ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN was on Turner Classic Movies a few days ago, and just thinking about that film brings back all the intrigue of the Watergate scandal.
Secret surveillance of political enemies. Corruption high up within the Justice Department. Rank-and-file government employees hesitant to talk. Young reporters making names for themselves by holding onto their story like a dog with a bone.
It all took place in 1972-73, but in some ways it sounds very much like what we’re seeing in 2018. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sara A. Carter had her own version of “Deep Throat” --- call him DeepThroat 2.0 --- providing clues in a deserted parking garage. That’s how dark and undercover it all seems.
The latest development concerns an associate of John McCain’s, a former State Department official named David Kramer, who, according to court documents, traveled to London in 2016 to meet with Christopher Steele at McCain’s request and view “the pre-election memoranda on a confidential basis.” He came back to the United States and passed copies of the now-infamous “dossier” –- prepared for “opposition research” firm Fusion GPS and paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign –- to McCain, and later to James Comey at the FBI, who used it as the basis for FISA applications. After all that jetting around, it turns out that Steele had already given copies to the FBI, in installments starting in July 2016 (note the timing). It seems to have been very important to these people to pass this collection of unverified allegations, largely viewed today as a work of highly imaginative fiction, to the FBI, even to the point of duplicating their efforts.
Devin Nunes wanted Kramer to testify before the House Intelligence Committee as far back as last December. Reportedly, Kramer said in an interview last month that he had information regarding the Russian sources for Steele’s dossier but wouldn’t go into detail. And he doesn’t plan to, either; we’ve just learned that since receiving a subpoena from Nunes, he has invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid having to testify. Perhaps it’s because the so-called sources don't really exist. (Sara Carter also speculates that he doesn’t want to answer any questions about leaking the dossier to Buzzfeed.)
Kramer is the current senior director of the nonprofit McCain institute.
It’s becoming clearer every day how the FBI got its FISA warrants to spy on and unmask Trump associates, try to damage Trump politically, and after his stunning election find something with which to take him down. As we confirm more and more of what we’ve suspected, it’s almost inconceivable that strings weren’t being pulled from the very top. In that respect, it’s looking more and more like Watergate, but utilizing the most modern surveillance technology that makes a simple “break-in” seem primitive by comparison.
Of course, the thing that made Watergate such a scandal was that the break-in was just the tip of the iceberg. The “deep state” had been operating under its own rules for some time. Remember what “Deep Throat” (Hal Holbrook) finally tells Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), making it clear that it had to be the work of many people inside the government: “They bugged offices, they followed people, planted false press leaks, passed fake letters...investigated private lives, they planted spies, they stole documents...”
Reading that quote (I looked it up), it’s hard to know whether the speaker is talking about 1972 or 2018. But thanks to a few intrepid reporters, lawyers and judges who refuse to be deterred, and perhaps also to an Inspector General who’ll be releasing a report soon, we’ll eventually get to the bottom of it once again.
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Thanks for writing Robert Henderson! A master at obtaining political power by-hook-or-by-crook, LBJ must certainly have used every tactic available to him in his day. Indeed, "Deep Throat" made it clear that the corruption had been long-standing, so I assume he was saying it predated Nixon. The reason Nixon is used as the example here is that we happen to be talking about Watergate, and there were definitely some bad actors who compare to Comey, Lynch and the rest.
A few key differences, though: the corruption in 2018 relates to an administration that is now out of power (at least at the very top) and a Presidential candidate who did not (thank God!!) get into office. Also, something from 1972 that seems strange today --- newspapers that hesitated to run a negative story on Republicans. How quaint!