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Trump, Nixon, Law, And History

October 16, 2019

Long-time readers know I have a deep interest in history, was the moderator for an online Richard Nixon website group, and if there were nine lives to live one would be rooted in constitutional law, as the topics are just immensely interesting.   (So, yes, I am  a nerd.)

Today I read this column from the email and knew at once it was worthy of a post. Verdict is always a timely read—mighty informative too.

History does not repeat, but it rhymes (according to a maxim sometimes but apparently falsely attributed to Mark Twain). Richard Nixon came to national prominence as an anti-communist who worked in tandem with Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn, the latter of whom was later an aide to Nixon. The careers of all three men ended in well-deserved disgrace, but meanwhile Cohn acted as a mentor to Donald Trump, who was, in this regard if not others, an excellent student. Trump now follows the path of Nixon and Bill Clinton as the third President in less than half a century to face a serious impeachment threat.

Where the impeachment inquiry now underway in the House of Representatives will ultimately end remains uncertain, but it begins with a confrontation over the scope of congressional power. In a bellicose letter to House leadership last week, White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone deemed the inquiry illegitimate and declared the administration’s intention not to participate in it. Numerous commentators (including yours truly on my blog) have criticized Cipollone’s letter as poorly grounded in law.

Cipollone’s constitutional objection to the procedures the House intends to use runs squarely contrary to a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Nixon v. United States. And Cipollone’s proposed solution—refusal to cooperate—runs counter to the thrust of United States v. Nixon.

No, that wasn’t a typo. Nixon v. United States was a 1993 case involving Judge Walter Nixon. United States v. Nixon was a 1974 case involving President Nixon. If followed faithfully, together the Nixon precedents should doom Trump’s strategy to fight impeachment.

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