Are the Trump scandals the new Watergate?
The wave of scandals that have consumed the Trump administration must be the only political controversy in the past 45 years that hasn’t had the “gate” suffix instantly added, but otherwise, the series of events is bearing an uncanny resemblance to Watergate, the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon.
Indeed, the comparisons are so numerous we might as well just start casting the remake of
All The President’s Men right now. Both involved the theft of documents from the Democratic National Committee (a break-in at the Watergate hotel in 1972; a digital breach of DNC servers in 2016), and both involved attempts by the US president to fire a senior figure leading the investigation in to potential wrongdoing (special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973, FBI director James Comey in 2017).
Admittedly, Nixon could have brought the whole Watergate saga to a much faster conclusion if he had just admitted to attempting to obstruct justice, as Trump did last week during an NBC interview. Instead, Watergate investigators had to subpoena Nixon’s Oval Office recordings to find the “smoking gun” admission. Veteran political writer James Fallows of the
Atlantic wrote this week that Trump’s scandals are actually more serious than those of Nixon during Watergate, pointing out that the alleged crime – colluding with Russia to undermine a democratic election – is much worse than trying to dig up dirt on political rivals. “The potential stakes are incomparably greater than what happened during Watergate,” Fallows argues.
This has all led to fevered speculation about how Trump might be impeached, and it is not an easy process – the Republican-controlled Congress would need to vote for it, for a start, then two-thirds of the Senate would need to agree to remove him. Hopes of vice-president Mike Pence and his cabinet removing him under the statutes of the 25th amendment still seem fanciful.
Trump is unlikely to resign in the manner Nixon did, but at this point there is no foreseeable way in which Trump’s presidency cannot end in ignominy, whatever the nature of his departure.