The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, will begin public hearings on TV Thursday night. The hearings are reminiscent of another watershed political event: the 1973 Watergate hearings.
On the night of June 17, five burglars were caught inside that complex in office space rented by the Democratic National Committee. They were bugging telephones and rifling files when the police arrived. Investigation into the incident found that some of the burglars had connections to the White House or the re-election committee of President Richard Nixon.
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Senate leaders in both parties decided a special committee to look into the matter. The Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities held its first session in May of 1973, 11 months to the day after the break-in.
Over the course of the following two years an incredible story of crude criminality, corruption, and even possible treason unfolded before the public. It resulted in the only presidential resignation in American history.
This week begins the first public hearings aiming to unravel an equally serious White House scandal.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who have reported on both events, have drawn some predictable parallels between the two.
“As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest,” they wrote in a column in the Washington Post.
“Both Nixon and Trump created a conspiratorial world in which the U.S. Constitution, laws and fragile democratic traditions were to be manipulated or ignored, political opponents and the media were “enemies,” and there were few or no restraints on the powers entrusted to presidents. […] Both Nixon and Trump have been willing prisoners of their compulsions to dominate, and to gain and hold political power through virtually any means. In leaning so heavily on these dark impulses, they defined two of the most dangerous and troubling eras in American history,” the column read.
“As Washington warned in his Farewell Address more than 225 years ago, unprincipled leaders could create ‘permanent despotism,’ ‘the ruins of public liberty,’ and ‘riot and insurrection.'”