bureaucracybusters

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

When the Senate Watergate Committee learned that President Richard M. Nixon had installed a secret taping system in the White House, they immediately subpoenaed all of his tapes.

So did Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Nixon fired Cox in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973.  But Cox was succeeded by another Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski–who also pursued the tapes.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court–which ruled, 8-0, that Nixon must give up the tapes.

One of the tapes revealed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the Watergate break-in. When news leaked of this, Nixon resigned to avoid the disgrace of impeachment in the House and certain conviction in the Senate.

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Richard M. Nixon

Now it appears that history is about to repeat itself–in the case of President Donald J. Trump.

And it has been touched off by his repeated use of Twitter as both a Presidential candidate and President.

When it was launched on July 16, 2006, Twitter was intended to be, according to Wikipedia, “an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, ‘tweets,’ restricted to 140 characters.”

It was never intended as a weapon of slander and intimidation. Yet, as both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

Even before taking office as President, Trump was haunted by charges that members of his 2016 Presidential campaign colluded with Russian Intelligence agents to secure his election. 

Trump has furiously and repeatedly denied this.

Yet, on May 11, no fewer than six top American intelligence officials testified before Congress that Russia acted to influence last year’s election.

These officials were:

  • Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence;
  • Michael Pompeo, CIA director;
  • Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency;
  • Lieutenant-General Vincent Stewart (USMC), director of the Defense Intelligence Agency;
  • Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and
  • Andrew McCabe, acting FBI director, installed after Trump fired the agency’s appointed director, James Comey.

Comey had been spearheading the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s “Russian connection.” In early May, 2017, he had asked the Justice Department to provide increased resources for the FBI’s investigation.

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FBI Headquarters

During a private White House dinner in January, Trump asked Comey to pledge his personal loyalty to him. Comey refused to do so.  

On May 9, Trump fired him.

Instead of doing so quietly and with dignity, Trump dispatched his longtime personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to FBI headquarters with the message: “You’re fired.” Comey was in the FBI’s Los Angeles field office speaking with agents when he learned of his dismissal in a TV news broadcast.

Not content with humiliating and dismissing Comey, Trump then threatened him in a May 12 tweet: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

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Having implied that he had secretly taped his conversation with Comey, Trump found himself besieged with the question: “Did you install a White House taping system similar to the one installed by President Richard Nixon?”

Trump has refused to answer–and so have his spokesmen and women.

Ironically, his latest use of a weaponized Twitter account may have doomed his Presidency. His threat to Comey has boxed him in with a series of dead-end scenarios.

Dead-end #1: If Trump taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, he broke the law.  (This has been explored in Part One of this series.)

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

The House and Senate have competing investigative committees probing “the Russian connection.” And no doubt they will soon issue subpoenas for any secret tapes Trump may have made.

And so will newly-appointed Special Counsel Robert Meuller, III, who served for 12 years as FBI director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appointment on May 17, citing “the unique circumstances [of] the public interest.” 

(Attorney General Jeff Sessions has supposedly recused himself from involvement in the Russian investigation–because he lied to Congress about his past contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during 2016.)

If he refuses to release them, Trump will touch off another Watergate-style conflict between the White House and Congress.

Dead-end #3: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he’s lying.

Dead-end #4: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he is a punk–for trying to intimidate the former FBI director with a baseless threat.

Dead-end #5: It’s impossible to prove a negative. So if Trump doesn’t have secret tapes to turn over, it will be impossible for him to prove he isn’t stonewalling in defiance of the law.

Dead-end #6: Trump’s brutal and unwarranted firing of James Comey on May 9 has infuriated the FBI’s 35,664 employees, of which 13,778 are Special Agents.

By earning the hatred of the most powerful investigative agency in the Federal Government, Trump has all-but-guaranteed his removal from office.

What began for the Bureau as a professional investigation into Russian sabotage has become a personal vendetta.

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