The effort by President Trump and his henchmen to stonewall the impeachment investigation underway in the House of Representatives by refusing to comply with subpoenas and less formal requests for information is doomed to failure if Watergate is any example.
Already, subpoenas have been issued against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump's personal counsel Rudy Giuliani. Now, a notice of subpoena has been issued by Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, for related White House documents.
In various forms, Pompeo and Giuliani have essentially disdained those subpoenas, and President Trump has tweeted that it's all a gigantic hoax and that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff should be tried for the capital crime of treason.
"We're not fooling around here," Schiff warned in a news conference today with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in which they announced that they would subpoena documents related to Trump’s July phone call with the leader of Ukraine in which he asked for help in investigating potential Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
Earlier in the day, Pompeo acknowledged that he was listening in on that call, a fact that he originally attempted to obfuscate.
Anticipating that the White House will refuse to comply with information demands and subpoenas, Pelosi, Schiff and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) warn that failure to comply will be seen as evidence of wrongdoing and the expectation is that such stonewalling will be added to the obstruction of justice component in any articles of impeachment.
In his memo, Cummings said the White House’s “flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents — combined with stark and urgent warnings from the Inspector General about the gravity of these allegations — have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena.” The memo said the subpoena will seek documents that the committee first requested on Sept. 9.
Trump's response has been to stonewall and belittle House Democratic leaders.
“The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306,” read one tweet, referring to the electoral college results in the election. “Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”
But all of that bluster is not a defense that will fly in Congress. Neither will Trump's constant theme that he has done such a great job that he deserves a third term, that if he is impeached everyone's 401K portfolio will go into the toilet, or that impeachment would bring a new civil war to America.
Lessons of Watergate
It is obvious that Trump and those who blindly follow him have forgotten the lessons of Watergate and the ultimate resignation by President Nixon, who contended that America desperately needed him and it didn't really matter what he did. Of course, that didn't turn out so well.
Said Nixon to his White House staff on March 22, 1973, "I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the fifth Amendment, cover up, or anything else."
Check out these passages from Watergate.info. They are instructive. Maybe they should be tweeted to @realDonaldTrump.
Almost until the end, Nixon fought to dodge impeachment or resignation. His last tactic was to have members of Congress judge him not on evidence of his complicity in one or more aspects of scandal, but on the question of whether the nation could afford to lose him as president. Nixon, the theme went, was needed. The position was formally articulated on July 22, 1974, when the assistant minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee told committee members, “The question is, did the President do it, and if so, what are the implications of that for the nation in light of all competing interests?”
In the last week of July, 1974, as the Judiciary Committee held its final deliberations in lengthy and spellbinding televised sessions, it was apparent that this strategy had failed to move all but a few members of the committee. Nixon had given little in the way of assistance to the Judiciary Committee, generally defying their counsel’s requests and subpoenas for evidence. Nevertheless, the committee, working largely from material gathered in earlier investigations by other bodies, presented an overwhelming case against him in the form of three articles of impeachment.
Each article stated that Nixon had violated “his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of the President of the United States” and “his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Today, history repeats itself.