The decision to name the universally-respected former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel on the Russian election scandal is a defining moment in modern American history that sets off a chain reaction that probably leads to the ultimate resignation of President Donald Trump.
On Feb. 15, I wrote an op-ed in The Hill titled, “Putingate is our Watergate“. It was true then. It is true now. The Putingate scandal will probably end the same way the Watergate scandal ended, with a presidential resignation followed by a pardon.
Why do I call this scandal “Putingate”? Because it involves a successful effort by Russia, spearheaded by Russian President and former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, to elect Putin-friendly Donald Trump as our president and commander in chief. While Watergate involved Americans breaking and entering into an office for the purpose of electing Richard Nixon, Putingate involves Russians breaking and entering into computers to elect Donald Trump.
Putin, still acting like a KGB officer, wanted to pull off the greatest covert action in history, the election of the president of a rival nation he holds in contempt. With the collusion of some U.S. citizens, whether they knew they were colluding or not, Putin pulled it off and that makes me irate.
The major difference between the burglary of a building, the motive of which was to elect Nixon, and the burglary of computers, the motive of which was to elect Trump, is that, in Putingate, the burglary was masterminded by a hostile foreign dictator trying to choose the leader of our nation. With Watergate, the burglary was masterminded by partisan and power-hungry Americans.
Because Putingate was organized by a hostile foreign dictator trying to put in power the president of his choice, both the crime and the coverup are even worse than the Watergate scandal.
Readers should carefully read the article of impeachment of Richard Nixon passed by the House Judiciary Committee that involves obstruction of justice. More than one of the accusations in the obstruction article of impeachment passed by the committee is present today in the coverup of Putingate that is now imploding in real time.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in New York, whose office was investigating certain aspects of the scandal, was fired by the president. Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general presiding over the Justice Department side of the Putingate investigation, was fired shortly after she wisely and courageously tried to warn the White House of the dangers.
James Comey, the FBI director who was managing the FBI side of the investigation of Putingate, was fired by Trump after allegedly being asked both to make a loyalty pledge to the president and to shut down the investigation of retired General Michael Flynn, his ill-fated former national security advisor who is now rumored to be seeking a plea bargain.
Trump cannot act against Mueller the way he acted against Bharara, Yates and Comey. If he tries, he will be on the fast track to impeachment.
Nixon orchestrated the Saturday Night Massacre in one big move. In slow motion, Trump implemented the successive firing of the U.S. attorney in New York, the acting attorney general and the FBI director — the three leaders of the three crucial counterintelligence and law enforcement investigations.
While Russian intelligence is in a perpetual state of covert war against American and Western intelligence, our intelligence services were under relentless attack by President Trump as well. He falsely compared American intelligence services to the Nazis under Hitler, falsely accused British intelligence of breaking American law and falsely accused President Obama of illegally wiretapping him.
In other words, while Trump has moved from denying the Russian operation even happened to accusing all of these investigations of being fake news, he attacked the American intelligence services trying to uncover the crime and attacked the free press trying to report the facts and expose the scandal of the Russian crime.
Nixon attacked the press and privately called it the enemy. Trump publicly attacks the free press and calls it the enemy of the people, using language usually reserved for foreign dictators. Trump called for reporters who publish leaked information to be put in jail, while he personally leaks highly-classified information to top Russians in the Oval Office.
Again, read the Nixon article of impeachment that covered obstruction of justice, and draw your own conclusions.
Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told other members of the Republican leadership that he thought that Trump might be taking Russian money. The fact that the Republican Majority Leader could say this, even if he was joking, which is far from clear, demonstrates the potentially catastrophic political danger this scandal creates for Republicans.
Appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel was a profound and historic move that will ensure the facts come out. As the Trump presidency enters a summer of scandal and hearings, revelations and leaks and disastrous poll ratings, many Republicans in Congress, who will continue to face contentious town hall meetings, will belatedly run from Trump like Olympic sprinters.
At that point Trump will probably choose to resign and Putingate will end like Watergate did.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached firstname.lastname@example.org.