When a good friend of Donald Trump told PBS Newshour Monday evening that the President is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the spirit of Richard Nixon could be seen hovering over the White House.
Christopher Ruddy, a Mar-a-Lago golfing buddy of the president who is frequently used by Trump to share the great man’s thoughts, told CNN and others that Trump considers “Mueller is illegitimate as special counsel.”
Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media, a right wing outlet that often echoes Trump’s thinking, said he had not spoken directly to the president but to close aides.
Press secretary Sean Spicer didn’t deny or confirm it, saying only that Ruddy wasn’t authorized to speak for the President. Ruddy fired back, “Don’t waste time trying to undermine one of your few allies.”
Richard Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, on what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre on October 20, 1973, sealed Nixon’s fate. The issue had been Nixon’s refusal to turn over his secret recordings of Oval Office conversations.
After Trump fired James Comey in an attempt to quash the Russia scandal investigation, he warned the former FBI director that he’d “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” That threatening tweet brought to mind the Cox sacking.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified in the Senate Tuesday that only he has the authority to fire Mueller, but if the President gave him a “lawful and appropriate” order in writing, he would do it.
Trump refuses to say whether he was bluffing or really has recordings. He has said he would reveal that “soon,” and the House Intelligence Committee has requested they be turned over by June 23. If they even exist.
Trump has boxed himself in a corner. Given his reputation for bluffing – a gentle synonym for lying – will anyone believe him if he says there are no tapes? And if there are, he’s likely to turn them over the day after he releases his tax returns (remember his repeated campaign promises to make those returns public?).
In other words, Trump is fast becoming the new Nixon.
I was reminded of that when Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, was asked about Comey’s testimony that Trump had lied several times. She said, “I can definitively say the president is not a liar, and I think it’s frankly insulting it is asked.” And Nixon was not a crook.
He believes he is above the law, ignores the emoluments clause, makes growing enemies lists, has an obsession with leaks, wants to toss offending reporters in prison, has White House spokesmen with little credibility, has his own jargon for lying (Nixon: “inoperable” statements; Trump: “alternative facts”), leaking false and manufactured information to the media during the campaign, and they even share a dirty trickster in Robert Stone.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) is drafting an impeachment resolution that headmits won’t go anywhere, but he says he wants to “move things forward” by pressing the issue and he likes the public attention.
There’s another reason his resolution is dead on arrival. Like anything introduced by any Democrat in his highly polarized, Republican controlled Congress, it is doomed to fail. Substance has nothing to do it, the reason is strictly partisan. Republicans are in control and it will take more than oral sex with a White House intern to impeach one of their own.
But impeachment is a thought crossing the minds of many in Washington, not just Democrats. So far there is no hard evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, but the bottom line is grounds for impeachment are whatever a majority of the House and two thirds of the Senate say it is.