Will Trump's Obsession With Loyalty Bring Him Down?

Covering up for his favorite aides is what sank Richard Nixon. Is Trump making the same mistakes?

By James Robenalt July 19, 2017

Now that Donald Trump Jr.’s emails reveal that the Trump campaign welcomed election interference by the Russians (“I love it,” Junior enthused at the promise of receiving intel on candidate Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin-linked source), it might be a good time to turn the spotlight back to President Donald Trump and whether his actions since becoming president constitute obstruction of justice.

History does not necessarily repeat itself, but sometimes it smells the same. And once again, Watergate provides a useful yardstick for measuring Trump’s Russia-gate. A review of how events unfolded over the two years of disclosures during the Watergate probe suggests a pattern: President Richard Nixon was involved in a cover-up to protect people close to him, not necessarily himself.

It’s very possible that a similar story is unfolding today—that Trump’s undoing isn’t direct involvement in Kremlin-backed election interference, but rather obstrution of justice to protect both his son and his son-in-law for their role in the Russia scandal.

The story of Nixon and Mitchell casts Trump’s actions in connection with the Russian investigation in a new light: The president may not have known directly about details of the proposed Russian interference, but he likely knew that his son and son-in-law met with individuals who had Russian connections, and thus that they would be in jeopardy if the FBI continued to dig. By this logic, it is not hard to conceive that Trump’s string of startling and obstructive decisions—asking FBI Director James Comey to discontinue the Flynn investigation, firing Comey when the Russia investigation seemed to be expanding and asking the country to move on rather than sanctioning Russia—have been to protect his children.

Nixon did not have to lose his presidency over the bungled break-in. But his personal concern for his close friend was probably the main reason he became enmeshed in a career-ending cover-up that he had no rational hope of controlling. Think of how much easier it would be to fall into that trap with the reputations of one’s own children on the line.

In the end though, as Nixon said, the truth has a way of coming out. Now, we simply await the next shoes to drop.