The Ghost of Watergate Is Haunting Capitol Hill

That same principle was at the heart of Watergate. The “smoking gun” White House tape that forced Nixon’s resignation featured a conversation between the president and top aide H.R. Haldeman plotting how to get the CIA to pressure the FBI to back off in its investigation of the Watergate break-in. As Garrett Graff summarizes the tape in his book, Watergate: A New History, “The White House had intended to stonewall the FBI investigation from the start, and Nixon was in on it.”

The January 6 hearings, which will go on hiatus until mid-July, are in themselves a twenty-first century replay of the 1973 Senate Watergate inquiry under the chairmanship of Sam Ervin. In large measure, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney—whose fearless prosecutorial zeal has trumped her very conservative voting record in the eyes of many liberals—can be seen as the equivalent of Ervin, whose country-lawyer charms masked a long record of leading Senate filibusters against civil rights legislation.

Like the Watergate hearings, Thursday’s session offered fleeting moments of levity and colorful language. Eric Herschmann, a former Trump White House attorney, recounted telling Clark on hearing of his planned anointment by Trump, “Good, fucking asshole. Congratulations, you just admitted that your first step or act you would take as attorney general would be committing a felony.” And Donoghue recalled dismissing Clark’s claims to expertise in criminal law by sneering, “You’re an environmental lawyer, how about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”

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