By Alex Bregman
It was the mother of all scandals, and gave birth to the loaded suffix: Watergate.
Remember Bridgegate, deflate-gate, even nipple-gate?
Now many are drawing parallels between All the President’s Men and President Trump’s version of From Russia With Love.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said after just the most recent revelations — that Trump asked FBI Director Comey to end the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — that it’s reaching “Watergate size and scale.”
But how does the Russia investigation really compare to Watergate?
Here’s a quick refresher: The Watergate was, and still is, a famous hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C. In the summer of ’72, five men were arrested for breaking into the complex, specifically the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
Thanks to the intrepid reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, we learned that the break-in was much more than a “third-rate burglary.”
It was just a small part of a big conspiracy, directed by an increasingly paranoid President Nixon, to sabotage his opponents, spy on Democrats, and keep the White House from leaking. That’s why those five men were called Plumbers.
Woodward and Bernstein’s stories put Nixon on the defensive, to the point of famously saying at one point: “People have got to know whether or not their president’s a crook. Well, I am not a crook.”
A blockbuster Senate investigation followed.
Sidebar: A young Hillary Rodham was a junior lawyer working behind the scenes.
Those hearings revealed that Nixon had set up a White House taping system.
The special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, asked for those tapes, but Nixon did not want to hand them over — so he ordered the Justice Department to fire Cox. The attorney general, Elliot Richardson, and his number two, William Ruckelshaus, resigned in protest, and that became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
Archibald Cox finally got fired by acting Attorney General Robert Bork, who later wouldn’t pass muster as a Supreme Court nominee.
The tapes proved that Nixon himself was involved in a massive cover-up, which led to his resignation.
Fast-forward to today. What does Watergate have to do with the investigation into the Trump administration’s potential ties to Russia?
Remember those tapes? They showed President Nixon plotting to get the FBI to back off.
In the famous “Smoking Gun” tape, Nixon says at one point: “They should call the FBI in and say that ‘we wish for the country, don’t go any further into this case,’ period!”
President Trump suggested he was thinking about the FBI’s Russia investigation when he fired Comey. He told NBC News, “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”
Meanwhile, something sounded eerily similar to those infamous Watergate recordings when the president tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
There are now growing calls for a special prosecutor to take over the investigation … the same thing that happened during Watergate.
So whether “Comeygate” turns into Watergate or simply evaporates over time … when you hear pundits comparing the two, at least you can say, “Now I Get It.”