The Watergate scandal, which ended Richard Nixon's Presidency, hangs over Donald Trump's alleged attempt to pull off a coup. It is a shadow of precedent and lessons learned that will continue to guide the investigation. Despite their vast differences, Watergate was a conspiracy against an opposition party while the attack on Capitol Hill was fundamentally an assault on democracy. There are many parallels.
The overwhelming evidence against Cassidy Hutchinson (the Republican tycoon) has been compared with that of John Dean, a former White House lawyer during the Nixon era who helped establish the existence of a secret recording device in Trump's presidential headquarters. Rose Mary Woods, the president's secretary was questioned and found guilty of accidentally erasing 18.5 minute of secret tapes. It was impossible to prove that it was an accident, and therefore the White House was lying. The impeccable questionnaire was completed by Jill Wine-Banks, a member of Leon Jaworski's team. .
Jill Wine-Banks, a veteran legal commentator on Trump's investigation on NBC, speaks today exclusively to EL CORREO from Chicago about the Commission's public hearings on January 6th and the differences between the Watergate case.
- How can you evaluate the work of the congressional commission?
The former president has been convicted by the commission. There is evidence that he committed numerous crimes, including obstruction of justice and inciting an insurrection. This makes it impossible for him to be elected again to public office. The crime of conspiracy, to defraud the state and other states by trying to interfere with elections, is also a crime.
Most people are puzzled by Trump's inability to be impeached despite all the evidence.
It is possible that there are exonerating evidence. Although I doubt it it, it might be. It is strange Meadows has not been charged with contempt of commission. The fact that Meadows was a high-ranking official doesn't mean he is immune from the law. He could also be cooperating but I doubt it. Or that all is being played in the hope Meadows realizes his position is untenable, and sticks to cooperating.
-The Department of Justice requested all investigation reports from Commission.
He is certainly investigating, and he knows more than us, but I believe he is moving very slowly. It doesn't matter if you have the perfect case, or ten felonies. You can have just two or three. Given all of the evidence, it is possible that he could be indicted and convicted by a jury. A court would then uphold his conviction.
Nixon was not impeached during Watergate because he resigned prior to the Senate impeachment trial. This circumstance seems to be hanging over Trump's investigation.
Watergate was the result of a legitimate impeachment proceeding that could have led to a conviction in Senate trial. This would have been on charges of obstruction, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. Nixon, however, resigned.
-A president was not able to be imputed during his term of office according to the legal framework at that time.
-With Nixon I believed that a president could still be impeached if enough evidence was available. This evidence was not present at Watergate. However, Leon Jaworski, a special prosecutor, determined that impeachment was the best way to prosecute a president for violating the law. Nixon was ultimately indicted as an unindicted conspirator (secretly by a special grand jury) because of his involvement in the conspiracy and because it would have been unfair to not include him.
Despite their similarities, there are many differences between the cases. Watergate's political and media context was very different. There was majority support for the investigation and Nixon was mistrusted by the press and public.
It was difficult to see Republicans declaring Trump innocent during the impeachment following the violence on Capitol Hill. He was cleared by the GOP, who didn't vote for him. They continue to cover him today. I don't know whether they fear him.
Wine-Banks and his prosecution team during the Watergate trial.
Watergate is the perfect storm, you have said. Is Trump's Coup Attempt Another Perfect Storm
I thought that this moment should never be repeated again. And here we are: History repeats itself even more. It's more than a robbery. It is an attempt to invalidate my vote and any other voter in a democracy. It is an imminent threat to democracy, and not just an abuse of power.
- We now live with the consequences of Trump's presidency. This is evident in the Supreme Court decisions on abortion and weapons. Five unelected individuals now make the decisions in this country. Can you fire members of an institution which seems to be above the law's laws?
There are many options. If there is evidence of a member lying under oath, they can be removed. The Congress can establish an ethical regulation. It can also limit the mandates for its members to 10 years. This allows each president to appoint at most one judge during his term. The Court must reflect current political attitudes. We all know that most Americans support abortion. However, the Court has ruled against them. This cannot be true, especially when they are a minority of a minority and have not been elected. The far right is a minority within the Republican Party.
It is not a very optimistic vision.
-We now live in a country that, frankly, does not have the mandate to the majority. I believe the Senate's filibuster (of the Senate), should be removed because it perpetuates power of the minority.
You showed that the Nixon White House wanted Rose Mary Woods to be blamed for having erased 18.5 mins of one of the compromising tapes. It was shocking to see two women confronted in one of the most important judicial moments in American history. What was it like for her?
When you reach that point in the story, when your presence breaks down barriers, it is important to keep your head down and concentrate on your work. This is the best job you could do. Because the public began to see the White House as it really was, the interrogation was crucial. It had nothing to do me and her being women. The facts were clear.
"John Sirica, the judge, said to them: "Come on ladies, we've had enough trouble in courtroom without having two women fighting."
"You must hear things like this, as I did on another occasion, when I was questioning one defendant: "Mr. Robert Mardian, don’t you know that you can never win an argument against a woman?" This is terrible, especially when you consider that you are the prosecutor. They introduced you to their friends that day by calling you the "woman lawyer".
Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the Commission on January 6, revealing scenes of a violent, unbalanced and out-of-control president.
This aspect of Donald Trump's behavior was never seen before. It gives you a feeling.
Cassidy's testimony regarding the moment when the insane president threw the plate with the ketchup at the wall was heartbreaking. It was claimed that Nixon, who was apparently unhinged in the final days of Watergate, walked the White House corridors talking to only the images on the walls. He also drank too much and was rude. It is really about two frail, weak men. He is shocked to learn that these men have the nuclear codes.
The hearings at the commission are having an impact on public opinion. Now, most Americans support indicting Trump. They have even been more popular among Republicans.
Fox News, which had not broadcast the hearings, aired Hutchinson’s this week. One of the presenters said that Trump was being hurt by the evidence. Perhaps something is starting to change, even if it's only among moderates. The public will think he is too disgusting, corrupt, and too guilty this time. He might even affect the vote this year. This is extremely important to me.
To use your own words, Trump's impeachment would be not only partisan but dangerous.
-I believe criminal charges are the right solution. America will continue to ask for it. You aren't held responsible if you don't take responsibility. We strongly believe that everyone is subject to the law. It would have been a precedent setting and sending a message to Trump if Nixon had been indicted after he resigned. He might not have done everything he did and continues to do with his stories about voter fraud if he knew he was indicted.