On October 20, 1973, former President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, sparking a series of high-profile resignations that came to be known as Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.” Following the early departure of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Monday, critics charged that President Donald Trump is carrying out a similar “slow motion” massacre of his own.
In an interview on CNN Monday night, legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein said McCabe’s decision to step down—which came amid relentless attacks by the president and reports that Trump wanted him gone—as well as the vote of Trump’s GOP “enablers” to release a cherry-picked memo in an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, will soon be viewed by historians as Trump’s “Monday Night Slaughter.”
Bernstein was hardly the only analyst drawing the comparison between Nixon’s actions during the Watergate probe, which ultimately led to his demise, and Trump’s actions amid the ongoing Russia probe, which many have argued clearly constitute obstruction of justice.
Will Bunch, a columnist for Philly.com, argued that Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey and his attacks on McCabe are “working up” to future firings, with special counsel Robert Mueller being the final target.
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Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, echoed Bunch, arguing that McCabe’s departure is the result of Trump’s “propaganda machine,” which has been deployed in an effort to discredit officials likely to testify against him as part of Mueller’s investigation.
“Who’s next?” asked Shaub following news of McCabe’s decision to step down. “[Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein? Mueller?”
“Comey is gone, McCabe is going, and Rosenstein could be next,” concluded The Week‘s Paul Waldman. “Under this president, any conception of the Justice Department as an independent agency devoted to the rule of law is quickly disappearing.”
If Trump had his way last year, the “massacre” would already be complete. As the New York Times revealed in an explosive report published last week, Trump ordered the firing of Mueller in June, only to back down after the chief White House lawyer refused to comply with his boss’s order and threatened to quit.
The Times report provoked a flood of urgent warnings that Mueller’s ouster could be imminent and that his investigation must be shielded from the president’s attempt to undermine it.
“The president continues to act like someone with something to hide,” declared USA Today‘s editorial board over the weekend. “The time to protect Mueller is right now—before, not after, another Saturday Night Massacre.”
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