“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme” Ken Burns: Historian and documentary film-maker.
Forty-four years ago, the administration of Richard Nixon found itself caught in the vortex of the investigation into the Watergate scandal. On October 29, 1973, the president made the fatal decision to try to derail those proceedings, by ordering his Attorney General Eliot Richardson, to fire the inquiry’s Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned in protest. Nixon then turned to William Ruckelshaus to undertake the axing. He followed Richardson’s lead and resigned in protest. It was left to Robert Bork who finally acceded to Nixon’s order and so, Cox was gone.
The series of events cited above famously became known as “The Saturday night massacre”. It ultimately led to the appointment of Leon Jaworski as Special Prosecutor who vigorously exercised his mandate to get to the truth. In the end, the accumulation of evidence against Nixon became so overwhelming that even members of his own party in Congress saw that his impeachment was inevitable. They so informed the president and, to avoid that stain on his record, Nixon came forward on August 8, 1994 to announce his resignation.
Is there a “rhyme” now?
Less than a week ago, on May 9th, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. This move was questioned, for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that very different narratives surfaced regarding who was responsible: The White House Communications Office contended that 45 acted on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Director of the Justice Department, Ron Rosenstein; whereas Trump claimed that it was he and he alone who came to the decision to remove Comey; what Sessions and/or Rosenstein said simply didn’t matter. He claimed that under Comey’s leadership, the FBI was “in turmoil” and that the Director “wasn’t up to the job” of leading anything or anyone .
But, it had already been well-established that Comey, as Director of the FBI, was heading up the Bureau’s counter-intelligence investigation that implicitly involved a number of Trump associates; i.e. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Connor Page. Furthermore, it seemed clear that Comey was going to put himself beyond the reach of any interference by Trump. Investigative reporters and pundits with a grasp of Watergate history, justifiably became suspicious, their concerns reinforced by Comey’s temporary replacement Andrew McCabe, who flatly rejected Trump’s description of the FBI under Comey.
From the date of the Saturday Night massacre to that of Nixon’s resignation, 279 days passed. During that period, there were just two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who were doggedly chasing down Watergate leads. There was neither the Internet, nor cable news political talks shows to keep the public apprised of what was going on.
Will investigations into Russia’s meddling in our 2016 election, and possible collusion between team Trump and the Russians proceed at the same or a different pace? These issues will move towards resolution at a rate that will be determined, to some extent at least, by the outcomes of several congressional investigations that are now running roughly in parallel with the FBI’s. It is no small matter that every one of the former is under the control of a Republican chairman. Given the extreme political polarization that exists today, these individuals have it in their power to slow-walk or otherwise impede the search for the truth. This state of affairs raises the question: “Will they put country ahead of party as they should?”
We have entered an intensely important time so stay tuned and engaged. Tick-tock !!