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Shades Of Watergate

May 10, 2017

Oh, the turmoil that can follow when the history one should know is never learned.

The Watergate comparison was unavoidable. When Mr. Cox, the special prosecutor, subpoenaed Nixon for copies of White House tapes, the president ordered that he be fired. Both Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, refused and resigned instead. The third-ranking Justice Department official, Solicitor General Robert H. Bork, complied with Mr. Nixon’s order and fired Mr. Cox.

Democrats saw parallels. “This is Nixonian,” Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said in a statement.

“Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened and our faith in the independence and integrity of those systems so shaken,” added Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.

Mr. Trump may have assumed that Democrats so loathed Mr. Comey because of his actions last year in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server that they would support or at least acquiesce to the dismissal. But if so, he miscalculated, as Democrats rushed to condemn the move and demand that a special counsel be appointed to ensure that the Russia investigation be independent of the president.

The move exposed Mr. Trump to the suspicion that he has something to hide and could strain his relations with fellow Republicans who may be wary of defending him when they do not have all the facts. Many Republicans issued cautious statements on Tuesday, but a few expressed misgivings about Mr. Comey’s dismissal and called for a special congressional investigation or independent commission to take over from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees now looking into the Russia episode.

The appointment of a successor to Mr. Comey could touch off a furious fight since anyone Mr. Trump would choose would automatically come under suspicion. A confirmation fight could easily distract Mr. Trump’s White House at a time when it wants the Senate to focus on passing legislation to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

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