7 differences between Trump turmoil and Watergate

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tags: Watergate, Nixon, Trump



Jon Marshall is the author of "Watergate's Legacy and the Press: The Investigative Impulse" (Northwestern University Press, 2011) and an assistant professor at Northwestern University's Medill School.

The media have been making frequent Watergate comparisons in recent days. A president who fires the man in charge of investigating him, rages against White House leaks and blames journalists for most everything — it's tempting to see similarities between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. While the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign in 1974 resembles in some ways the current investigations into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia, the analogy isn't perfect. Here are seven important differences in context and actions between the Trump and Nixon presidencies. ...

6. Trump's tweets: Nixon relied on press secretary Ron Ziegler and other Republican surrogates to defend his presidency and attack journalists who were investigating Watergate. Only during rare news conferences and special addresses did Nixon publicly mention Watergate, allowing him to stay above the fray for months following the break-in.

In contrast, Trump dives into the middle of the fray. He uses Twitter constantly to deny wrongdoing, denounce reporters and attack opponents, sometimes offering accounts of events that differ from what his aides previously said. His tweets energize his base of supporters while undermining the consistency of his defense.

7. Smoking gun: The Watergate investigation gained steam when the Senate's Ervin committee discovered the existence of Nixon's secret White House tapes in the summer of 1973. These tapes were the smoking gun that proved Nixon had illegally asked the CIA to stop the FBI's Watergate investigation. They confirmed his active role in the cover-up and forced his resignation.

Trump has hinted that he's recorded conversations, but so far there's no proof of any tapes that disclose criminal conduct. Unless a smoking gun like this appears, Trump may be able to avoid Nixon's fate while his administration continues to be rocked by turmoil.




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