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Trump vs Nixon: A look at how the two leaders compare

We rated the parallels to date between the Russia-gate and Watergate scandals. The similarities are striking.


 

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Comparing Donald Trump to that other, ill-fated U.S. president, Richard Nixon is an increasingly popular parlour game. For weeks, observers have noted parallels in the two leaders’ popular appeal and personal idiosyncrasies—from their paranoid musings to their exploitation of the politics of grievance. But as clashes between the White House and those investigating Trump’s associates intensify, the similarities are getting downright eerie. Former FBI director James Comey’s allegation that Trump tried to persuade him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor, is the latest to stir 43-year-old memories.

A comparison of events in each president’s respective crises:

INVESTIGATION

Similarity rating:
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MP_RANK_WEB_1 The FBI investigates a break-in of Democratic National Committee headquarters (at the Watergate office complex). The burglars had intended to install wiretaps to gather intelligence and damaging information about Nixon’s opponents in advance of 1972 election.
MP_RANK_WEB_1 The FBI investigates Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee computer networks. The hackers gained access to emails containing embarrassing and damaging information about Trump’s opponents in advance of 2016 election.
Rating comment:
Substitute “burglar” for “hacker” and “G. Gordon Liddy” for “Russia,” and today’s probe sounds a lot like the early days of Watergate.

LEAKS

Similarity rating:
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MP_RANK_WEB_1 “Deep Throat” tips the Washington Post to links between Watergate burglars, the committee to re-elect Nixon and members of the administration. Deep Throat is ultimately revealed to be Mark Felt, associate director of the FBI.
MP_RANK_WEB_1 Numerous unidentified leakers advance the story that the FBI is looking into links between Trump associates/aides and Russian officials, including intelligence operatives. Content of Comey’s memo-to-file on Trump’s request to drop the Flynn matter leaks to the New York Times.
Rating comment:
Felt defied a massive cover-up by a sitting administration that extended through multiple agencies. The Trump leakers almost seem to have the blessing of intelligence agencies, who have publicly announced investigations into potential links between the hackers and Trump associates.

CONGRESSIONAL PROBES AND SPECIAL COUNSEL

Similarity rating:
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MP_RANK_WEB_1 The Senate strikes a committee to investigate Watergate scandal. Nixon’s attorney general, Elliott Richardson, appoints Archibald Cox as special counsel to look into the affair.
MP_RANK_WEB_1 Both the House and Senate assign committees to investigate potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia. The House oversight committee demands the Comey memo, with a view to possible inquiry. UPDATED: The Justice Department appoints Robert Mueller, a former FBI director as special counsel to look into the affair.
Rating comment:
Mueller’s appointment is an enormous win for congressional Democrats, suggesting some of their Republican counterparts—and even members of Trump’s administration—no longer give the president the benefit of doubt.

TAPES

Similarity rating:
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MP_RANK_WEB_1 It emerges that Nixon recorded his conversations and phone calls at the White House; Cox subpoenas the tapes and wins a court decision ordering Nixon to release them.  They eventually reveal Nixon’s role in orchestrating the cover-up.
MP_RANK_WEB_1 Trump disputes leaked accounts of his conversations with FBI director James Comey and tweets that Comey had “better hope” there are no tapes of the exchanges.
Rating comment:
There are no confirmed Trump-Comey recordings to date. But if Nixon’s fate is any guide, Trump, too, better hope there aren’t any.

YOU’RE FIRED

Similarity rating:
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MP_RANK_WEB_1 In a desperation move, Nixon orders the firing of Cox, who is heading up the investigation. Richardson and his deputy AG both refuse to do so, and the task goes to Robert Bork, then the solicitor-general.
MP_RANK_WEB_1 Trump fires James Comey from his post of FBI director; Trump and aides give differing reasons for the move, initially claiming the decision was influenced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein reportedly urges the White House to amend that account.
Rating comment:
Both sack the authorities investigating them and their aides. Is there a surer way to raise suspicion of a cover-up?

IMPEACHMENT

Similarity rating:
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MP_RANK_WEB_1 A House committee recommends impeachment of Nixon for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. He resigns before the articles proceed.
MP_RANK_WEB_1 No impeachment proceedings are underway.
Rating comment:
If punditry and speculative media stories were articles of impeachment, Trump would be answering to Congress now.

 

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