Trump’s Nixon moment?

Trump’s Nixon moment?

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U.S. President Donald Trump‘s dramatic decision to sack Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) chief James Comey
 hardly escapes comparisons with the 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre”. On 
October 20 that year, Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the special 
prosecutor investigating Watergate, after he subpoenaed the President 
for copies of White House tapes. The decision triggered immediate storm 
inside his own Cabinet as two top law enforcement officials – 
Attorney-General Elliot Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus – 
quit the government instead of obeying their boss.

Nixon may have thought then that 
he could save his presidency by removing a defiant prosecutor, but his 
action actually deepened the Watergate crisis which led to his eventual 
impeachment a year later. Since then, no American President has 
dismissed a top law enforcement official conducting an investigation 
which has a direct bearing on him, until Mr. Trump’s decision. Mr. Comey
 had been heading an investigation to find if there was collusion 
between Mr. Trump’s campaign team and the Russian government. Unlike 
Nixon, Mr. Trump appears to have the support of his Cabinet members. The
 Justice Department, headed by his close ally Jeff Sessions, stands firmly behind him. Further, unlike Cox, Mr. Comey is not a special prosecutor designated to probe any scandal
 involving the President. The White House says his dismissal was over 
Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton e-mail leaks, and has nothing to do 
with the Russia probe. Still, Mr. Trump’s decision could have far-reaching consequences both on the ongoing investigation and his presidency.

The order
 comes at a time when ‘Russiagate’ is widening – just hours before 
Mr. Comey was fired, former Acting Attorney-General Sally Yates 
testified before a Senate Committee that she had warned Mr. Trump that the credentials of Michael Flynn,
 his initial pick for National Security Advisor, may have been 
compromised by his links with Russia. This only reinforces the 
theory that Mr. Trump is wary of the FBI probe, and it is not a secret 
that Mr. Comey is beyond his direct control. Further, in a short 
dismissal letter, Mr. Trump said: “…I greatly appreciate you informing 
me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation…” The
 “investigation” Mr. Trump here refers to is the same 
‘Russia connection’ his administration officials are trying to de-link 
from the dismissal decision, showing how entangled they are in 

Nixon and Trump. Trump’s
firing of the FBI head is
reminiscent of the 1973
‘Saturday Night Massacre”
Photo courtesy Odyssey


Also, Mr. Trump may have thought that 
his decision could get support from sections of the Democrats 
particularly upset with Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton e-mails, 
which they think cost her the presidency. However, the Democrats were 
the first to blast the “Nixonian” decision, and asked for setting up of a
 special prosecutor to probe the Russia link. If Mr. Trump doesn’t agree
 to that, suspicions about the real reason behind Mr. Comey’s ouster 
will only increase. If he does, ‘Russiagate’ will continue to haunt 
him. Either way, Mr. Trump has just made the crisis worse, like Nixon 
did by firing Cox.


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