Liberals Cry Wolf on ‘Saturday Night Massacre,’ Again

Trump firing of FBI director prompts Nixonian comparison — for the third time

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 10 May 2017 at 12:51 PM

Liberals on Tuesday invoked the infamous Watergate-era firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox — again.

It was the third time in President Donald Trump’s young administration that progressives have compared his actions to the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre.”

“The analogy to Watergate is moronic, stupid and ignorant. These are attempts by has-beens like [Watergate-era journalist] Bob Woodward to appear relevant.”

A torrent of complaints followed Trump’s dismissal of acting Attorney General Sally Yates in January. But Trump was fully within his rights to fire the holdover from Barack Obama’s administration after she instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the president’s temporary ban on travel from seven terrorism-compromised countries.

In March, the Nixonian comparisons resurfaced when Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for the resignation of 46 U.S. attorneys across the country. Many focused on Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bahara, who refused to resign and forced Sessions to formally remove him.

“Everything these people do is a Saturday night massacre,” a law enforcement source told the Daily Beast at the time.

Arthur Giacalone, a semi-retired attorney, tied the firings of Yates and the U.S. attorneys together.

“The firings of these two high-ranking government lawyers — rightly or wrongly — remind me of the legendary ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ in October 1973,” he wrote.

Watergate comparisons to replacing the U.S. attorneys — which some called a “Friday Night Massacre” — are an even bigger stretch than the Yates dismissal. The 93 U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, and new administrations routinely replace them.

The current allegation is that Trump canned FBI Director James Comey in order to squash an investigation of possible coordination between his campaign and Russian agents meddling in the 2016 election.

The New York Times put it this way in a headline: “President Lands a Punch, and Many Hear Echoes of Watergate.”

Have liberals cried wolf?

The comparisons refer to Nixon’s firing of Cox, who then was a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate break-in. Nixon’s attorney general and deputy attorney both resigned rather than carry out the firing, forcing Nixon to turn to Robert Bork to perform the task.

Presidential historian Craig Shirley told LifeZette that there is “less than zero” justification for the Nixon comparisons.

“The analogy to Watergate is moronic, stupid and ignorant,” he said. “These are attempts by has-beens like [Watergate-era journalist] Bob Woodward to appear relevant.”

Shirley said Democrats have a long pattern of reaching for conspiracy theories to explain their electoral defeats. He said they blamed George McGovern’s crushing defeat in 1972 on the Watergate break-in and Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 on the so-called “October surprise” — unproven allegations that the Reagan campaign conspired with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to keep American hostages in Iran until after the election.

In the minds of Democrats, George H.W. Bush’s 1988 win was the result of a racist ad involving furloughed murderer Willie Horton, Shirley said. And he said Democrats believed Al Gore would have been president in 2000 if not for shenanigans over the Florida recount.

“Democrats never, ever take responsibility,” he said. “They never accept blame for anything.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday that Democrats now complaining had called out Comey’s conduct themselves during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information as secretary of state.

“The situation we have now, Mr. President, our Democratic colleagues complaining about the removal of an FBI director whom they, themselves, repeatedly and sharply criticized,” he said. “That removal being done by a man, [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, whom they repeatedly and effusively praised. Mr. Rosenstein recommended Mr. Comey’s removal for many of the same reasons that they consistently complained about.”

Nick Akerman, who was an assistant to Cox during the Watergate probe, said Wednesday on CNN that the Watergate analogy only goes so far.

"It's clearly Nixonian to the extent that what the president is doing is firing the person who's in charge of an investigation into him," he said. "The parallels are there. There are some important differences, though."

For one thing, Akerman said, the FBI's ongoing investigation by career prosecutors will not stop just because Comey is gone. When Nixon acted, he said, it wasn't clear that the investigation even would continue.

"There's going to be a lot of pressure to make that investigation go forward and do it in a thorough and professional way," he said.

And Akerman said there was good cause to fire Comey.

"Secondly, James Comey is no Archibald Cox," he said. "James Comey, what he did, he should have been fired last July."

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