- Historians, members of Congress, and legal experts are reacting to a bombshell BuzzFeed News report on President Donald Trump and Michael Cohen by referencing the first article of impeachment against former President Richard Nixon.
- The story said Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
- Presidential historian Jon Meacham on Friday tweeted, “The first article of impeachment against Nixon was just this: obstruction by directing others to lie. This is not hysteria or hyperventilating. It’s history.”
A bombshell BuzzFeed News report said President Donald Trump instructed his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, prompting historians, members of Congress, and legal experts to draw parallels to the days that led up to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon.
In an apparent reaction to the damning allegations in the BuzzFeed article, presidential historian Jon Meacham on Friday tweeted: “The first article of impeachment against Nixon was just this: obstruction by directing others to lie. This is not hysteria or hyperventilating. It’s history.”
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss also tweeted about the first article of impeachment against Nixon shortly after the BuzzFeed report was published.
Article One of Nixon bill of impeachment, approved by House Judiciary Committee, accused Nixon of “approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counselling witnesses with respect to…false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings."
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) January 18, 2019
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, a former prosecutor who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, referenced Nixon as he reacted to the report in a tweet on Thursday.
“This stunning Trump Tower Moscow story establishes a clear case of Obstruction of Justice, a felony. I’ve lost count now how many times @realDonaldTrump has engaged in Obstruction of Justice,” he said.
Lieu added: “Oh, fyi the first Article of Impeachment for Richard Nixon was Obstruction of Justice.”
Similarly, Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman on Thursday told MSNBC the overall Trump-Cohen saga is “history repeating itself” and has “echoes of Watergate.”
“You’ve got another lawyer, a personal lawyer … basically being a bag man for the President,” Ackerman said, referencing a recent Wall Street Journal story that said Cohen paid a tech firm in an attempt to rig two online polls in favour of Trump.
"It's history repeating itself"
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) January 17, 2019
Ryan Goodman, a law professor at the New York University School of Law and former special counsel to the general counsel at the Defence Department, wrote in an op-ed for Just Security that the situation could be “far worse than Watergate.”
“What makes the Cohen lies even worse – and yes, far worse than Watergate – is that it exposed any U.S. officials who were involved in orchestrating his false testimony to blackmail by Russia,” Goodman wrote. “If Trump suborned false statements, the President would have exposed not only himself to Kremlin blackmail, but also other members of his team who, according to court documents and reporting, helped orchestrate his personal lawyer’s congressional testimony.”
Nixon resigned in August 1974 as he faced the prospect of impeachment over the Watergate scandal.
The month before, the House Judiciary Committee had approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon: obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and contempt of Congress.
The first article of impeachment against Nixon said: “Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.”
The article of impeachment listed nine different cases of obstruction, including four that appear to be pertinent in relation to the BuzzFeed News report:
- “Approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counselling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorised investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings”
- “Interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees”
- “Making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the executive branch of the United States and personnel of the Committee for the Re-election of the President, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct: or”
- “Endeavouring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favoured treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.”
In late 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow amid the 2016 presidential campaign season. BuzzFeed News reported that two federal investigators said Cohen told them he was instructed to lie to Congress by the president.
Some Democrats in Congress are already calling on the House Judiciary Committee to get the ball rolling on impeachment proceedings and investigate the charges in the BuzzFeed report.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff on Friday said “we will do what’s necessary to find out” if the allegations in the report are accurate.
The developments came amid the special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the country. Cohen has been cooperating with Mueller, but was still sentenced to three years in prison in December.
A memo released by Mueller’s team on the nature of Cohen’s cooperation late last year said that Trump’s former lawyer provided a “detailed account of his involvement and the involvement of others in the Moscow Project.”
The memo also said Cohen “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements contained within it.”
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