Friday, May 12, 2017

Chilling Op-Ed

Philip Alan Lacovara was one of the Watergate prosecutors, and in today's Washington Post he details his biggest disappointment with the current situation...

Reports about why the president was so set on ousting Comey are equally resonant of those long-ago Watergate days. Trump, according to The Post, grew increasingly infuriated with Comey for not pursuing leaks about the probe. In Capitol Hill hearings, the president’s defense team among Republicans in Congress has adopted a similar diversionary strategy, focusing on the leaks rather than the far more serious underlying abuses.

Like Trump and his allies, Nixon and his compatriots were furious about leaks emerging during the early stages of the Watergate investigation. Then, key information that put The Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the trail of the coverup and kept up the pressure for thorough official investigations came from a source they referred to as Deep Throat, later identified as FBI Assistant Director Mark Felt. Felt chose the difficult course of leaking important information because he feared that the Nixon administration might be successful in suppressing the FBI investigation and maintaining the coverup.

The highest duty of those in public service is to make sure that the truth about serious misconduct emerges. It would be a tragedy if threats to lock up leakers were to cow honorable FBI agents and career prosecutors into silence, even if they smell a coverup at the top. Leaks may be manipulative or mischievous, but — as in Watergate — they may be essential to the transparency and accountability that the American public has the right to expect.

After Nixon resigned, there were congratulatory comments that “the system worked.” But this assessment was overly simplistic. Now, as then, the system works only if the right people in the system do the right thing when deciding whether to roll over or to stand up.