Since the beginning of the #TrumpRussia allegations, there's been a lot of talk about history's other most famous Presidential crook: Richard Nixon. His fateful demise in the mid-1970s feels especially relevant to this moment (especially to those of us who'd like to see Trump resign in disgrace), but many of us weren't alive for that shitshow so...we hit the books! Join us as we find out what we can learn from America's past experience with crooked election shenanigans and even crooked-er presidents!
On June 17, 1972, five burglars were arrested and charged with breaking into the Democratic National Committee's Watergate complex headquarters. They were unfortunately not dumb wayward youths looking for free coke and paperwork. That would have been easy. These guys were members of Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President, a.k.a. CREEP (we did not make that up). During an initial break-in, they made away with several top secret documents and had bugged the office phones. Unfortunately for them, the phone taps did not work, and when they went back to try and place new microphones on them, they were caught in the act by police. White House phone numbers found on their persons pointed authorities to sir Nixon himself to see what he knew.
HAHAHAHA. Nope. He swore he wasn't involved, and most voters seemed to believe him. In fact, he got re-elected in a landslide victory in 1972 (he literally won every state but one), hilariously on a largely "law and order" focused platform.
Nixon's bad karma would catch up to him, though. He tried everything to squelch the case- he attempted to get the CIA to stop the FBI from investigating. He paid burglars to keep quiet. Unfortunately, members of his own counsel, most notably White House Attorney John Dean, gave him away, testifying before a grand jury about what the Nixon administration did to intervene in the election and what Nixon himself knew. They also claimed he had taped his conversations in the Oval Office, and those tapes would offer proof of Nixon involvement.
Ugh no, not yet. Nixon refused to give up the tapes, claiming executive privilege. But the Senate Watergate Committee, Judge John Sirica (who was hearing the case as the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia), and special prosecutor Archibald Cox, were not having it. In a panic, Nixon fired Cox, which caused several Justice Department officials to resign in protest. This was known as the "Saturday Night Massacre" and it was the moment the investigation finally caught everyone's interest. Suddenly, all eyes were on Nixon, and the Supreme Court got involved, demanding the tapes.
Yes, he finally released the tapes, incriminating himself and proving he'd lied to the American people. He resigned on August 9th, 1974 to avoid his inevitable impeachment and removal from office. President Ford, Nixon's former Vice President, took his place and later pardoned him of all of his crimes. BOLD MOVE. People are still mad about it.
As a result of Nixon's abuse of presidential power and blatant obstruction of justice, many Americans began to distrust politics and question the integrity of the presidential office. And here we are now...reality star in the office, justice obstructed, and no Congressional momentum to stop him. It took two years for Nixon's crimes to catch up with him. Let's try to be faster this time, yeah?