Comey: Trump’s ‘Saturday Night Massacre’?
“Among people of a certain age, the sudden and strangely explained firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump brings back memories,” said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. Last week’s dramatic events had echoes of the notorious “Saturday Night Massacre” on Oct. 20, 1973, when beleaguered then–President Richard Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused and resigned, and so did his deputy, William Ruckelshaus. Eventually, then– Solicitor General Robert Bork did the dirty deed. Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey has some striking parallels to Nixon’s “massacre,” said Jeffrey Frank in The New Yorker. Both cases involve a president firing the official responsible for carrying out an investigation involving his team—for Trump, the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. And both cases “were accompanied by a powerful odor: of something being covered up.”
Oh, please—“this isn’t the Saturday Night Massacre,” said Hugh Hewitt in The Washington Post. When Nixon fired Cox in 1973, the special prosecutor had subpoenaed the president’s Oval Office tapes, which Nixon knew proved a cover-up leading all the way to the White House. This time, “there are no tapes, no subpoenas for presidential documents.” And instead of resignations from the Justice Department, we have “recommendations from the Justice Department”—specifically, a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explaining that Comey had to go because of his inappropriate public discussions of the Clinton email investigations during the election. Desperate for Watergate parallels, “the overwrought media has toppled into hysteria again.”
Actually, “Comey’s firing is worse than the Saturday Night Massacre,” said Bruce Shapiro in TheNation.com. Nixon’s authoritarian overreach ultimately backfired. Thanks to the courage of Richardson and Ruckelshaus, and the principles of Republican lawmakers, Nixon was forced to release the tapes and had to resign 10 months later to avoid impeachment. “Thus far, the Comey story is the exact opposite: It is all a bout collusion”— the “just-following-orders support memo by Rosenstein and the muted response of Senate Republicans.” Four decades ago, “the system worked,” said Will Bunch in Philly.com. But with our politics more “narrow, partisan, and divisive” than ever, “there is absolutely no guarantee that the ending of this sequel will be as upbeat.”