May 10th, 2017

TrumpRussia, the Watergate Sketches, and You

Jurors listen to the Watergate tapes. Sketch by John Hart.

The sketches hang in my office as souvenirs from a trial long ago. I represented the estate of the courtroom sketch artist in a medical malpractice trial, and a grateful widow sold them to me when the trial was over.

Watergate. The scandal by which all others are measured, as the ubiquitous -gate suffix was tagged to anything and everything that it could be tagged to.

The scandal stood for, above all else, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. As everyone knows (or should know) it wasn’t the “third-rate burglary” that sent Nixon packing. It was the cover-up.

I look at the sketches every day.

H.R. Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff, on the witness stand. Judge John Sirica behind him. Sketch by John Hart.

And now, with FBI Director James Comey being fired amidst an investigation he was conducting into the TrumpRussia scandal — no need for the -gate suffix here — Watergate is on everyone’s mind.

For it was Nixon that gave the order to ax special prosecutor Archibald Cox who was doing the investigation. And when the attorney general and deputy attorney general both refused, and resigned in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, the job fell to future judge Robert Bork.

No one in the Trump White House, it seems, could foresee that a president firing the guy that was investigating his own administration regarding Russia’s meddling in our election, and possible collusion, might be a problem.

But while Trump can fire Comey, and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and Preet Bharara, all of whom were investigating him — he can’t fire everyone. Because not everyone works for him.

Prosecutor James Neal talking to the jury. Judge John Sirica in the background. Sketch by John Hart.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating Trump. And Schneiderman is beyond Trump’s reach.

The tell for if/when Schneiderman is getting close to something will be when Trump starts tweeting about him.

Ultimately, however, the Constitution charges we the people with the task of removal. And if not by an unwilling Congress, then by a change of the Congress the next election day.

One way or another the republic will survive this. We can only hope that there are no improvident actions in the interim that cost people lives.


June 17th, 2012

Watergate, 40 Years Ago Today (And Some History In My Office)

H.R.Haldeman on the witness stand. Judge John Sirica on the bench.

It was 40 years ago that an apartment complex in Washington DC became famous for a burglary. And since then, media types have tried to attach -gate to any potential scandal. The purpose today is not to write about the scandal itself…a quick look at the Wikipedia entry I linked to will give viewers a refresher course — but to its significance to me.

As it happens, I have a small piece of that history hanging in my office. They are four sketches from the trial of White House aides H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and former attorney general John Mitchell, two of which you see here. The others are at my website.

I acquired them from the grateful widow of the artist, John D. Hart, after trying his medical malpractice case to verdict 20 years ago. Back in the day, Mr. Hart was an accomplished artist whose works are in the permanent collections of a couple museums.

And each day I look at these drawings, and each day appreciate the concept of governmental abuse of power and the arrogance of so many that hold positions within it. But also, I appreciate the power of the jury to hold the people involved accountable.

Six jurors listening to the Watergate tapes