Trump and his minions started lying about Russia the minute the subject came up. The reason they lied was to prevent anyone from knowing what they had done with Russians during the presidential campaign of 2016 and the transition that followed. They wanted to keep their contacts with Russians a secret because they knew what they had done was illegal, and they knew they were already under investigation. They began obstructing that investigation even before it was known to the public. They began with a blizzard of lies. We saw the lies morph from “we did not meet with any Russians,” to “maybe, we met with some Russians but all we talked about were issues like adoption,” to “okay, there were contacts with Russians about the campaign, but there was no collusion,” to “oh, by the way, there was no obstruction!” Then they began firing anyone who got too close to the truth.
What we have been witnessing since early in 2017 is a slow motion Saturday night massacre, the modern equivalent of the night Richard Nixon fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in an attempt to stop the investigation of the crime of the Watergate break-in and the subsequent cover-up. This time the crime is far more serious: the theft of the presidential election of 2016. But the cover-up is the same old lying, firing, and obstruction of justice.
The first article of impeachment brought by the House of Representatives against Richard Nixon on July 27, 1974 held that he had “prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.” It listed multiple ways Nixon and his people had done this. The Congress held that they had made “false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;” they had withheld “relevant and material evidence or information;” they had caused witnesses to give “false or misleading statements;” they had interfered “with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees;” they had “misused the Central Intelligence Agency;” and they had made “false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States.”
Let’s have a look back at what Donald Trump and his people have done over the last year or so and see if we can find the same kind of lies and firings and obstruction of justice that the Congress charged Nixon with.
On January 10, 2017, ten days before Trump took the oath of office, the lying began. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he denied that he had had any contacts with Russians during the campaign or knew of anyone who did. Trump sent out a tweet calling the Steele dossier (which was published by Buzzfeed that day) “fake news.”
On January 11, Trump tweeted, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”
On January 13, Sean Spicer, newly named White House spokesman, went before the press and lied about the five phone calls between National Security Adviser nominee Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, telling the press the calls had concerned only “logistical information.”
On January 15, Trump told the Times of London “we should trust Putin” and called the Steele dossier “false.” Vice President-elect Mike Pence, asked about the calls between Flynn and Kislyak, said they were not about sanctions. He then went on Fox News Sunday and denied that there had been any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.
On January 18, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner lied on his application for a top secret security clearance by omitting his meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, including the meeting at Trump Tower in June and his meetings with Kislyak and Putin pal and head of VEB bank Sergey Gorkov at Trump Tower during the transition.
On January 23, at his first official White House press briefing, Sean Spicer said Flynn had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak.
On January 24, Michael Flynn lied to the FBI when he denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak on December 29.
On January 26, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the White House that Flynn had lied to the FBI about his conversation with Kislyak and told them he had made himself subject to Russian blackmail. The White House at this moment knew that the National Security Adviser had given “false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States,” in the words of the first article of impeachment of Richard Nixon.
On January 27, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russians during the campaign.
Also on January 27, Trump invited FBI Director James Comey to the White House for dinner and asked for his “loyalty,” inferring that his acquiescence to this request would be necessary for him to stay on as FBI director.
On January 30, Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, the official who had informed him that his National Security Adviser had lied to the FBI. Knowing that Michael Flynn had committed a felony, the President nevertheless kept him on the job.
On February 8, Flynn lied in an interview with the Washington Post when he denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak.
On February 10, Trump lied when he told reporters he was “unaware” of Flynn’s discussions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Trump had been told on January 24 about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak by Sally Yates.
On February 13, Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser, setting a record for the shortest term in that job in American history.
On February 14, Sean Spicer denied that anyone in the Trump campaign had had any contacts with Russians.
Also on Februay 14, Trump held FBI Director Comey behind in the Oval Office after Sessions and Pence and others left the room and sought to protect Michael Flynn by telling Comey he wanted the FBI Director to “let Flynn go.”
On February 15, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe (fired this week from his job at the FBI) and asked him to deny there had been contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. McCabe refused to lie for the White House.
Also on February 15, the White House reached out to “senior members of the intelligence community and Congress” in an attempt to rebut reports about Russian contacts by the Trump campaign. Senior intelligence officials made calls to reporters dismissing the Russia contacts as “inconsequential” according to the Washington Post. Senator Richard Burr and Congressman Devin Nunes, heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees, were also asked by the White House to declare news reports about Trump campaign contacts with Russians as “false.”
On February 16, in his first major news conference as President, Donald Trump lied to the American people when he denounced stories about contacts between his campaign and Russians as “fake news.” He was asked repeatedly if anyone in his campaign had any contacts with Russians. Trump, knowing that Flynn had been in contact repeatedly with Kislyak, lied again saying, “No, nobody that I know of.”
On February 19, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went on the Sunday talk shows and lied when he called news reports about Russia contacts “complete garbage.” Also, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski denied on the ABC News program “This Week” that there had been contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.”
