The screencap in the chyron—Could Impeachment Inquiry Land Trump Associates in Jail?—made Joy Reid's strategy this morning very clear. To get Trump associates to flip against the President, try to panic them with the possibility of prison.
Reid brought on two Watergate veterans to tell tales of the many Nixon aides who went to prison. Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said that back then, "it was, who's going to get the best deal by being the first in [to flip]?" She saw the same thing happening now, ominously adding: "the dominoes are going to start to fall, and it's going to happen fast." Her threatening message to Trump associates couldn't be clearer.
Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade sounded a similar, intimidating note: Trump aides will have the option of being "a witness, or a defendant."
Watergate-era congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman had a pointed, threatening message for Attorney General Bill Barr. After noting that two of Nixon's AGs were convicted of crimes, Holtzmann said: "so Barr better be thinking about what's going to happen to him."
Reid herself gleefully mentioned more than once that although President Trump might be protected from indictment, his associates are not. To the contrary, suggested Reid, they could be on "the going-to-jail truck."
It's not at all clear that Trump associates have any incriminating information to offer. In any case, such associates should consider that Joy Reid and her ilk only wish ill upon anyone affiliated with President Trump. They might the last people that Trump aides should look to for advice.
Here's the transcript:
10:58 am EDT
JOY REID: But what I want to ask you about, Jill, are the people around Richard Nixon. Because not a few of them went to prison. Can you just remind folks of who around Nixon wound up not on the impeachment truck, but on the going-to-jail truck?
JILL WINE-BANKS: Well, it was a big group of people who went to jail.
. . .
REID: There are a number of people who are allowing themselves to be corrupted along with Donald Trump. And the Nixon example is, Nixon didn't go to prison, but a whole lot of people around him, who you just heard Jill Wine-Banks mention, went to prison because people were willing to commit the crime for him. They were willing to help him do what he wanted done. And once you've done it, he may not have liability under that DOJ memo, but you might!
. . .
BARBARA MCQUADE: Any one of these people could be charged with a crime. As we saw, as Jill explained, in the Watergate scandal. You know, whenever you've got a public corruption investigation, even at the garden-variety, the kind of cases I was involved with, when you approach people, you often tell them: look, you can be a witness, or you're going to be a defendant in this case. The choice is yours . . . And already, I think we're seeing making that calculus, and I think in the coming weeks, we are going to see some people choose to be witnesses, so that they don't become defendants, and we're going to learn more about this scandal.
. . .
REID: The people who were a part of the original Russia-gate scandal, most of them are in prison, or headed there. So the templates for Donald Trump's friends and associates and those obedient to him: he may not go to jail, we don't know what's going to happen to him, but they might!
. . .
MAYA WILEY: I think there's going to be a lot of folks who have real concerns, right now today, even if they don't admit it, that they too will not only be under the bus, but that the bus is going to roll over them more than once.
. . .
WINE-BANKS: There was [during Watergate] also a rush into the prosecution offices: it was who was going to get the best deal by being the first in? And you had John Dean and Jeb Magruder running to our offices, saying I'll cooperate, I'll cooperate. And I think that's going to start happening. And that once we get to that level of cooperation, the dominoes are going to fall, and it's going to happen fast.
. . .
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: We don't know what information is going to come out: dominoes are falling, this is unraveling . . . Two attorneys general under Nixon were convicted of crimes. Not just Mitchell. But Kleindienst, his successor. So Barr better be thinking about what's going to happen to him.