The Myth of Watergate Bipartisanship

Reporters and political commentators often express frustrated surprise at the steadfast support of President Trump from most Republicans in the House and Senate. But they shouldn’t — it has happened before.

In fact, when these critics refer back to the Watergate era as a time of bipartisan commitment to the rule of law over politics, they get it exactly wrong. Defending the president at all costs, blaming investigators and demonizing journalists was all part of the Republican playbook during the political crisis leading up to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

.. In late 1972, when a Democratic congressman, Wright Patman of Texas, began to investigate connections between Mr. Nixon’s aides and the Watergate burglary, the House Republican leader, Gerald Ford of Michigan (who later succeeded Mr. Nixon as president), called it a “political witch hunt,” according to the historian Stanley I. Kutler in his book “The Wars of Watergate.”

.. Ted Stevens, a Republican senator from Alaska, repeated Mr. Ford’s warning that the investigation could become a “political witch hunt,” according to Mr. Kutler.

.. When Mr. Baker famously asked, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” during the Watergate hearings, he meant to protect Mr. Nixon in the mistaken belief that the president didn’t know about the Watergate cover-up until many months after it occurred.

The question backfired once evidence mounted that Mr. Nixon was involved in the cover-up from the start, and Mr. Baker eventually became a critic of the president.

After it was revealed in July 1973 that Mr. Nixon had secretly taped conversations, Mr. Ford said he found nothing wrong with the president’s practices. Republican Senator John Tower of Texas later warned Congress not to get caught up in “the hysteria of Watergate.”

Most congressional Republicans rallied around Mr. Nixon when the White House released edited transcripts of those tapes in April 1974 that showed Mr. Nixon scheming with his aides. As the House Judiciary Committee began debating possible impeachment in July, Representative Delbert Latta of Ohio said the evidence failed to prove Mr. Nixon’s direct involvement in Watergate.

.. Mr. Latta and most other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted against all articles of impeachment on July 27-30, 1974. Eleven of 17 Republicans voted against the obstruction-of-justice article, 10 of 17 opposed the abuse-of-power resolution, and 15 of 17 voted against the article based on the president’s refusal to produce tapes in response to the committee’s subpoenas.

.. More Republicans abandoned Mr. Nixon on the obstruction-of-justice charge only after he complied with the Supreme Court’s order on Aug. 5, releasing the “smoking gun” tapes that proved he had ordered a cover-up of the Watergate crimes. Still, many party members of the Judiciary Committee later filed reports arguing that Mr. Nixon was innocent of two of the three articles of impeachment sent to the full House.

.. During Watergate, most Republicans in Congress supported Mr. Nixon until the tapes provided undeniable evidence that he had obstructed justice. It remains to be seen whether current party leaders will support Mr. Trump no matter what evidence Mr. Mueller’s investigation unearths about the conduct of the president and his aides. Such behavior might be unwarranted, but it won’t be unprecedented.

Mueller Examining Trump’s Tweets in Wide-Ranging Obstruction Inquiry

WASHINGTON — For years, President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, mounting a barrage of attacks on celebrities and then political rivals even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself.

Those concerns now turn out to be well founded. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to three people briefed on the matter.

.. Several of the remarks came as Mr. Trump was also privately pressuring the men — both key witnesses in the inquiry — about the investigation, and Mr. Mueller is examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry.

.. Trump’s lawyers said. They argued that most of the presidential acts under scrutiny, including the firing of Mr. Comey, fall under Mr. Trump’s authority as the head of the executive branch and insisted that he should not even have to answer Mr. Mueller’s questions about obstruction.

But privately, some of the lawyers have expressed concern that Mr. Mueller will stitch together several episodes, encounters and pieces of evidence, like the tweets, to build a case that the president embarked on a broad effort to interfere with the investigation. Prosecutors who lack one slam-dunk piece of evidence in obstruction cases often search for a larger pattern of behavior, legal experts said.

.. the nature of the questions they want to ask the president, and the fact that they are scrutinizing his actions under a section of the United States Code titled “Tampering With a Witness, Victim, or an Informant,” raised concerns for his lawyers about Mr. Trump’s exposure in the investigation.

.. “If you’re going to obstruct justice, you do it quietly and secretly, not in public,” Mr. Giuliani said.

.. federal investigators are seeking to determine whether Mr. Trump was trying to use his power to punish anyone who did not go along with his attempts to curtail the investigation.

.. Investigators want to ask Mr. Trump about the tweets he wrote about Mr. Sessions and Mr. Comey and why he has continued to publicly criticize Mr. Comey and the former deputy F.B.I. director Andrew G. McCabe, another witness against the president.

