WASHINGTON — Echoes of Watergate are reverberating off the walls in the halls of Congress. An impeachment inquiry was launched by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., though she and the Democrats would be well advised to focus on the word “inquiry” instead of “impeachment” until sufficient evidence has been accumulated to sway an always-skeptical public and an even more skeptical Republican-controlled Senate.
Impeachment of course does not mean removal, and the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to provide the two-thirds super majority needed to remove President Donald Trump from office.
Only two Senate Republicans, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have said publicly they are troubled by Trump’ apparent leveraging of U.S. aid to Ukraine in exchange for its willingness to provide unsavory information about his potential Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Trump’s effort to extort Ukraine to help his reelection is potentially worse than Watergate since it involves foreign powers. Ukraine is actively engaged in a war with Russia and the country relies on U.S. aid and weaponry to resist ongoing Russian incursions.
Trump has shown no interest in holding Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for his previous incursion, the seizing of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Instead, he shrugs off the illegal annexation as Putin “out-smarting” President Barack Obama who failed to stop him.
Pelosi authorized the ongoing investigations of six House committees looking into these latest charges plus Trump’s payoffs to women and his refusal to turn over his tax records as required by law to the House Ways and Means committee. He is also facing a potential impeachment charge related to violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause that disallow foreign gifts or extra compensation from the U.S. government.
‘The smoking gun’
During the Watergate era, Republicans stood behind President Richard Nixon until they learned of the existence of a White House taping system. An incriminating tape known as “the smoking gun” implicated Nixon in the cover-up of the break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters.
The whistleblower who reported on Trump’s abuse of power with Ukraine also revealed the existence of a separate White House computer server where the recording of the July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy can be found.
Meanwhile, Trump is on the attack. Meeting with U.S. embassy personnel in New York on Thursday morning, Trump called the whistleblower’s source “almost a spy” and his/her actions treasonous. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Nixon had his silent majority, but once Watergate closed in, they were gone. Trump has his army of red hats, partisans fueled by Fox News and a conservative media apparatus, and they’re a long way from giving up on the guy who warned about a fictional Deep State, fake news, and rigged elections; the guy who promised to make America great — if not civil — again. And, even Nixon never spoke about hanging Woodward and Bernstein.
— Twitter: @douglas_cohn