When a helicopter crashes onto a building anywhere else in the country, it is a news story on your local television news. But when it happens in New York City, where all the major television networks but CNN are headquartered, that local news story becomes the only news story the television networks want to cover. This is a failure of the television news networks.
The House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the Mueller Report on Monday, but unless you are a C-Span junkie who watched the hearing on C-Span 3 — and let’s be honest, that’s an audience of perhaps a few thousand viewers — you would never have known this because even the cable news networks did not cover this hearing in favor of covering the New York helicopter crash.
Republicans for the Rule of Law aired a new ad on “Fox & Friends” on Monday, ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing, urging Republican members of Congress to take seriously allegations of obstruction of justice made against President Trump. GOP group urges Republicans to speak out on obstruction claims against Trump in new ad:
In the 60-second ad Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings are shown raising concerns about potential obstruction of justice as committed by then-President Nixon.
“When Nixon was alleged to have obstructed justice, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee took these allegations seriously,” the ad begins.
Footage of several GOP lawmakers serving on the panel at that time is then shown, as they called for action to be taken over the then-president’s obstruction efforts.
“It is we, not the Democrats, who must show we are capable of enforcing the high standard we would set for them,” Rep. M. Caldwell Butler (R-Va.) is shown saying.
“Republicans stood for the rule of law then. Republicans should stand for the rule of law now,” the ad ends.
Their pleading fell on deaf ears. There are no principled Republicans in Congress today as there were during the Watergate era. They are all sycophant cult followers of the personality cult of Donald Trump. Defending the Constitution and the rule of law mean nothing to them. Blind loyalty to “Dear Leader” and to GOP tribalism is their new religion.
The House Judiciary Committee hearing featured the star witness from the Watergate hearings, former White House Counsel John Dean, who was there to provide historical context and to comment on the many similarities to the conduct described in the Mueller Report. Here is Dean’s opening statement.
The hearing also featured two former federal prosecutors who now teach law as expert witnesses, and who are also legal analysts for MSNBC, Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade. The Republican expert witness was John Malcolm from the Heritage Foundation.
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance told members of the House of Representatives on Monday that she would be “personally” willing to prosecute President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice. Former US attorney tells Congress she would be willing to ‘personally’ prosecute Trump:
Vance asserted that prosecutors “would have to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial” that the president obstructed justice by trying to subvert the Russia investigation.
Vance said that she had reviewed both volumes of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
“The facts contained in that report would be sufficient to prove all of the elements necessary to charge multiple counts of obstruction of the evidence,” she explained. “And I would be willing to personally indict the case, and to try the case. I would have confidence that the evidence would be sufficient to obtain a guilty verdict, and to win on appeal.”
Vance is one of over a thousand former federal prosecutes who have signed a letter stating that “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”
Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade is also a signatory to that letter. Former U.S. Attorney Tells Congress Trump Committed ‘Multiple Crimes’ (Statement as prepared for testimony before the House Judiciary Committee).
Republicans, predictably, tried to make a farce of the hearing to create soundbites to play back later on Fox News aka Trump TV. Their lack of seriousness frequently resulted in the committee audience laughing at them. Hearing erupts in laughter at “Gym” Jordan after John Dean humiliates him with lesson on parliamentary rules; Matt Gaetz attempts to corner John Dean — but his failed interrogation results in nothing but laughter.
I reiterate, there are no principled Republicans in Congress today as there were during the Watergate era. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), actually a Libertarian, is the lone exception calling for impeachment hearings. Amash quits House Freedom Caucus: Rep. Justin Amash quit the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Monday night, weeks after becoming the lone Republican to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
There were seven Republican congressmen on the House Judiciary Committee who voted for at lest one of the three Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon. Two of these principled Republicans have already been featured in a series that Lawrence O’Donnell is doing on his program on MSNBC.
Here is Rep. Lawrence Hogan, Sr. (R-Maryland),the only Republican to vote for all three Nixon Articles of Impeachment, and the father of the current Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan.
And here is Rep. M. Caldwell Butler (R-Virginia) who voted for article 1 and article 2 of the Nixon Articles of Impeachment.
Where are these principled Republicans today, who put defending the Constitution and the rule of law ahead of personal loyalties or loyalty to their party out of GOP tribalism? They have all been replaced by sycophant cult followers of the personality cult of Donald Trump.
How did America ever fall so low? (Hint: the rise of the conservative media entertainment complex since Watergate).
UPDATE: On this last point, Margaret Sullivan writes at the Washington Post, Watergate-era accountability isn’t feasible right now. The reasons should make us grieve.
As the anniversary of the Watergate scandal’s beginning comes around again — the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters was on June 17, 1972 — investigative journalism’s effectiveness is weakened. The reporting may be every bit as skilled, but the results are greatly diluted because so much has changed in the nation, including its media.
During the Watergate era, as Zirinsky noted, there were three networks. Now, cable news, talk radio, thousands of websites and social media create a polluted firehose-blast of information mixed with disinformation.
Back then, what was said on those three networks — often fed by revelations from The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — was largely believed.
Much more than now, there was a shared set of facts.
That doesn’t mean there was agreement about what to do about those facts, or that there wasn’t plenty of political spin and denial. (“I am not a crook,” Nixon famously said, though he was.)
But in general, straight news was not relentlessly countered by bad-faith propaganda in the style of Fox News’s Sean Hannity. (Recall that Fox News, with all of its intended-from-the-start evils, was founded in 1996.)
News came to citizens from sources they trusted — including their local newspapers. While many editorial pages supported Nixon almost to the end, front pages all around the country were telling people what was happening, blow by blow. Those papers are no longer a major news source in many places. Facebook, though, is.
“In an earlier era, too, the Mueller Report very likely would have blown a presidency out of the water.”