Carl Bernstein compares Trump's Covid-19 tapes to Nixon's controversy: A look back at the Watergate scandal

Veteran journalist and Bob Woodward’s reporting partner during Watergate scandal, Carl Bernstein called this situation graver than the scandal that brought down former president Richard Nixon

                            Carl Bernstein compares Trump's Covid-19 tapes to Nixon's controversy: A look back at the Watergate scandal
Trump (Getty Images)

As the day to the US Election is approaching, the political environment in the country is going through a churn. After the explosive report in 'The Atlantic'  alleging that President Donald Trump disregarded the military, another bombshell book containing interviews of POTUS is doing the rounds. According to the new book, Trump was allegedly aware of the consequences and the deadly effects of Covid-19 but chose to downplay it.

According to The Guardian, POTUS gave veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward 18 interviews between December 2019 and July 2020 – which form the basis of his new book ‘Rage’, obtained on September 9 by the Washington Post and CNN. According to the report, on February 7 he told Woodward in a phone call: “It goes through the air. That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.”

The report further states, on February 27, Trump said publicly: “It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.” On March 9, Trump had tweeted, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”



As per the report, by March 19, Trump had declared a national emergency but told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

The call recordings have been played on CNN. Now, another veteran journalist and Woodward’s reporting partner during Watergate scandal, Carl Bernstein, called this situation graver than the scandal that brought down former president Richard Nixon. Talking about the book Bernstein told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that Trump, as stated in The Independent, is “putting his own narrow presidential re-election efforts in front of the safety, health and wellbeing of the people of the United States”. He also said, “The facts here are even graver than Watergate.”

A look back at the Watergate scandal

In this context it is important we take a look at the Watergate scandal Woodward and Bernstein are referring to since it saw Nixon give up his seat. The scandal started on June 17, 1972, with the arrest of several burglars in the office of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), located in the Watergate complex of buildings in Washington, DC. As per History, as it was later revealed as evidence, in May 1972, members of Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (known as CREEP) broke into the DNC’s Watergate headquarters and took copies of top-secret documents and wiretapped the phones. Since the wiretaps failed to work properly, on June 17, five burglars -- later identified as Virgilio Gonzalez, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis -- returned to the venue. As they were preparing to break into the office with a new microphone, a security guard observed that several building doors had been taped and alerted the police, who arrived just in time and caught the perpetrators. Even though initially there was no clarity about the burglars being connected to Nixon, there were suspicions as copies of the reelection committee’s White House phone number were found.
In August, Nixon in his a speech assured that his White House staff was not involved in the break-in and in November 1972 he was reelected in a landslide victory. However, there were people—including Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein, trial judge John J Sirica and members of a Senate investigating committee—who thought there’s more to the matter. As some of the conspirators began to feel the pressure, they began to crack. An anonymous whistleblower ‘Deep Throat’ provided key information to Woodward and Bernstein. Later in June 2005, as per History, former FBI deputy director William Mark Felt, Sr, admitted that he was ‘Deep Throat’.

A few of Nixon’s aides, including White House counsel John Dean, appeared before a grand jury about the president’s crimes; they also said that Nixon had secretly taped every conversation that took place in the Oval Office. Nixon tried to protect the tapes and his lawyers argued that he had executive privileges, but Sirica and an independent special prosecutor named Archibald Cox were all determined to get them.

When Cox refused to back down, Nixon ordered his firing which led to several Justice Department officials to resign in protest, this incident came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Eventually, the former president agreed to surrender some of the tapes. On March 1, 1974, a grand jury appointed by a new special prosecutor charged seven of Nixon’s former aides related to the Watergate scandal. The jury wasn’t sure if they could indict a sitting president, so they called Nixon an “unindicted co-conspirator”, according to History.

In July 1974, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes. When the president was intentionally slowing the process of turning over the tapes, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, criminal cover-up and several violations of the Constitution, as per the website. On August 5, 1974, Nixon finally released the tapes, which proved and was evidence of his involvement in the Watergate crimes. He resigned on August 8.

Internet reacts to Woodward's claims

After Woodward's explosive reveal, the president tweeted, "For years Fake stories and investigations, then the phony Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, next Ukraine and the failed Impeachment, now the crummy Atlantic Magazine’s MADE UP STORY, and lastly, the political hit job by rapidly fading Bob Woodward and his boring book. It never ends!"



However, social media isn't really convinced about Trump's denial of Woodward's claims. One user said, "Lordy, Bob Woodward has done it again. The admission ON TAPE by trump that he KNEW how deadly the virus was, but INTENTIONALLY downplayed it, is one billion times worse than Watergate, or any other gate. trump belongs in prison. #TrumpLiedPeopleDied"



Another said,  "Trump thought he could con the guy who broke the Watergate scandal"



Another put things into context saying:  "What did the President know and when did he know it? During Watergate that was a question about a criminal break-in of DNC headquarters. In the context of Covid, Bob Woodward proves that Trump knew early but just didn't care about the lives of the American people."



One user stated, "Woodward & Bernstein's Journalism exposed Nixon's culpability in Watergate. In comparison, Watergate is peanuts comparing the danger Trump, Barr & Co. are to this Representative Democratic Republic. Trump's narcissism disorder won't allow him to resign. Vote early. #TrumpKnew"



One user said, "The Nixon Watergate Tapes. The Coronavirus Trump Tapes. WHICH IS WORSE ? I'm thinking that suffering and death is far, far worse than any scam Nixon did. Trump is the biggest criminal and murderer in US history. He knew of the terrible danger we faced. And he just let us die."



Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.