On February 28, the House Judiciary Committee, in a party line vote, killed a motion calling for President Trump to provide documents about the connections between his campaign and Russians.
On March 1, Attorney General Sessions issued a new statement about his contacts with Russians, admitting that he had met with Russians, but that he had “never met with any Russian officials to discuss any issues of the campaign.” This was the formal introduction of stage two of the lying, going from “no contacts with Russians” to “no contacts with Russians about the campaign.”
On March 2, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, yielding to Department of Justice rules that barred his leadership of the investigation.
Also on March 2, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page went on MSNBC and confirmed that he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which he had previously denied. A report in USA Today also revealed that another campaign aide, J.D. Gordon, had met with Kislyak during the Republican National Convention.
Also on March 2, the New York Times reported that during the transition, a meeting took place in Trump Tower between Russian Ambassador Kislyak, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Michael Flynn.
On March 3, a camera outside the Oval Office captured Trump erupting in a display of anger over revelations in the press about the Russia connections. Present at the meeting were Reince Priebus, Stephen K. Bannon, White House counsel Don McGahn, press secretary Sean Spicer, White House communications director Mike Dubke, Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, according to sources cited by ABC News.
On March 4, seeking to distract attention from the Russia story, Trump tweeted at 6:35 a.m. from Mar-a-Lago that “Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower.”
On March 20, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey said there was no evidence that the Obama administration had “tapped” Trump’s phones. He volunteered the information that the FBI had been conducting a criminal and counter-intelligence investigation of the Trump campaign and its contacts with Russians for the last nine months.
Within days of Comey’s testimony, Trump called Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Admiral Michael Rogers and asked both men to publicly deny that there had been any evidence of collusion with Russians by the Trump campaign during the election. Both men refused.
On March 22, House Intelligence Committee chief Devin Nunes went on his infamous White House snipe hunt, producing false reports that the Obama White House had illegally “unmasked” the identities of Trump campaign officials during surveillance of Russians in 2016.
Also on March 22, at a meeting with senior national security officials in the Oval Office, Trump asked everyone to leave except CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. He then asked both men to intervene with FBI Director James Comey and get him to “back off” the Russia investigation, thus interfering “with the conduct of investigations of the Department of Justice of the United States and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” in the words of the first article of impeachment of Richard Nixon.
On March 30, Trump called FBI Director Comey in his FBI office and asked him to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation, yet another attempt to interfere with the FBI investigation.
On April 5, Russian Ambassador Kislyak met with Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and other top Trump administration officials at a VIP reception before Trump’s foreign policy address at the Mayflower Hotel. Right after this meeting, Trump called the “Russia story,” which was about meetings between his people and Russians, a “total hoax.”
On April 6, Devin Nunes recused himself from the Russia investigation by his own committee.
On April 10, Trump again called Comey and asked him what had been done to “get out” information that he was not under investigation. He told Comey “the cloud” of the Russia investigation is getting in the way of him doing his job.
On April 29, on his 100th day in office, Trump went on CBS News “Face the Nation” and said “The concept of Russia with respect to us is a total phony story.”
On May 3, Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and confirmed that it was Russia that hacked the files of the DNC and refused to say that Trump was not under investigation. According to reports the next day, when Trump heard this, he was enraged.
On May 5, one of Session’s aides at the Justice Department asked a staff member on one of the committees investigating the Trump/Russia connections if they had “dirt” on Comey.
On the weekend of May 6-7, Trump met with aides at his Bedminster New Jersey golf resort and produced a letter justifying firing Comey.
On Monday, May 8, Trump met with senior White House officials including Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Don McGahn in an attempt to come up with a justification to fire Comey. Later that day, McGahn arranged for Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to meet with Trump in the Oval Office. They agree to produce a letter justifying the firing of Comey.
On Tuesday, May 9, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, explaining that he was fired because of the way he handled Hillary Clinton’s emails.
On May 10, at a meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told Russian Ambassador Kislyak he fired Comey, explaining that “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
On May 11, asked by NBC News anchor Lester Holt why he fired Comey, Trump answered “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”
More lies and more firings were to come, most recently that of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man who took over the Russia investigation after Comey was fired. Now there are reports that the next neck on the block is that of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be in charge of the Russia investigation. There is rampant speculation that Mueller himself will be next.
Trump and senior members of his administration, all the way from the White House spokesman to the Attorney General to the Vice President of the United States, have engaged in a blizzard of lies and misleading statements to law enforcement investigators, congressional committees, and the press and the American people in furtherance of a continuing campaign of obstruction of justice of the Russia investigation. They have lied and obstructed justice to cover up what they have done for one reason: because lying and obstructing is potentially less of a crime than what they are covering up, which is the theft of the presidential election of 2016 in conjunction with forces of a foreign power hostile to the interests of the country, namely Russia.
It’s been a slow motion massacre of justice. The only question now is who will be left standing when it’s over: Donald Trump or the rule of law in the United States of America.