto the stage before delivering a two-hour harangue filled with four-letter words and assorted demagogic statements about his foes.

OK, I say all that as a predicate for what I want to say next.

It is that Michael Cohen’s testimony this week before the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened the door to possible criminal charges being brought against the president of the United States. The president’s former lawyer/confidant dropped the names of individuals who might know a lot about Trump’s financial dealings and whether they involve possible criminality.

Why is that a big deal?

Let’s revisit an earlier inquiry into whether to impeach a president. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Nixon on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges related to the Watergate scandal.

I want to note that the committee did not impeach the president on the basis of any criminal charges. None had been brought. President Nixon did not break any laws before the House panel approved the articles of impeachment.

Republican lawmakers scurried to the White House and informed the president that he had no support in the Senate, where he would stand trial once the full House impeached him.

Nixon quit the presidency.

Twenty-five years later, the House of Representatives impeached President Clinton largely on the basis of a single criminal charge: perjury. The president lied to a grand jury that asked him about his relationship with the White House intern.

Donald Trump’s troubles appear to eclipse those that ensnared Clinton in an impeachment and a Senate trial (where he was acquitted). As for the Nixon impeachment inquiry, I just want to reiterate that the president was not charged with a criminal act.

This is my way of saying that Donald Trump might be wading into some mighty deep doo-doo.

No amount of flag-hugging is likely to do him any good.

Michael Cohen: the new John Dean?

I had to chuckle when I heard a commentator compare Donald Trump’s former lawyer/fixer/friend to Watergate conspirator John Dean.

Michael Cohen is set to testify this week before the House Oversight Committee about what he knows regarding his former friend’s dealings with, oh, Russian government officials and an adult film actress with whom he allegedly had a fling some years ago.

Cohen already has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the president’s conduct. He’s facing a three year prison term once he finishes his testimony.

Many of us are waiting with bated breath at what Cohen will tell the committee. Many of us waited also with bated breath back in 1973 when John Dean, the former White House counsel, told a House committee that the Watergate scandal had produced a “cancer on the presidency.” We gasped. Dean spilled a lot of the beans about President Nixon knew and when he knew it.

Dean then would spend some time in the slammer. He’s now a contributor to MSNBC, CNN and a few other organizations that call on him to talk about the current crisis that threatens another presidency.

Cohen is not a good guy. He is a liar and a cheat. Dean wasn’t a good guy either back in the day, as he, too, lied and cheated to protect an earlier president.

Will this guy, Cohen, emerge as the next John Dean? I am afraid he already has done so.

‘I have never worked for Russia’

I suppose I’d never thought I would hear the president of the United States have to answer such a question.

“Have you ever worked for Russia?” came the question from a reporter.

Donald J. Trump — who had fielded that question from Jeannine Pirro on Fox News — didn’t exactly say “no” to Pirro. Then he had to say it to the reporter on the White House grounds.

I find it astonishing in the extreme that the president of the United States would ever ask the question. It has become necessary because of The New York Times story that disclosed that the FBI launched an investigation into whether Trump had become an “agent” of Russia. I just will not believe the FBI launched this probe because someone inside the J. Edgar Hoover Building wanted to “get” the president.

Do you recall the time Richard Nixon felt compelled to tell the nation that “I am not a crook”? He wasn’t very convincing at the time he said it in 1973. It turned out that while he wasn’t a “crook” in the classic definition of the term, he was corrupt enough to have to quit just ahead of a certain impeachment and trial by Congress.

This is the backdrop we might be facing yet again with the presidency of Donald J. Trump. He has called the NY Times report an “insult” and says the questions about whether he worked for Russia are “insulting.”

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller is finishing — reportedly — his report we hope will get to the truth about Trump’s relationship with Russia, if any exist. The president keeps telling us there is no relationship. He keeps yapping about the “hoax” and that Mueller is in the middle of a “witch hunt.”

It’s just frightening on its face that our head of state, our commander in chief is having to answer questions about whether he works for the nation’s No. 1 geopolitical foe.

Finish your work, Mr. Special Counsel Mueller.

Our nation will survive — and flourish

Make no mistake about it: I am alarmed at the accelerating crisis in Washington, D.C.

Some Republican lawmakers, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, might believe that “no one outside the D.C. Beltway cares” about Russia and Donald J. Trump’s alleged involvement with the nation’s pre-eminent adversary. I, though, do care about it. So do millions of other Americans, senator; you’re just not listening to us.

Does my alarm extend to my fear for the resilience of this system of government of ours? No. Not for an instant.

I remain an eternal optimist that we’ll get through all of this, no matter what the special counsel’s report reveals to us. Robert Mueller could exonerate the president of any wrongdoing. Or he could lay out a smorgasbord of questions that call into fact-based suspicion about the president’s fitness for the job.

Whatever happens, I feel compelled to remind us all that this country has survived equally serious — and more serious — crises throughout our history. We endured the Civil War; we engaged in two worldwide wars; we also endured a Great Depression; we have watched our political leaders gunned down by assassins; Americans have rioted in the streets to protest warfare; we witnessed a constitutional crisis bring down a president who resigned in disgrace; we have entered an interminable war against international terrorism.

Through it all we survived. The nation pulled itself together. It dusted itself off. It collected its breath. It analyzed what went wrong. The nation mobilized.

Our leaders have sought to unite us against common enemies. We responded.

Here we are. The special counsel is preparing — I hope — to conclude a lengthy investigation. There have been deeply troubling questions about the president’s conduct. One way or another I expect the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to answer those questions. They might not be to everyone’s satisfaction. Indeed, I can guarantee that the findings will split Americans between those who support the president and those (of us) who oppose him.

But we’re going to get through it. We might be bloodied and bruised. It might take some time to heal.

It’s going to happen.

The founders knew what they were doing when they crafted a government that they might have known — even then — would face the level of crisis it is facing today.