Worse Than Watergate: Trump's Constitutional Crisis

05/10/2017 04:26 pm ET Updated May 10, 2017
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

It’s difficult to express the deep irony of Donald Trump sitting down with Henry Kissinger for a photo-op the day after he ousted FBI Director James Comey, who’s in the middle of investigating him and his cronies, and which has sparked the most serious Constitutional crisis since Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” of October 20, 1973.

Kissinger was Secretary of State at the time and had already turned the U.S. Constitution into Swiss cheese by assisting Nixon in many of his most destructive foreign adventures including the “secret” bombing of Cambodia. From February 8, 1973 until the Democratic Congress cut off the funds on August 15, 1973, Nixon and Kissinger unleashed the B-52s on Cambodia dropping over 230,000 tons of bombs, which spread terror throughout the countryside and created the conditions that enlarged the ranks of the Khmer Rouge. (Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow, 2015, p. 176.)

A month before the “Saturday Night Massacre,” on September 11, 1973, Kissinger was instrumental in overthrowing the government of Chile, Latin America’s longest-standing democracy under President Salvador Allende, and replacing it with one of Latin America’s longest lasting dictatorships under General Augusto Pinochet.

Nixon abused the IRS, the CIA, and FBI for political purposes and approved illegal wiretaps for government employees. He ordered the “shadowing” of a U.S. senator by a private investigator, and the burglaries of offices of political enemies all over the country.

Tape recordings bear out Nixon’s criminal intent:

[W]hen Nixon believed potentially damaging documents were held in a safe at the Brookings Institution in Washington, he demanded at a meeting in the Oval Office that his subordinates break into the office and get them: “I want it implemented, Goddamnit, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.” In another tape, Nixon ordered the payment of hush money to the Watergate burglars, telling White House Counsel John W. Dean, “Let us suppose that you get, you, you get a million bucks, and you get the proper way to handle it, and you could hold that side. It would seem to me that would be worthwhile.” And in yet another tape, he advocated using the IRS to harass Democratic Party contributors, telling his aide H.R. “Bob” Haldeman: “Bob, please get me the names of the Jews, you know, the big Jewish contributors of the Democrats. All right. Could we please investigate some of the cocksuckers?” (Quoted in “Politics, Public Opinion, and Popular Culture,” by Joseph A. Palermo in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon, edited by Henry P. Jeffrey and Thomas Maxwell-Long, 2004, pp. 20-21.)

Kissinger was Nixon’s confidante during the entire time when he committed some of his most egregious abuses of power and blatant criminality. So when it comes to the Executive Branch abusing its power (and in Kissinger’s case killing scores of innocent people in the process) there’s probably no better counsel for Trump to turn to than the war criminal Henry Kissinger.

Watergate 2.0

Trump’s unceremonious dumping of FBI Director Comey shortly after he requested more money to continue the FBI’s investigation of Trump and his cronies’ connections to a foreign power is only the latest episode in a clear pattern of authoritarian abuse of power.

The guy tweets constantly, petulantly calling people names like an ill-mannered six-year-old. He has no respect for the separation of powers amidst the government he heads, taking every opportunity to trash the judicial branch whenever a judge rules against one of his unconstitutional executive orders such as the Muslim ban. He attacks the free press at the slightest criticism of him as “fake news.” And he has expressed admiration for tyrants around the world.

Republican Partisanship Über Alles

The hyper-partisan Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (whose wife is Trump’s Secretary of Transportation) would stand behind Trump even if he pulled out a gun on Fifth Avenue and shot someone. When it comes to the alleged ties of Team Trump to the Russian government, if there really is “no there, there,” as Trump surrogate Sarah Huckabee Sanders claims, then they’re sure not acting like it.

We know Trump is a liar, demagogue, and hypocrite who has no respect for U.S. institutions, political norms or traditions. The Trump White House apparently believes it can just muscle through the Constitutional crisis by spewing lies and propaganda, distraction and smears. A president who routinely refers to the Senate Minority Leader as “Cryin’ Chuck” is not remotely interested in working with the opposition party. Kellyanne’s bullshit and Huckabee’s folksy southern charm aren’t going to be enough to shelve this crisis because it involves the Executive Branch behaving as if it’s above the law.

Trump sent his butler and consigliere, Keith Schiller, to hand deliver the Comey firing letter to FBI headquarters when Comey was in Los Angeles – a dick move even by Washington’s standards.

Like Trump shooting off his mouth coming back to haunt him about the Muslim ban, his effusive praise for Comey when he was a candidate will come back too. What Trump did is simple: He has thrown dirt into the gears of any serious ongoing investigation in which he may be implicated.

Context Matters

The biggest difference between the current Constitutional crisis and Watergate is the political context. Back in the early-1970s, the Democrats had power in the House and the Senate and many of the Republicans of that era still retained a semblance of a commitment to public service and patriotism.

Today, we have Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress who are so craven and corrupt they’re willing to sell the country out in pursuit of empowering the already powerful. Mitch McConnell has already made it clear that the Senate will kill any attempts to appoint a special committee to examine what is potentially the most serious Constitutional crisis since Watergate. Even the abuses of power from an authoritarian madman like Trump won’t get a rise out of the Republicans on Capitol Hill.

After appointing Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama as Attorney General and firing Comey, Trump can now begin the process of putting his puppets in control of the federal police and the Department of Justice. (That’s how the Gestapo got started in Germany.) The decision to fire Comey was made the minute he announced to Congress on March 20 that the FBI had an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government.

If there really is “no there, there” then why doesn’t Trump release his tax returns to show he has no dubious financial ties with corrupt Russian oligarchs? Why stand by Michael Flynn even after being notified he was compromised? Why fire the Acting Attorney General and smear her as a partisan? Why fire Comey?

Even if Nixon had Twitter back in 1973 I doubt if his tweets would be so childish and buffoonish. Nixon was a crook, but he wasn’t an insane fascistic man-baby crook.

As usual Trump continues to spew goofy invective via twitter at anyone who challenges His Majesty, so I’ll give our petulant man-baby president the last word:

“Dems have been complaining for months & months about Dir. Comey. Now that he has been fired they PRETEND to be aggrieved. Phony hypocrites!”

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

CONVERSATIONS