The scandal surrounding President Donald Trump and his reputed secret ties to the Kremlin has swirled around him since before his inauguration 15 months ago. For his entire presidency, just what the commander-in-chief’s relationship with Moscow—no friends of ours, no matter how ardently Trump wants the Russians to be—actually it has hovered darkly over the Oval Office, never moving on. It’s no wonder the president has rage-tweeted so frequently about the investigation into his Russian links, proclaiming NO COLLUSION! too many times to count anymore.
That said, the public still has no concrete idea of what lies at the heart of the Department of Justice’s classified inquiry of Trump’s secret ties to the Russians that’s led by Robert Mueller, the former FBI director. That investigation, which has access to vast amounts of top-secret intelligence from American and allied spy agencies, has been run with a degree of security seldom witnessed in Washington, D.C., with leaks from Team Mueller being few and far between.
In that incestuous company town on the Potomac, the gold standard for scandal for the last 45 years has been Watergate, the infamous imbroglio that took down President Richard Nixon. In a ham-handed effort to cover up a relatively minor, if embarrassing crime—a black-bag break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s office at the eponymous Watergate complex—the Nixon administration tied itself in illegal knots that eventually became unstuck and doomed them. “It’s the cover-up that gets you, not the crime,” became the pol’s mantra after Watergate, leading to suspicions now that Team Mueller will go after Team Trump for obstructing justice before anything else.
This is plausible. It’s certainly easier to prove obstruction than unraveling a complex, multi-year criminal conspiracy for a jury. Regardless, there are significant differences between Watergate and Kremlingate that need to be clarified. While Nixon liked to complain about the partisan “witch hunt” out to get him, just like the current Oval Office occupant, Tricky Dick was a skilled political operator, a savvy veteran of Washington wars. In contrast, Reality TV Don is an utter political neophyte who came to the White House with no apparent understanding of how the U.S. government works; worse, he seems to have learned precious little over the last 15 months of increasingly part-time work as the commander-in-chief.
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