.. They also want to know about a January episode in the Oval Office in which Mr. Trump asked the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, about reports that Mr. McGahn told investigators about the president’s efforts to fire Mr. Mueller himself last year.

.. Mr. Trump has navigated the investigation with a mix of public and private cajoling of witnesses.

.. Around the time he said publicly last summer that he would have chosen another attorney general had he known Mr. Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Mr. Trump tried behind closed doors to persuade Mr. Sessions to reverse that decision. The special counsel’s investigators have also learned that Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Sessions to resign at varying points in May and July 2017 so he could replace him with a loyalist to oversee the Russia investigation.

.. Mr. Trump issued an indirect threat the next day about Mr. Comey’s job. “It’s not too late” to ask him to step down as F.B.I. director, he said in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network. The special counsel wants to ask the president what he meant by that remark.

.. Mr. Sessions, his aide told a Capitol Hill staff member, wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, a person familiar with the meeting has said.

.. By the fall, Mr. Comey had become a chief witness against the president in the special counsel investigation, and Mr. Trump’s ire toward him was well established. His personal attacks evolved into attacks on Mr. Comey’s work, publicly calling on the Justice Department to examine his handling of the Clinton inquiry — and drawing the special counsel’s interest.

.. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have pushed back against the special counsel about the tweets, saying the president is a politician under 24-hour attack and is within his rights to defend himself using social media or any other means.

.. The president continues to wield his Twitter account to pummel witnesses and the investigation itself, ignoring any legal concerns or accusations of witness intimidation.

 

How to Roll Back Fanaticism

We’re living in an age of anxiety. The country is being transformed by complex forces like changing demographics and technological disruption. Many people live within a bewildering freedom, without institutions to trust, unattached to compelling religions and sources of meaning, uncertain about their own lives. Anxiety is not so much a fear of a specific thing but a fear of everything, an unnamable dread about the future.

.. Donald Trump is the perfect snake oil salesman for this moment. He lacks inwardness and therefore is terrified by the possibility of anxiety. He has been escaping self-scrutiny his whole life and has become a genius at the self-exculpating rationalization. He took a nation beset by uncertainty and he gave it a series of “explanations” that were simple, crude, affirming and wrong.

.. Trump gave people a quick pass out of anxiety. Everything could be blamed on foreigners, the idiotic elites. The problems are clear, and the answers are easy.

.. The alt-right, which has emerged in support of the Trump administration, is marked by the same conspiratorial epistemology. It provides explanations for complex events that allow its followers to avoid anxiety.

  • .. The world is secretly controlled by the globalists.
  • The Sandy Hook school shooting never happened.
  • There’s a child abuse ring run by Clintonites out of a pizzeria in Northwest D.C.
  • All the ambiguities of life can be explained by pointing to the malevolent webs of secret power

.. If the alt-right thinks the globalists secretly and malevolently control society, the neo-Nazis go back to the original version and believe that a conspiracy of Jewish bankers does. For them, tribalism is not only a way to feel some vestige of pride in their own lonely selves, it’s also an explanatory tool.

.. The world can be a bewildering place, but not if you see it as a righteous war between whites and blacks, between straights and gays. The neo-Nazis are not the first group to discover that war is a force that can give an empty life meaning, even a race war.

.. The age of anxiety inevitably leads to an age of fanaticism, as people seek crude palliatives for the dizziness of freedom.

.. I’m beginning to think the whole depressing spectacle of this moment — the Trump presidency and beyond — is caused by a breakdown of intellectual virtue, a breakdown in America’s ability to face evidence objectively, to pay due respect to reality, to deal with complex and unpleasant truths.

.. In fact, the most powerful answer to fanaticism is modesty. Modesty is an epistemology directly opposed to the conspiracy mongering mind-set.

.. Progress is not made by crushing some swarm of malevolent foes; it’s made by finding balance between competing truths —

  • between freedom and security,
  • ‘diversity and solidarity.

There’s always going to be counter-evidence and mystery.

Can Taylor Swift Lead America Out of the Campus Title IX Wars?

Denver radio personality named David Mueller. At issue is a brief encounter in June 2013. Mueller and his girlfriend took a picture with Swift after a concert. Swift said that Mueller groped her by putting his hand on her behind.

.. Incredibly — and in spite of the awkward pictorial evidence — Mueller sued Swift, attempting to hold her responsible for his lost salary and other business opportunities. Rather than settle the case quietly, Swift did something unusual. She countersued — asking for only $1 in damages — and demanded a jury trial.

