Thursday, October 24, 2019

Comparing what's happening now to Watergate

My book club has men of a certain age, and several are lawyers.  As it happens, two of them worked on the Nixon Watergate inquiry, one on the House side and one on the Senate side.  They reflected on the current Republican objection to the investigatory process -- you know, the  Matt Gaetz led foray into the secure room, first invasion and then 17 pizzas.  Here's what Jeff and Bruce had to say:

Impeachment Inquiries


The Nixon impeachment inquiry staff conducted private interviews with key witnesses.  Some came voluntarily, like John Dean.  Some were under subpoena, like G. Gordon Liddy.  In my early days on staff, I would sometimes escort these fellows from the downstairs security checkpoint upstairs.  Liddy refused to tell us anything more than his name, his military ID no., and his citizenship (United States).  He refused to sign his name in the logbook. 

These interviews were not conducted by members, and they were private.  I believe staff from both parties were present.  I don’t recall public hearings until the Judiciary Committee members began debating articles of impeachment. 

Bruce, What’s your recollection of how the Senate treated its witnesses in the Watergate investigation?  Public hearings we recall; but were their interviews first, so Senators knew what to ask?

Interesting that we have a Book Club with both chambers represented.



Interviews first.

As I recall, most of the interviews, either under subpoena or not, were conducted by staff who were hired either by Sam Dash, Chief Majority Counsel or Fred Thompson, Chief Minority Counsel. All interviews were attended by staff representing both the Democrats and Republicans who then reported back to the Counsel who relayed the contents to the respective senators and their staff on both sides of the aisle.

I did sit in on interviews of members of the Domestic Council within the White House (John Ehrlichman) as a member of the Majority Staff of the Committee.


Right – staff representing both parties would sit in on interviews and then report to the members.  The Trump impeachment inquiry has House members from both parties conducting the interviews, no doubt with staff whispering in their ears.  So in terms of transparency, this is a fortiori what we did with Nixon.  If this is correct, why the Flash Mob of Republicans yesterday?  What’s their complaint?

Budd Shenkin

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