The Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal used the 50th anniversary of the event to draw parallels with the events of January 6, 2020, with Carl Bernstein praising the work of the Democrats’ January 6 Committee and questioning the status of the Supreme Court.
Carl Bernstein also said that a remedy in the case of Richard Nixon — the specter of certain impeachment if he did not resign — no longer exists because impeachment has become purely political.
In a Washington Post live panel moderated by reporter Dan Balz, Bernstein repeatedly pivoted from questions about his work in the 1970s to the current day.
“I want to go to today… the biggest story… a seditious criminal president of the United States who also almost won re-election… who staged an attempted coup such as you would see in a junta or a banana republic,” Bernstein said.
Bob Woodward chimed in: “In case there’s mystery, Carl’s talking about Trump.”
Woodward read a note from Nixon that said, “Never forget: The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy. The professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it.”
Balz then played a clip of a senator in the 1970s using language similar to Democrats’ current rhetoric, saying the Watergate break-in and ensuing coverup amounted to an “undermining of our democracy.”
Bernstein praised the January 6 Committee, saying, “This committee has really got the goods, and we’re going to see a lot more.”
Questioned about the Oval Office tapes that convinced the public of Nixon’s role in Watergate, Bernstein downplayed the importance of such a high bar for evidence. “If there is one terrible legacy of Watergate, and there aren’t that many, it’s the notion of a smoking gun… you didn’t need a smoking gun, and that also goes to today.”
“What they’ve done is amazing, yet as you pointed out what Nixon did was concealed, with secret tape recordings, but a lot of what Trump’s done is out in the open. He says the election was stolen,” he said.
Bernstein also suggested that the Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy to partisanship.
Nixon “might well have escaped, and yet the Supreme Court said in a unanimous decision that the president of the United States must turn the tapes over. Let’s look at the Supreme Court situation today… one of the things that have happened is that the wife of a Supreme Court justice is now a part of the story,” he said, referring to Democrats’ request for testimony from conservative activist Ginni Thomas.
“It’s raised all kinds of questions about what she has told Justice Thomas,” Bernstein said.
On that, Woodward offered restraint. “We just don’t know about this, and we need to keep an open mind. She said she’s willing to testify… that’s tender territory. Somebody’s wife who’s on the Supreme Court. … They’re treading very carefully and I think wisely.”
But Woodward also called Trump a criminal. “It is a crime to subvert a legitimate function of government,” he said. “This is a clear, laid-down case of obstructing an essential and necessary function of government. What’s more necessary than certifying who’s the next president of the United States? … 1,000 people violently descended on the Capitol.”
Bernstein said, “Trump clearly committed a crime. The next level up is sedition. What is sedition? It is to encourage, foment an insurrection against the government of the United States. We have the first president in history who has tried to engage and produce an insurrection. What do you do with that? … We failed an impeachment before. Merrick Garland, the Attorney General of the United States, now has a huge decision to make. Is Donald Trump now going to be prosecuted as the leader of this conspiracy?”