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Trump’s “Smoking Gun” band is worse than Nixon’s, but Republicans in Congress have less incentive to do anything about it

At least Donald Trump’s “Smoking Gun” band is simpler than Richard Nixon’s. Schoolchildren can easily grasp Trump’s lofty crime, in contrast to the complex, Machiavellian conspiracy immortalized on the tape that led to Nixon’s fall. It will be harder to explain to them why the Republicans in Congress decided to hold Nixon accountable, but not Trump. It was certainly not for lack of evidence. The tape is clear. Children can identify the principle at issue. You understand fraud. They know that whoever loses a race shouldn’t declare himself the winner. They know it is wrong for the loser to try to change the results of the race by threatening those who keep the score and enforce the rules. Presidential coercion Trump, the loser in the 2020 election, attempted to do this in a phone call to Georgia top electoral officer, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, on Saturday. “I only want to find 11,780 votes,” said Trump. Trump lost Georgia with 11,779 votes. To pressure these civil servants into bidding, Trump brandished a threat of prosecution. He claimed – falsely, baselessly and ridiculously – that Georgia’s ballot papers were corrupt, even though he tried to corrupt them himself: “You will find that – which is completely illegal – they are more illegal to you than they are because you know what they did and you don’t report it. That’s a criminal, that’s a crime. And you can’t let that happen. This is a big risk for you and Ryan [Germany], Your lawyer. “The type of threat (nice place you came here, I hate to see something happen to it … or to you) is not lost to anyone familiar with gangster movies. Trump’s take on the harsh cliché wasn’t particularly coherent, but it met both of the Trop’s basic requirements. It was both clear enough to be unmistakable and vague enough to minimize its own exposure to criminal prosecution.[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.] Congress then – and now By contrast, Nixon’s “Smoking Gun” volume defies a simple summary, as I was reminded last year when I tried to sum it up during an interview with French public television on “le scandale du Watergate”. I’m asked questions like the author of Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate. The Nixon tape recorded only a small part of the Watergate cover-up. But his release prompted Republicans in Congress to ask Nixon to resign or remove him. Given the recorded evidence that the president misused the power of his office to launch a direct attack on majority rule and the integrity of voting, the foundations of American democracy, most Republicans of Congress either do nothing or actively support Trump. What has changed? Less than you think. The impact of Nixon’s “Smoking Gun” band had less to do with its content – and the content of the Republican Congressional character – than with timing. As historian Mark Nevin notes, Nixon’s “Smoking Gun” band went public at the right time to make a difference. It came out in August 1974, when the Republican congressional election was past their primary and looked ahead to the November congressional election. Until they won their primary, their main concern was losing their base, which was strong on Nixon, no matter how much evidence came out that the president had broken the law, abused the power of office, and tried to cover it up. In the general election, however, Republicans of Congress had to worry about losing the center, moderates and swing voters, who were disgusted by the daily revelations about the White House’s wrongdoing. Before the Congressional Republicans won their primary, it was politically favorable for them to stay with the president, so they did it. After their primaries and before the general election, it was politically favorable for them to distance themselves from the president, so they did. How 2020 is different and no different than 1974. With the 2020 presidential election behind us, we are now in the peak season of the 2022 Congress and the 2024 Republican presidential election. This means that for most Republican officials and those seeking office, the path of least political opposition is in it insists on sticking with Trump, even if this path from democracy and equality by law leads to authoritarianism and a hollowed-out republic that contains only names by overriding the constitutional principle of Georgian Foreign Secretary Raffensperger and countless Republican electoral officials and a small number of Republicans in Congress keeping partisans in step, they have demonstrated their commitment to fair elections. The strength and political courage that they have shown, while impressive and indispensable in the current crisis, are not enough to stop the nation’s descent from democracy. Many Republicans of Congress, being big fish in red states or hatching fish in the protective habitat of Gerrymandered districts, have little incentive to serve the majority of American voters. Until they either have to represent the majority or lose their positions of power, they likely won’t do either. This article is republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Ken Hughes, University of Virginia. Read more: * Congressional Republicans abandon Watergate’s constitutional legacy and precedents in defense of Trump * Will Trump’s use of executive privileges help him avoid scrutiny of Congress? It didn’t help Richard Nixon. Ken Hughes is a researcher in the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia Miller Center. The work of the program is funded in part by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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