Tuesday, March 7, 2017

TRUMP WATCH #20 Are We in a Watergate Moment?


Some of the events of the past few weeks may feel eerily familiar to many of us who are old enough to have followed the slowly evolving events that began in June 1972 with the odd news of the arrest of “burglars” in the process of breaking-in and bugging Democratic National Committee Headquarters to the finale of this bizarre drama and national trauma more than two years later with President Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974.
For those of you who may not know or remember much about these unusual (even peculiar) events, you may wish to look at the Wikipedia Watergate Timeline ; and for those who have been trying to follow the blizzard of similarly unusual and peculiar events of the past few months related to the possible Trump-Russia connection, you may wish to look at Politico’s Trump-Russian timeline of events
I think you'll notice a number of striking similarities in how these two sets of events slowly evolved over time:
- the bugging of the DNC during presidential campaigns---illegal, but not in themselves consequential crimes
- the unraveling of increasingly convoluted attempts by presidential staff to cover-up for these clumsy activities by lying to the press and members of Congress, a perfect example of how the cover-up is often more serious and damaging than the crime
- the involvement of the intelligence community in investigating the initial “crimes”
- the questionable actions of the heads of the FBI and the CIA
- the firings and resignations of attorney generals and acting attorney generals
- the forced resignations of senior presidential advisors despite their defense by the President
- the call for and resistance to Special Prosecutors
- the ravings of paranoid Presidents
- the possibilities of impeachment
- the roles of Congressional hearings in ultimately bringing out the truth, sometimes, it seems, almost accidentally
- the role of the media in gradually bringing the truth to light
Consider, just some of the events of the past several months related to the alleged Trump-Russia connection:
- The growing body of evidence (throughout November and December) of Russian interference in the recently-concluded U.S. presidential elections (in Trump’s favor) and the instant derision of such reports by Trump and his surrogates who charge that these allegations are simply “ a political witch hunt”---the sour grapes reactions of sore losers
- President Obama’s Dec 29 ejection of 35 Russian intelligence operatives and the imposition of sanctions on Russian intelligence services as retaliation for the apparent Russian election-interference campaign
- The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (January 6) release of an unclassified report on conclusions of the CIA, FBI and NSA about Russian election interference
- The January 10 release of the so-called Dossier, containing allegedly compromising personal and financial information about Trump that the Russians could use to blackmail him; and Trump’s Twitter tirades, not only denying it all, but also accusing the media of being complicit in reporting such “fake news”
- The mid-January (pre-inauguration) news dribbling out about possible contacts that Trump’s national security advisor former-general Michael Flynn had with Russian officials; and VP Mike Pence’s (mistaken) assurance to the press and the American public that Flynn had NOT discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador
-The later-revealed January 29 briefing of now-President Trump that was conducted by Acting-Attorney General, Sally Yates, regarding the content of taped conversations of Flynn with the Russian Ambassador, revealing that Flynn had misled Pence on this matter
- The president’s highly unusual firing of acting-AG Yates on January 31, allegedly because of her refusal to carry out the President’s constitutionally questionable Muslim Travel Ban, but significantly just two days after her briefing of Trump about Flynn’s bugged telephone call [Compare the Watergate-related Saturday-night massacre.]
- Jeff Sessions’ Feb 9 confirmation as Attorney General and, on the same day, Trump’s little-noticed Executive Order, changing the order of succession at the Department of Justice if Sessions were to leave office prior to confirmation of Trump’s nominee for Deputy AG [Remember Republican Senator Howard Baker’s question: What did the President [Nixon] know and when did he know it?]
- Flynn’s Feb 13 resignation and Trump’s assertion that Flynn had done nothing wrong in meeting with the Russian Ambassador [Remember, Nixon’s defense of his closest aides, Haldeman and Ehrlichman when they were ultimately forced to resign as their illegal cover-up activities and lies were uncovered.]
- The February 14 revelations in the press and other media about extensive contact during the campaign by Trump campaign staff and others of his associates with Russian officials, followed immediately by Trump’s emphatic Twitter denials and ramped up charges of “fake news” and media conspiracy against him [Shades of Nixon!]
- The March 1 revelation by the Washington Post (less than 3 weeks after Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as AG) of his peculiar denials during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on January 10 of having had any meetings with the Russian Ambassador during the presidential campaign [Compare Alexander Butterfield’s almost accidental revelation in a Congressional hearing of the existence of a taping system in the White House.]
- Sessions' initial refusal to recuse himself from investigations into Russian attempts to influence the U.S. elections (and Trump’s total support of this stance), despite the increasingly vociferous demand by many Democratic congresspersons that Sessions should resign and the increasing pressure from even some Republican Senators that he should recuse himself
- Sessions’ March 2 announcement that he would recuse himself after all, leaving the investigation in the hands of the now-Acting AG, Dana Puente, and notably NOT Sally Yates, who would have been in charge if Trump had not fired her (about a month previously) shortly after she briefed him about Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian Ambassador [Compare Puente’s situation to Robert Bork, the last man standing after the Saturday Night Massacre.]
- Trump’s incredible Twitter accusations that President Obama had ordered the tapping of Trump’s telephones [Even Nixon never went that far in his paranoid ravings.]
- And, it ain't over yet; anyone want to bet on when Sessions will be forced to resign?
So, are we in a Watergate Moment or is it more like an over-the-top episode of House of Cards or a modern-day version of Shakespeare’s Richard the Third? What metaphor would you use to describe the events of the past few months related to the possible Trump-Russia connection? And where do you think it will end?
Personally, I think the truth will out, as it usually does, and that when it does it will be primarily because our constitutionally protected Free Press will exercise their right and responsibility to investigate and report the truth.

NOTE:
Sorry for the long delay since my last post (date). I have had to spend time preparing for our impending month long (March 19-April 19) trip to visit our grandchildren in Shanghai with side trips to other parts of China, as well as Vietnam, & Cambodia. Added to the usual trip prep has been making arrangements for leaving our new house during what is still winter in Vermont AND figuring out how to maintain MORNING PETE and/or TRUMP WATCH while I am in countries from which Internet access and outgoing postings can be uncertain, especially for Google-based communications and social media sites like Facebook. One idea I have been exploring is to see if any of the readers of my posts would be willing to make some guest postings. If you would be interested in doing so, please email me and we can discuss logistics of posting.
Another challenge (and opportunity) that I’ve been working to address is how to manage the increasing number of people requesting that I add them to my mailings and make available my past posts.
- MailChimp has been invaluable for sending new posts via email (instead of large group emails) and has made it quite easy to add people to my mailing list. However, it isn’t well-designed for sending out past posts and authoring in it requires some getting used to and I’m not sure how easy it would be for guests to use for postings.
I have just completed archiving all my posts since the day after the election on Blogger, so that now anyone will be able to find and share past and future posts at morningpete.com
- -Facebook seems to work fine for people who use it regularly, are my “Facebook Friends,” and know how to find my prior postings by entering my name in the search box at the upper left of their Facebook Home Page.
- I am also exploring other media publishing outlets with archiving and notification features like Medium, but so far none seem to particularly easy to use. Stay tuned.

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