This morning, the news and cable networks were abuzz with talk of “Watergate” and impeachment, salivating over the idea that Michael Cohen’s plea deal would lead to Trump’s ousting. Over and over again, the media compared the betrayal of the President’s former personal lawyer to Nixon’s scandal, calling Trump an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a scandal that was as big as Watergate.
All three morning network shows made the historical comparison. On ABC, anchor George Stephanopoulos asked contributor Chris Christie if Cohen’s betrayal was akin to John Dean testifying against President Nixon. “People comparing it to the Summer of ‘73, when John Dean testified against Richard Nixon. The tapes were discovered. How serious a blow?” he gushed.
CBS Anchor Norah O’Donnell also wondered if Cohen implicating Trump would lead to impeachment, asking correspondent Major Garrett, “It was after Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator that he eventually resigned the presidency not wanting to face impeachment. What is the buzz around there, what are you picking up from your sources on Capitol Hill and the White House about concerns about impeachment?”
On NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today in the 9:00 a.m. ET hour, legal analyst Dan Goldman added, “Remember with Watergate the reason why Nixon resigned, Republican senators went to him and said we cannot support you.” Host Megyn Kelly complained there was “Zero chance of that happening" with Trump.
Cable news was even more excited about the prospect that Cohen was the key player in Trump’s “Watergate.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the liberal hosts invited historian Jon Meacham on just to make the Nixon reference. Host Mika Brzezinski played dumb, asking Meacham if there were any “historical parallels” at this point in Trump’s presidency. The liberal historian happily supplied MSNBC with the sound bite they were looking for:
I think the closest parallel does go back to Watergate. It goes back to the summer of 1973 when things -- chain of events began unfolding that ultimately showed in the summer of '74 that Nixon had done something not unlike what President Trump is accused of by his own lawyer in the plea deal which is Nixon was on tape orchestrating a coverup, using federal agencies to block one another to try to keep the heat away from his own white house's political espionage arm. And ultimately what broke the Nixon presidency, and this is important I think, is combination really of three things. One was his own lawyer turned on him. Sound familiar? John W. Dean, the White House counsel. Secondly, the revelation of more evidence than you can possibly -- one could possibly have imagined, which was Alexander Butterfield revealing that Nixon had in one of the most collossally stupid maneuvers in human history had taped himself, which is 'besides that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?' That Richard Nixon would tape himself. And we just don't know in Trump world what possible evidence there could be, whether it is tapes or memos or testimony, we just don't know. And third was the fact that he actually was in fact guilty. And there was a bit of -- there was a common sense recognition of this after the Supreme Court ruled in late July of 1974 that he had to hand over the tapes. And then he was gone within about two weeks.
On MSNBC’s 9:00 a.m. ET hour with Stephanie Ruhle, guest urged that the Nixon comparison was relevant and valid to Trump and Cohen, saying “We should remember that President Nixon's watergate scandal was all about effecting a campaign and getting him re-elected. So to say that actions by somebody running for president are not relevant to this kind of inquiries is ignoring past historical scandals as well.”
CNN’s New Day was all over this comparison as well, without any skepticism shown towards Cohen’s claims about President Trump. CNN’s John Avlon and The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman both emphasized that Trump was the first President “since Nixon” to be an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the matter.