Littwin: What’s next, Comey sleeping with the fishes?

At first blush, it may look as if Donald Trump has finally gone the full Nixon. But if there’s one thing we can safely take away from Trump’s tweeted threat that he has taped White House conversations, it’s that he doesn’t understand Watergate any more than he understands anything else.

Nixon didn’t threaten to release tapes in order to silence anyone. It would be wrong, that’s for sure. What Nixon did, what the Saturday Night Massacre was all about, was to try desperately to hold on to those previously secret but always incriminating tapes that led, eventually, to Nixon’s resignation.

Trump must have his ’70s iconography confused. Trump’s tweet — “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” — is more Godfather than Watergate. What Comey should worry about it is not a recording system in the White House, but finding a horse’s head in his bed.

Or as John Dean — yes, that John Dean — just tweeted: “Obviously, President Trump is confused. He is the one who must hope there are no tapes. Honest people don’t have problems being taped.”

I don’t believe Trump has “taped” Comey or anyone else any more than I believe Trump’s tweet that Obama had “wiretapped” Trump. It’s more Trumpian bluster, but, of course, it’s not only that.

Trump doesn’t think any more about publicly threatening Comey than he does in publicly firing Comey and in publicly lying about why he fired Comey and then, after sending out all his surrogates, including the vice-president, to lie about why he fired Comey, to admit the truth in an NBC News interview with Lester Holt. In one step, he threw all his communications people under the bus (or, in Spicey’s case, into the bushes) while, at the same time, making the case for why there must be an independent investigation into all things Russia and Trump.

No one paying any attention at all can be surprised that Trump lied about why he fired Comey. We knew from the start that it was never about Comey’s mistreatment of Hillary Clinton or about Rod Rosenstein’s craven memo. It was always about, as Trump himself said, “this Russia thing.” It’s clear now, as it has been all along, that Trump fired Comey because of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

What upset Trump enough to go off in his Friday morning tweetstorm — getting ahead of the weekend rush — was an anonymously sourced story in The New York Times about the now-infamous dinner meeting between Trump and Comey. Trump said that the dinner was at Comey’s request. Trump said that during the dinner, he had asked Comey whether he was under investigation and that Comey had directly assured him that he wasn’t.

This is another story no one believed. Whatever else you think of Comey and whatever possible missteps he might have made, you tend to trust the FBI sources who told The Times that Trump invited Comey, that Comey was wary of the invitation and did not want to accept, that he would never discuss with Trump whether he was under investigation (that, also, would be wrong; that’s for sure) and that in the actual conversation, Trump asked Comey whether he would pledge loyalty to him and Comey answered that he would offer honesty instead.

That sounds like Trump. And if that’s what Comey told him, that was the beginning of the end. Personal loyalty, not truth, is what concerns Trump, and it would have to concern him even more given the fact of the FBI investigation. His willingness to fire the FBI chief in charge of the investigation— and apparently not even realizing the blowback he would receive for it — is one more bit of evidence of how little respect, and understanding, Trump has for American institutions.

With the taping threat, Trump has ensured that all the irresistible Watergate references stay alive. And the one that should worry him most is the memory — not always perfectly accurate — that brave Republicans stood up to Nixon. From break-in to resignation, the Watergate saga took more than two years. Most Republicans were very slow to condemn, or even question, Nixon. Same for the country.  The five burglars had already been indicted when Nixon was carrying 49 states against George McGovern.

When Howard Baker famously asked what the president knew and when he knew it, he was actually defending Nixon. Even when the end was near and many of Nixon’s closest advisers headed to prison, the smoking gun uncovered, 10 of the 17 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee still voted against impeachment. Of course, Baker did eventually go after the truth, as did others. And in the Saturday Night Massacre, Cox and Richardson and Ruckelshaus did become heroes for refusing Nixon’s orders. And Barry Goldwater did lead a group of three Republican to the White House to tell Nixon it was time for him to quit.

But in our speeded up times of 24/7 cable news and nonstop Twitter, Republican politicians are not exactly keeping up, and, as a rule, they’re certainly not standing up. Most have embarrassed themselves by a tepid response to what nearly everyone agrees was Russian interference in the 2016 election. And they continue to embarrass themselves by enabling Trump, by pretending that the Trump presidency is somehow normal and shouldn’t be challenged at every turn.

Maybe the most cliched Watergate saying is that the coverup is always worse than the crime. In this case, we still don’t know what the crime is or whether there is a crime at all. But the signs of a coverup are everywhere. And if the coverup is not worse than the crime, we’re in even worse trouble than I thought.

Photo via Steve Troughton, Flickr: Creative Commons


  1. Clown car subpoenaed by Congress.

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    Mike Littwin on anger in politics:

    “Anger rarely wins in American politics.” – July, 2016

    “It was the anger, of course, that got (President) Trump elected.” – April, 2017


    “Starting with Hillary Clinton herself, Democrats have blamed James Comey for her loss to President Donald Trump. And yet when Trump fired the FBI director, those same Democrats rushed to defend him.”

    That, from the Associated Press, describes exactly why one syndicated columnist suggested that the faux outrage Democrats have expressed over President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is little more than a bad case of selective sensibilities.

    Mr. Littwin appears to be suffering from the same malady and in an attempt to contort his “beliefs” to justify his love-hate-love affair with FBI Director James Comey he has performed a feat more difficult to execute than a triple Lutz: the double flip-flop

    – Last July when FBI Director James Comey announced that Hillary Clinton would not be indicted for her handling of highly sensitive information Mr. Littwin lauded Director Comey as a man “whose reputation as a truth-teller was forever sealed when he served as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, was the clear winner in the Hillary Clinton email story/scandal. In fact, he was pretty much the only winner.” .

    – Flip-Flop #1. But in October when Director Comey warned Congress in a letter Mr. Littwin described as “strangely vague” that there were more of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to investigate, Mr. Littwin accused him of “misfeasance and malfeasance” and characterized him as being extremely careless, blundering and that his reputation was forever ruined.

    – Flip-Flop #2. However, Mr. Littwin then forgave Director Comey when he called President Trump a liar in a March Congressional hearing and again this week by denying he told President Trump he was not under investigation. Mr. Littwin justified his resurrected trust in Director Comey this way, “Whatever else you think of Comey and whatever possible missteps he might have made, you tend to trust the FBI sources”.

    So Mr. Littwin now describes as simple “missteps” what he had previously described as Director Comey’s misfeasance, malfeasance, carelessness and blundering.

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    It is clear Mr. Littwin demands a level of consistency in others he doesn’t come close to achieving himself.

    On February 2nd Mr. Littwin wrote: “What does matter, and what I’m arguing, is that Trump’s presidency is a danger to the country and to the world and that to pretend otherwise is to be a part of that danger.“

    Since then Mr. Littwin has been on a quixotic quest to justify that piece of silly, partisan hyperbole by ignoring anything that doesn’t support his narrative which explains why he virtually ignored the Cruise missile strike President Trump ordered against Syria in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of banned chemical weapons against innocent Syrian men, women and children.

    If it don’t fit it gets ignored.

    Mr. Littwin is out of control, out of touch and soon will be out of sight.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

    Memorial Day – May 29, 2017

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