Watergate? We’re Not There Yet

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President Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday.

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Doug Mills/The New York Times

Now that Robert Mueller III has been appointed special counsel to investigate ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, Democrats and even a few Republicans are drawing comparisons between the present mess and the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon.

Senator John McCain of Arizona pegged the president’s problems at a “point where it’s of Watergate size and scale” after reports surfaced that Mr. Trump had pressed James Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to quash an investigation of Mike Flynn, the Trump loyalist and former national security adviser. David Gergen, who was a White House aide to four presidents in Republican and Democratic administrations, contended that “we’re in impeachment territory now.” A few other Republicans have broken away from their party’s blind defense of the president and called for deeper investigations.

The national interest and the integrity of the democratic process are undeniably at stake in the investigation. And it may turn out that the president and his associates have engaged in an attempt to obstruct justice; really bad stuff could turn up. But Watergate? We’re not there yet. That’s a word that summons obstruction on a monumental scale, with evidence to prove overt criminal acts — not least the White House conspiracy to burglarize the Democratic Party headquarters. Scores of administration officials were indicted or jailed when President Nixon had to flee from office on the eve of certain impeachment.

Mr. Trump has made the parallel easier to draw as he complains of a “witch hunt,” tramples ethical standards and shows no sign of the reasonable political behavior the nation sorely needs from him. Like Mr. Nixon, he regularly denounces real and imagined “enemies”; his White House is full…

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