he President, feeling growing pressure from the independent Special Counsel, concocted a plan to put an end to the investigation of his administration.
He thought he could simply fire the Special Counsel and save himself from an inquiry that was leading closer and closer to the Oval Office.
So, on a Saturday, the President pressured the Attorney General to fire the Special Counsel, but the AG refused, and the AG resigned instead.
Then the President pressured the Deputy Attorney General to fire the Special Counsel, and he too refused the order and resigned.
That left the Solicitor General of the United States, the country’s lawyer that argues cases before the Supreme Court, as next in line to lead the Justice Department.
The Solicitor General finally fired the Special Counsel. The President thought he was home free, but that soon proved to be wishful thinking.
Within a month, a federal judge ruled the firing of the Special Counsel was illegal, and the Solicitor General was forced to appoint a new Special Counsel, and the investigation continued.
The White House faced subpoenas from the Special Counsel, and the President was accused of obstructing justice. Impeachment seemed imminent, but the President maintained his innocence.
Eventually, though, only 13 months after what would later become known as the Saturday Night Massacre, the President resigned from office.
This, of course, is the story of Richard Nixon, the only American President to ever resign the presidency.
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because a very similar case is unfolding in real-time in Washington, D.C., as Donald Trump finds himself in the center of an ongoing investigation by a special counsel.
As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation into Trump and his administration over allegations of collusion with Russia, the President has grown increasingly frustrated and has floated the idea that he may fire Mueller. Ironically, it was Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey that led to Muller’s appointment in the first place.
This week, after FBI agents raided the home, office, and hotel room of Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, Trump seemed to finally lose his cool, and starting tweeting again.
Stories had already surfaced that Trump believes he has the power to fire Mueller, a step that even several high-ranking Congressional Republicans have warned could lead to impeachment, but this week the White House again said Trump believes he can fire Mueller if he wants to.
Trump this week also blasted his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and especially Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who currently oversees Mueller’s investigation. The White House and Trump’s friends at Fox News have already started their campaigns to undermine Rosenstein and pave the way for his firing. The writing is on the proverbial wall.
But, Trump’s anger this week over the FBI raids is misguided. He claims the investigation is a witch hunt and very biased toward him and his associates. He claims the investigators are partisan, deep state liberals imbedded in our government that are just out to get him, including Comey and Mueller.
The inconvenient truth for Trump, however, is that the search warrants that allowed the FBI to conduct the early morning raids on Monday were approved by Rod Rosenstein and the US Attorney in Manhattan, both men appointed by Trump.
The U.S. Attorney had to convince a federal magistrate (appointed by local judges not a president) that probable cause existed to raid Cohen and seize documents, computers, and even his cellphone from his hand. The Magistrate must have believed that there was enough cause to believe that crimes had been committed, and that Cohen would not have provided the information through a subpoena.
Now Trump is so furious (or worried of what the investigators will find) that he’s again contemplating firing Mueller. That sort of plan didn’t work out well for Nixon, and there’s no reason to believe it will work for Trump, but that may still not deter him from taking action.
Even if he fires Mueller now, or convinces someone at the Justice Department to do it for him, the charges being pursued by the U.S. Attorney in New York won’t go away, and from what’s been reported so far, the allegations don’t seem to be related to the Russia investigation.
It appears that Mueller found evidence of unrelated crimes and forwarded it to the US Attorney. That office in Manhattan is the one that sought the search warrants, and raided Cohen.
Trump’s fear of what the investigators may get from Cohen’s materials, or Cohen himself, must be getting the better of him. He is starting to sound a lot like Nixon’s infamous, “I’m not a crook!”, but he’s not acting like an innocent person.
If Trump is innocent, as he claims nearly everyday, then he should welcome a thorough investigation that would prove his innocence. He currently has an Attorney General, Deputy AG, U.S. Attorney in New York, and a Solicitor General all appointed by him. And don’t forget both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, and even Mueller is a life-long registered Republican.
In contrast to Bill Clinton, who faced a Republican-led House and Senate and Republican Special Counsel Kenneth Starr, Trump should be must less worried about being railroaded by a partisan investigation.
In the end, if Trump were to fire Mueller or have him or have fired to end the investigation prematurely, it would fall to Republicans in Congress to decide how to proceed. For now, some Republicans are talking tough about protecting Mueller.
But, given the toothless partisan investigations into the Russian collusion claims conducted by the House and Senate committees, no one believes Republicans would do anything to punish Trump, much less move toward impeachment.
So, another Saturday Night Massacre may be in the making, with new actors playing the parts of their Nixonian predecessors, but this time, the script may end with a president still in office, wounded and bleeding politically, but alive to fight another day.
In any other political drama, this story would spell the certain end of a presidency. In Trump’s world, however, this may just be another bump in the road for the unorthodox presidency of the man some simply call “The Donald.”