Because “Emailgate” is not like Watergate despite what Trump says

It is true that while serving as Secretary of State, Hillary preferred to use her Blackberry to stay in touch on emails, rather than being obliged to use the State’s archaic email system, something prior Secretary of States had also done and advised.  A long FBI investigation of her use of the private Backberry system revealed no illegal activity, even if growing awareness of the ability of private email systems to be hacked made such use increasingly unwise.

On the cusp of the election, the FBI has gotten access to emails from that period through an unrelated investigation and Director James B. Comey announced that there was more the FBI was now investigating.  Trump immediately jumped on this news and tweeted “This is bigger than Watergate.”  Amazingly enough, rising up in Hillary’s defense was none other than John Dean, III, Richard Nixon’s former White House Counsel and someone who served time as a result of the Watergate scandal.

In an Opinion piece entited “No, ‘Emailgate’ Is Not Worse Than Watergate,” Mr. Dean who is now 87, scorns Trump’s reference to Watergate as “nonsense,” befitting only of “some who knows nothing about the law or the darkest moment of our recent political history.  He sees no parallels between Nixon’s clear crimes and Hillary’s email usage “mistakes.”  Dean recognizes that Trump began making such inappropriate comparisons since hiring Stephen Bannon, from the “conspiracy-minded right-wing news site” Breitbart, which also provides a platform for Robert Stone, another conspiracy theorist, in order to paint Hillary with criminal colors. Comparing her to Nixon, according to Dean, is simply ridiculous.  He writes:

The Watergate scandal, for the record, began on June 17, 1972, as a bungled burglary by men working out of Nixon’s re-election committee, who were arrested in the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington.

It ended more than two years later, with Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, followed by the criminal trial of his former attorney general, John Mitchell; his former White House chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman; and his top domestic adviser, John D. Ehrlichman, who were found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice on Jan. 1, 1975. Along the way, some four dozen Nixon aides and associates were convicted of or pleaded guilty to criminal misconduct, including me.

Taken together, these investigations revealed astounding abuses of presidential power by Nixon, which included other illegal break-ins and burglaries; illegal electronic surveillance; misuses of agencies of government like the I.R.S., C.I.A. and F.B.I.; the practice of making political opponents into enemies and using the instruments of government to attack them; and then employing perjury and obstruction of justice to cover it all up.

Whatever mistakes Mrs. Clinton made, her actions bear no similarities whatsoever to Nixon’s criminalization of his presidency, and his efforts to corrupt much of the executive branch. As Nixon’s secretly recorded conversations show, he rejected the advice of his lawyers at every stage of Watergate; he was determined to do it his way. When he was forced to resign, or be removed from office by the impeachment process, he never truly apologized. Once out of office, he claimed he did not need the pardon he accepted that precluded his criminal prosecution, and he went to his grave claiming he was innocent of criminal behavior, absurdly asserting when the president does it, that means it is legal.

Contrast that with Mrs. Clinton, whose “scandal” is the result of her desire — like that of many, including President Obama — not to give up her Blackberry email account when she entered the executive branch. Only slowly did she come to appreciate the security risk of not using the antiquated State Department system.

She was unaware that a few classified items — some of which were classified after the fact — were in her private email system. Unlike Nixon, she has apologized. The F.B.I. record also shows that — again, unlike Nixon — she had no criminal intent in any of her actions.

Intriguingly, Mr. Dean not only dismisses the suggestion that Hillary was engaged in anything like what Nixon did but he also draws attention to the similarities between Trump himself and Nixon.  Calls Trump “Nixonian, perhaps even more so than Nixon himself.”  To read exactly why Dean thinks Trump in Nixonian, please click “No, ‘Emailgate’ Is Not Worse Than Watergate,” to go to the original piece in the New York Times Opinion Pages.

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