President Trump’s firing of James Comey amid the FBI director’s Russia investigation conjures “some definite echoes of Watergate,” a former White House counsel under Richard Nixon says.
John Dean, a key figure in the 1970s scandal that toppled Nixon’s presidency, appeared on a panel of Watergate experts on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday morning to explore parallels and difference between Nixon’s and Trump’s troubles.
“Well, it’s not quite a parallel yet,” Dean noted ahead of Comey’s much-anticipated congressional testimony. “You’ve got to recall Watergate ran for some 928 days if you go from the arrests at the Watergate to the last of the trials. This is very early, but it is compressed and it is moving faster, and there are some definite echoes of Watergate.”
Dean went on to discuss Comey, whose prepared testimony came out Wednesday evening before his Thursday appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In the written statement, Comey relayed information about private conversations with Trump.
During the conversations, Trump allegedly suggested Comey drop investigations into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned amid reports he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about communications with Russia before Trump took office.
“Comey is one of our first public witnesses,” Dean said. “We were about this season 45 years ago into the Watergate hearings. A summer hearing is also a parallel.”
Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein, whose reporting at The Washington Post helped expose the Watergate scandal, predicted Thursday that Comey’s testimony would be consequential for the White House.
“I think what we’re seeing is that Comey has produced what looks on its face to be a devastating portrait of what occurred, some suggestions of obstruction, and abuse of authority,” he told anchor Chris Cuomo.
Comey, who was leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election, has said Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty to the president.
Bernstein also warned that the investigation is still “very, very early in the process” and “nowhere near where we were in Watergate.”
“He hasn’t been before the committee yet where he can be questioned and his evidence, or whatever you want to call it, is subject to impeachment of his veracity,” Bernstein reminded the panel.
When Trump fired Comey in April, politicians and pundits were quick to note the similarities to Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre, the night that Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox and saw his attorney general and deputy attorney general resign in protest.
On Thursday Watergate special prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste observed parallels, too, saying, “The Saturday Night Massacre was an extraordinary event in the history of Watergate. Suddenly, the public woke up to the fact that something very important had happened.”