Democratic lawmakers quickly came up with a nickname for President Donald Trump’s unexpected firing of FBI Director James Comey — the “Tuesday Afternoon Massacre.”
The grim-sounding moniker is a reference to the “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973, when then-President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox amid Cox’s investigation into the Watergate scandal.
Critics of Trump instantly drew parallels between Cox and Comey, who was leading an investigation into possible ties between Trump and Russia.
Here’s what happened during the “Saturday Night Massacre.”
Cox had been appointed by Attorney General Elliot Richardson in May 1973 to investigate the break-in of the Watergate office complex one year earlier.
In July 1973, Cox issued a subpoena to Nixon, asking the president to turn over recordings of conversations between Nixon and White House officials that were taped in the Oval Office.
Nixon demurred, instead offering Cox a compromise in which Sen. John Stennis would review the tapes and issue a summary for Cox’s office.
But when Cox turned down the compromise, the president ordered Richardson, his attorney general, to fire Cox. Richardson refused and resigned in protest, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Solicitor General Robert Bork, who was next in line in the Justice Department, followed through with the firing, completing the “massacre.”
The dismissal contributed to the public’s growing distrust in Nixon, and calls to impeach the president immediately intensified. When the Watergate tapes were made public in August of the following year, including one in which Nixon told officials to ask the FBI to stop the investigation, his support all but disappeared. He resigned in disgrace three days later.
For 44 years, the Saturday Night Massacre was the only time a president has fired the person leading an investigation bearing on him, according to The New York Times.
That all changed with Comey’s firing on Tuesday, and for Trump, the Nixonian comparisons may be just beginning.
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