.. Swift is showing America — in the most public way possible — that when it comes to adjudicating claims of sexual assault, the choice isn’t a binary one between criminal prosecution and campus kangaroo courts. There’s a third option: civil litigation.

.. Accused students are often denied any substantial legal assistance, access to witnesses, full information about the charges against them, the power to conduct legal discovery, and the ability to effectively question their accusers.

.. completely ignore standard rules of evidence.

.. Civil litigation requires plaintiffs to prove their case only by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Moreover, a plaintiff runs her own case. She can choose to file, she can choose her lawyers, and she can choose to settle. Courts also have far more power than campus tribunals. Unlike a campus court, they can issue injunctions and order defendants to pay compensatory and monetary damages.

.. At the same time, however, the accused enjoys the full array of due-process rights. He can use a lawyer. He has a right to see the evidence against him, a right to question witnesses, and a right confront his accuser. Oh, and the case goes before an impartial judge and a jury of his peers, not an ideologically stacked tribunal of social-justice warriors. The civil-litigation system corrects all the due-process flaws of campus kangaroo courts while also granting the accuser far more power to seek justice for wrongdoing.

.. when the court case is over, the university could take action based on the results — results obtained through the use of full and appropriate due process.

.. There’s simply no way to easily, cheaply, and justly adjudicate sexual-misconduct claims. And there’s certainly no way to painlessly try these cases. It took bravery for Swift to make her claims. But bravery can be contagious ..

The predawn raid of Paul Manafort’s home adds huge intrigue to Russia probe

One anonymous adviser close to the White House seemed exasperated that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III saw fit to spring the search warrant on Manafort. “If the FBI wanted the documents, they could just ask him and he would have turned them over,” the adviser told Leonnig. But Mueller’s team told a federal judge that they, for some reason, believed Manafort couldn’t be trusted to turn over the records it needed if subpoenaed.

.. What seems clear is that Manafort is looking like an increasingly major wild card in this whole investigation. After leaving the Trump campaign months before Trump was elected, he’s been lurking largely in the background of a series of revelations about possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Most notably, he attended that meeting Donald Trump Jr. organized with a Russian lawyer who had promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton and Democrats.

.. Manafort’s contemporaneous notes from that meeting, the existence of which The Post previously reported, seem to be one of the few windows we have into what exactly transpired. And given the shifting explanations from Trump Jr., they could be hugely significant to any questions about possible collusion emanating from it. (But, again, copies of these had already been turned over to Congress, and we don’t know if these notes are the reason for the search warrant.)

.. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.

When Does All That Evidence of Collusion Arrive?

Imagine a scenario where the FBI and prosecutors eventually can prove some underling violated the law — obstruction of justice? Lying to investigators? — but not Trump. Will Democrats accept that?

Pity the FBI and intelligence community. They have to get to the bottom of this in a world where just under half of Capitol Hill, most of the media, almost all of academia, a good portion of the think-tank world and “intellectual class” etc., believe that the real mission of the investigation is to correct the “error” of the 2016 election.

If you talk to Democrats lately, they speak not as if the voters merely made a mistake, but that somehow history itself has gone wrong. They speak we’re living in an alternative timeline, experiencing events that “weren’t supposed” to happen. In their eyes, Hillary Clinton was obviously so much more appealing that Trump. She led in the polls! She had so many more campaign offices! She spent so much more money! She ran so many more ads! Surely, a result like this must be the result of someone cheating.

Because so many Democrats associate Trump with apocalyptic threats — global warming, the sudden establishment of a repressive theocracy like The Handmaid’s Tale, nuclear confrontation, race wars — they all see themselves as their own personal Kyle Reeses, on a mission to save the future.

.. Mr. Trump’s presence is an opportunity for [Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] to show off his modernization effort. An extravaganza featuring something for everyone — the Harlem Globetrotters taking on a Saudi basketball team, car races, country singer Toby Keith — is intended to convince Americans there is a new, open Saudi Arabia and Saudis that mixing cultures and sexes isn’t evil.

Report: House Intel Committee to See ‘Smoking Gun’ Evidence Obama Admin Spied on Trump Team

James Rosen of Fox News reports that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee will be presented with “smoking gun” evidence that “the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump.”

.. it should be duly noted that the Fox News report relies heavily upon a single source, without a single clue to this person’s identity or position. It’s not clear if this individual is connected to the intelligence community, or to the House Intelligence Committee.

.. Perhaps the material coming from the NSA will positively establish which, if any, Trump transition team members were caught up in the “incidental surveillance” Nunes described on Wednesday.