DOI: https://doi.org/10.20535/2308-5053.2016.3/4(31/32).137587

TRUMP`S WATERGATE?

Ch. M. Weston

Анотація


The highlights are as follows:
The Watergate scandal is considered in its own regard. Notwithstanding a significant presidential victory in November 1972, Nixon`s presidency was essentially over by October 1973 and he resigned in August 1974 ahead of a likely impeachment. Contrary to later mythmaking, Nixon`s departure was by no means assured by the country`s system of “checks and balances” and separation of powers.
A key factor in ensuring Nixon`s downfall was that the Democrats had majorities in both houses of congress and were able to ensure the Republicans joined them in the investigation. In the Trump admin- istration, the Republicans have effective majorities in both houses – including the important Senate where impeachment can only proceed with “the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present”. Simply put, the Democrats don`t have the votes. There is also good reason to believe that the Republicans will not accept a Watergate style investigation, notwithstanding a mutually shared (with the Democrats) antipathy, if not outright hostility, for Putin and Russia.
While the Republicans may join with the Democrats to ensure Trump does not raise sanctions against Russia, they are unlikely to collaborate on a removal of the President.
Nixon`s departure, ensured by the Republicans, was eased by the knowledge that the Republicans had a “trusted pair of hands” in Gerald Ford taking over the role of Vice President from a discredited (and indicted) Spiro Agnew in October 1973. It would still take another ten months to remove Nixon notwithstand- ing. Ford would go on to lose the presidential election in 1976 due to providing Nixon with a presidential par- don. The Republicans do not want to pursue a similar path by removing Trump and running the risk of hav- ing to pardon him as part of a deal to leave office. That said, the Republicans will wish to see the effects of the mid term elections to be held in late 2018 as a “reality check” on Trump and his effect on their standing.
The Cabinet under Trump has no comparative figures to Kissinger and Schlesinger of the Nixon administration, with the possible exception of the Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis. The cabinet as formed is a “Trump creation” and lacks any substantial standing in its own right. Its Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is, together with his colleagues, reliant on, and works at the pleasure of, Trump. The cabinet is unlikely to force out Trump (Vice President and over half of cabinet are required to do so under the US Constitution) as, in fact, neither did Nixon`s cabinet. The cabinet will remain bystanders.
The media and press are, by virtue of modern technology and the internet, not as well equipped to tackle the presidency as in the Nixon era. That said, then, as now, the press and media was reliant on the hostility of the presidential incumbent and leaks by administration insiders, to help it do its job. So far, there has been no “smoking gun” to lead to the president but there has been unrelentingly bad news for Trump as his choice for National Security advisor was forced to resign and his Attorney General has faced calls for consideration of his position. Leaks may yet undermine Trump`s presidency but they will not force him out on their own.
The judiciary has been tentatively viewed as a “thorn in the side” of the Trump presidency. But, so far, the White House Counsel and the Office of Legal Counsel (see above) have not made their presence felt due, in part, to Trump`s chaotic transition. They will, as under recent presidencies, become more effective in driving forward Trump`s political agenda (if only to realising some of his election trail promises) and pur- suing his aims. These bodies have vastly more significant resources at hand than was ever the case under Nixon. Furthermore, whilst Nixon obeyed the Supreme Court judgement against him, this was an historical anomaly. There is every reason to believe, by nature of his very personality and resources available, Trump will be unlikely to be so pliant. Furthermore, Nixon`s resignation came about because he knew he did not have the votes in the Senate and the Republicans were unwilling to back him. This is just not the case now, notwithstanding antipathy to Trump by a number of Republican senators.
Of real interest and perhaps a more decisive factor than in Nixon`s time is the “National Security State”, otherwise called “the Deep State”. The reality is that Trump`s room for manoeuvre is sharply cur- tailed by the military and assorted intelligence services. They are far more represented in the national security establishment than was ever the case in the Nixon era. Indeed, the Defense Secretary enjoys a far higher level of autonomy than his predecessors and a higher political profile than the nominal Secretary of State. The civilian control over the military is so nominal as to be almost redundant – the concept of “retirement” from the military services is essentially meaningless in the light of recent appointments to the cabinet and national security council. Trump`s outreach to Russia is stillborn – vetoed by the Republicans and the National Security State. Indeed, a question arises as to whether these two “bodies” are as separate as perhaps existed in the Nixon era.
Ancillary to this is whether legal and political appearances – quaint concepts such as “checks
and balances” and separation of powers - do not clash with sociological realities. Supreme Court
justices with backgrounds in the National Security State and upholding domestic surveillance as well as nondisclosure of Congressional members of military reserve despite constitutional ban on holding “any office of the US” being just two examples thereof. There is thus, in fact, a considerable blurring of such institutional delineations in the USA. Of interest is that the National Security State may have become the “check and balance” of the Trump presidency, as enabled by the transmission of leaks to the press and media. This is quite a turn of events for US politics and remains a major difference with the Watergate years.
Trump`s financial situation remains his “soft underbelly” and where he is most likely vulnerable for a whole range of reasons from possible over inflation of his real worth to tie ups with parties viewed an unsa- voury. Leaks here could be damaging particularly if there is shown to be a “Russian connection”.
Overall, we do not believe Trump is likely to face impeachment and certainly not this side of the mid term elections and even then, there are grave doubts whether there would be enough votes to muster to move the impeachment. Trump is therefore likely to preside over the next four years until a “smoking gun” appears. For reasons outlined, the Republicans will be loath to see that materialise.


Ключові слова


impeachment; resignation; Watergate; presidency; politics; election

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