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Don't insult Nixon by comparing him to Trump

Ruth Marcus on

Nixonian? The 37th president ordered the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, triggering the resignations of the attorney general and deputy attorney general. But in instigating the massacre, Nixon at least paid lip service to the legitimate needs of the criminal justice system and the professionalism of the Department of Justice.

Consider Nixon's letter to then-Solicitor General Robert Bork ordering Cox's dismissal. It did not cry "witch hunt" or "politicization" but used the temperate language of the rule of law. In dismantling the special prosecutor's office, Nixon vowed that "the Department of Justice will continue with full vigor the investigations and prosecutions that had been entrusted to the Watergate Special Prosecution Force."

Consider, too, White House press secretary Ron Ziegler's post-massacre insistence, that the president was seeking "to avoid a constitutional confrontation by an action that would give the grand jury what it needs to proceed with its work with the least possible intrusion of presidential privacy."

Yes, Nixon was willing to misuse the machinery of law enforcement and intelligence to his own ends. But Nixon at least knew how Justice and the FBI were supposed to perform and played along. If Trump knows, he doesn't care.

"A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves," Trump said Friday morning. I've got a suggestion about where to start.

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Ruth Marcus' email address is ruthmarcus@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


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