John W Dean writes: Donald J. Trump wasted no time in seizing on the unprecedented letter that the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, sent to Congress on Friday, regarding the bureau’s investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails. “This is bigger than Watergate,” Mr. Trump’s team tweeted just a few hours after the letter was made public.
It’s not the first time Mr. Trump has made the Watergate comparison. In fact, he’s been saying it regularly since the arrival of his new campaign manager, Stephen Bannon, in August. And that’s fitting — Mr. Bannon came from Breitbart, the conspiracy-minded right-wing news site, and his Hail Mary strategy seems to be to paint Mrs. Clinton as a criminal mastermind. And who better a measuring stick than America’s most infamous president, Richard M. Nixon?
But these comparisons are nonsense. Only someone who knows nothing about the law, and the darkest moment of our recent political history, would see a parallel between Nixon’s crimes and Mrs. Clinton’s mistakes.
The Watergate scandal, for the record, began on June 17, 1972, as a bungled burglary by men working out of Nixon’s re-election committee, who were arrested in the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington.
It ended more than two years later, with Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, followed by the criminal trial of his former attorney general, John Mitchell; his former White House chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman; and his top domestic adviser, John D. Ehrlichman, who were found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice on Jan. 1, 1975. Along the way, some four dozen Nixon aides and associates were convicted of or pleaded guilty to criminal misconduct, including me.
Taken together, these investigations revealed astounding abuses of presidential power by Nixon, which included other illegal break-ins and burglaries; illegal electronic surveillance; misuses of agencies of government like the I.R.S., C.I.A. and F.B.I.; the practice of making political opponents into enemies and using the instruments of government to attack them; and then employing perjury and obstruction of justice to cover it all up.
Whatever mistakes Mrs. Clinton made, her actions bear no similarities whatsoever to Nixon’s criminalization of his presidency, and his efforts to corrupt much of the executive branch. [Continue reading…]