Water­gate with out­sourc­ing

Nixon at least hired Amer­i­cans for the job. So much for ‘Amer­ica first.’

Los Angeles Times - - NEWS - DOYLE Mc­MANUS Mc­Manus’ col­umn ap­pears on Sun­day and Wed­nes­day.

Give Richard M. Nixon credit: When he set out to sab­o­tage his op­po­nents in a U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, at least he hired Amer­i­cans for the job.

Pres­i­dent Trump out­sourced his dirty tricks over­seas, ask­ing Ukraine to help de­stroy former Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den.

It has landed Trump in a Water­gate-size world of trou­ble.

The 37th pres­i­dent’s path to his ig­no­ble res­ig­na­tion may be the best guide we have to the pos­si­ble fu­ture of the 45th — although that doesn’t mean the two scan­dals will end the same way.

Still, the sim­i­lar­i­ties are un­de­ni­able. In both cases, a pres­i­dent was ac­cused of abus­ing his power in an at­tempt to hob­ble one of his Demo­cratic op­po­nents. The ini­tial al­le­ga­tions led to oth­ers, in­clud­ing charges of il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions to the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion ef­forts.

On Thurs­day, 17 fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors from the Water­gate case pub­lished an open let­ter charg­ing that Trump is guilty of the same of­fenses that brought Nixon down: abuse of power, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and con­tempt of Congress.

“The same three ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment could be spec­i­fied against Trump, as he has demon­strated se­ri­ous and per­sis­tent abuses of power that in our view sat­isfy the con­sti­tu­tional stan­dard of high crimes and mis­de­meanors,” they wrote in the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Nixon tried to tam­per with the 1972 elec­tion when he was seek­ing a se­cond term. First he sent un­der­cover agents to sab­o­tage the cam­paign of Sen. Ed­mund S. Muskie of Maine, the Democrats’ early fron­trun­ner.

Then Nixon’s ham-fisted “plumbers” broke into a Demo­cratic Party of­fice in Wash­ing­ton’s Water­gate com­plex to plant lis­ten­ing de­vices, only to be thwarted by a se­cu­rity guard. A twoyear who­dunit re­vealed nu­mer­ous other crimes. Nixon quit af­ter Se­nate Repub­li­cans warned him he’d be ousted from of­fice in an im­peach­ment trial.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans still sup­port Trump — but his Ukraine im­broglio has moved at warp speed com­pared with Water­gate. The House’s im­peach­ment in­quiry only be­gan on Sept. 24.

Both pres­i­dents tried to shield them­selves by hold­ing onto pub­lic sup­port — but both lost ground as ev­i­dence of their mis­con­duct piled up.

In Nixon’s case, pub­lic sen­ti­ment changed slowly. Sup­port for his im­peach­ment didn’t reach 50% un­til June 1974, two years af­ter the Water­gate bur­glary.

Trump’s polls hit that mark less than a month af­ter the White House re­leased a rough tran­script of a call that showed Trump had pressed Ukraine’s pres­i­dent for a “fa­vor,” an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies. Last week, a Fox News poll found that 51% of the pub­lic al­ready fa­vors Trump’s re­moval from of­fice.

Much of that sen­ti­ment is par­ti­san. Some 85% of Democrats fa­vored re­mov­ing Trump from the White House, ac­cord­ing to the poll, while 82% of Repub­li­cans said he shouldn’t be im­peached at all.

But the pres­i­dent’s GOP base may not be as solid as it looks. A Wash­ing­ton Post-Schar School poll found that 28% of Repub­li­cans sup­port House Democrats’ de­ci­sion to open an im­peach­ment in­quiry, and al­most 1 in 5 Repub­li­cans said they fa­vor re­mov­ing Trump from of­fice.

If those num­bers grow, the pres­i­dent is in se­ri­ous trou­ble.

What changed pub­lic opin­ion dur­ing Water­gate was a slow pa­rade of hor­rors: rev­e­la­tions of pres­i­den­tial mis­con­duct, more tales of po­lit­i­cal sab­o­tage, il­le­gal cam­paign cash, wit­ness tam­per­ing and pres­i­den­tial de­nials that turned out to be false.

A sim­i­lar pat­tern is be­gin­ning to ap­pear in the Trump White House.

Two as­so­ci­ates of Trump lawyer Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani were ar­rested last week on charges of fun­nel­ing il­le­gal for­eign con­tri­bu­tions into a pro-Trump su­per PAC. And Trump’s record of deny­ing al­most ev­ery charge against him, only to ad­mit some of them later, is lav­ish.

Both pres­i­dents tried to block in­ves­ti­ga­tions by re­fus­ing to give Congress doc­u­ments and tes­ti­mony. In both cases, cracks in the wall quickly ap­peared. De­spite a White House de­cree that no Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials will co­op­er­ate with the im­peach­ment in­quiry, sev­eral cur­rent or former of­fi­cials have tes­ti­fied be­hind closed doors, with more to come.

There are ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences be­tween the two cases — and they may be as im­por­tant as the sim­i­lar­i­ties.

The two po­lit­i­cal par­ties are far more po­lar­ized and dis­ci­plined now than in Nixon’s day. In 1974, mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tive Democrats formed what they called a “frag­ile coali­tion” to sup­port Nixon’s im­peach­ment, which gave the House ef­fort a bi­par­ti­san sheen. One of the lead­ers was Rep. Wil­liam S. Co­hen (RMaine), who later served as sec­re­tary of De­fense un­der Pres­i­dent Clin­ton.

No such bi­par­ti­san coali­tion ex­ists to­day, be­cause al­most no mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans or con­ser­va­tive Democrats are left. Im­peach­ing Trump is a par­ti­san cause so far.

In that re­spect, it re­sem­bles the House Repub­li­cans’ im­peach­ment of Clin­ton in 1998, which led to a trial in the Se­nate and the ac­quit­tal of the pres­i­dent. The im­peach­ment ef­fort never at­tracted Demo­cratic sup­port.

Water­gate teaches one more les­son: Im­peach­ments are un­pre­dictable.

Nixon was de­ter­mined to defy his en­e­mies, but his own words proved his un­do­ing. Se­cretly recorded Oval Of­fice tapes showed he had per­son­ally di­rected a coverup; once mem­bers of Congress saw the tran­scripts, he was out the door in three days. Trump’s words — and Oval Of­fice tran­scripts — may come back to haunt him too.

Jim Lo Scalzo EPA/Shuttersto­ck

DE­VEL­OP­MENTS at the Trump White House are mir­ror­ing those that led to Pres­i­dent Nixon’s res­ig­na­tion.

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