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The new Nixonian era

By Kyle ToddinghamMay 12, 2017

Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon Washington Bureau / Stringer

Remember sitting in history class and learning about President Nixon and Watergate and thinking “how could that have happened?” Or feeling like “there’s no way something like that could ever happen again.” 


It has. This week the current Presidential Administration has drawn eerily similar occurrences and characteristics to the Nixon Administration. The firing of FBI Director James Comey has instigated a chain of events that for some politicians and journalists, who were working in Washington DC during the Nixon Administration, feels disturbingly reminiscent of the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973.

The President and his administration are being criticized for trying to impede the investigation into their possible (and plausible) collusion with Russia during the 2016 election and beyond. This is similar to President Nixon attempting to halt the investigation into his role in the Watergate scandal. 

As a reminder, Watergate is in reference to the 1972 break in by five men, suspected of being Nixon’s aides, into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington. The DNC was bugged and numerous files were stolen in order to sabotage and defeat them for Nixon’s re-election.

There are several eerily similar parallels between the Nixon Administration prior to his forced resignation and what’s currently occurring in the Trump Administration.

Campaign misconduct

Nixon’s campaign sent aides to break into the DNC and use the information to dismantle the democratic candidates from running against him in 1972. At the time, the Washington Post stated in an article published on October 10, 1972, that “Following members of Democratic candidates' families and assembling dossiers on their personal lives; forging letters and distributing them under the candidates' letterheads; leaking false and manufactured items to the press; throwing campaign schedules into disarray; seizing confidential campaign files; and investigating the lives of dozens of Democratic campaign workers.”

It has been proven and confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies that Russia hacked and interfered with the 2016 presidential election, and hacked the DNC in order to benefit the Trump campaign. Trump’s campaign is now under investigation for having knowingly colluded with Russia in this effort. There is what seems to be an ever-growing number of ties between the Trump campaign (and now administration) with Russia.

Firing investigators

Archibald Cox was appointed special prosecutor in May of 1973 by then Attorney General Richardson to investigate Watergate and the White House’s possible cover-up of its involvement. Cox demanded the White House turn over its taped conversations - since it was found that Nixon began recording all his conversations after 1972 - as well as documents. By October of that year, Nixon ordered AG Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and resigned. Nixon then went to the Deputy AG, William Ruckelshaus, and asked the same. He too refused and resigned. Nixon then went to the #3 in line, Solicitor General Robert Bork. Following suit, Bork refused and resigned. This composed the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

This week, President Trump suddenly dismissed FBI Director James Comey, citing in a bizarre letter that it was due to his handling of the Hillary Clinton emails. He went on to say in the letter that Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation. Both Democrats and Republicans have been thrown by this sudden termination, and specifically, the timing of it. Comey has been in the middle of investigating Trump and his campaign and was due to testify further about it to the Senate Intelligence Committee. This also comes after Trump abruptly dismissed former AG Sally Yates as well as US Attorney Preet Bharara - both of whom were also involved in investigating Trump and his team.

Inconsistent White House spokespeople

During Nixon’s presidency, press secretary Ron Ziegler steadfastly represented the office of the President during his countless press briefings explaining away the ever-changing stories of the Watergate break-in and investigation. He even went on to say, during a briefing, that his previous inaccurate statements were “inoperative.”

In an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt that aired May 11, 2017, the President said he planned to fire Comey regardless of recommendations. Directly contradicting what the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as Vice President Pence had stated the day prior. 

Current FBI Director McCabe said on May 11, 2017 that the investigation is “highly significant,” another contradiction to Deputy Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that the investigation is very low on the list of work the FBI is doing. McCabe also said that it is not standard protocol for a director to tell the President or anyone being investigated whether or not they are being investigated, as per President Trump’s letter firing Director Comey.

Once again the White House is now on the record lying or misinforming the American people. The White House’s credibility is crumbling in front of the American public.

The story continues to bizarrely unfold with President Trump tweeting this morning: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” This tweet can only be taken as a thinly veiled threat to former FBI Director Comey - and is clear witness tampering, if not full obstruction of justice. 

The parallels to the fall of the Nixon Administration are continuing to mount with the Trump Administration. Echoes of the past are resurfacing as we speak, so I ask will history repeat itself? Are we in a new Nixonian era? 

Share your thoughts below in the comments!