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Trump will undoubtedly face impeachment, says Watergate attorney

An attorney for Richard Nixon's top adviser in the Watergate scandal says he's watching history repeat itself under Donald Trump

Chris Riotta
New York
Saturday 08 September 2018 17:30 BST
Trump suggests he will be impeached if Republicans lose congress

Andrew Hall watched from within the courtroom as four of Richard Nixon’s top advisers were sentenced to prison for their roles in the Watergate coverup.

He had been hired as counsel by John D Ehrlichman, the former president’s senior adviser for domestic affairs, who was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury. Ehrlichman created “The Plumbers”, a covert special investigations unit inside of the White House that began conducting illegal operations under his watch, leading to one of America’s most extraordinary political scandals.

Now, Mr Hall says he’s watching history repeat itself, with Donald Trump and his associates awaiting a similar fate in the days and weeks ahead.

“The coverup is always worse than the crime,” the attorney said in an interview with The Independent. “And this one is very shady. We have a sitting president who will undoubtedly be impeached.”

Explosive reports from inside the White House have recently arrived in the form of an anonymous New York Times op-ed penned by a senior administration official, as well as a 448-page book by Bob Woodward, one of the journalists famous for exposing critical information in the Watergate scandal.

Both describe an administration in disorder, complete with an aloof president in Mr Trump who appears incapable of leading the nation. Aides are reportedly swiping documents from his desk. Several have allegedly formed a “steady resistance” to thwart his worst inclinations.

Meanwhile, the underlying question of whether or not Mr Trump’s campaign conspired with Russian officials to impact the 2016 election remains at the heart of a federal investigation spearheaded by special counsel Robert Mueller, who, aping Mr Nixon, the president has threatened to fire.

In a scene from Mr Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House, the president’s former attorney John Dowd told Mr Mueller he worried the president would perjure himself after conducting a mock cross-examination.

The White House has denied the practice examination took place while pushing back on Mr Woodward’s new book. However, if it did in fact take place, it may very well have been the smartest decision the president’s attorneys made, according to Mr Hall.

“The idea to prepare a witness in and of itself is a good idea, but the fact that he’s incapable of being truthful throughout the entire exam is pretty scary,” he said. “It raises a whole lot of issues. If a lawyer knows his client is not telling the truth, he can’t sit by and let that happen, he can’t participate and he must disassociate himself with that activity … otherwise, they lose their licence for facilitating perjury.”

Donald Trump suggests he would override his legal team submit to interview with Robert Mueller

Mr Woodward, who exposed major gaps in Ehrlichman’s story and other crucial information in the Watergate scandal, can certainly be expected to deliver more bombshells when his book hits shelves next week.

Some of those revelations could lead to Mr Trump’s impeachment – an historic event that will “undoubtedly” occur in the president’s first term, according to Mr Hall.

“The November elections have an enormous impact on how this plays out,” he said. “If the Democrats take the Senate, or enough Republicans switch over, there will be a successful impeachment.”

Still, the attorney doesn’t foresee impeachment proceedings removing Mr Trump from office. “He will resign,” Mr Hall said in the event of impeachment proceedings beginning after the 2018 midterm elections.

However, the end of the Trump presidency doesn’t mark the end of his associates’ legal troubles, just like that of Mr Nixon’s tenure.

In fact, those who remain in the president’s inner circle could soon find themselves in even greater jeopardy if Mr Trump were to lie to the special counsel.

“Rudy Giuliani is in worse trouble if the president lies to Mueller,” Mr Hall said. “Giuliani can be indicted. The president cannot while sitting.”

Mr Mueller’s office reportedly agreed to a small concession in its ongoing probe, allowing the president to provide written answers to questions about whether his campaign conspired to work with Russian officials throughout the election.

In the event that Mr Trump provides those written statements to the special counsel’s office, it’s likely his attorneys would take part in drafting the answers. “If it ends up where someone made a change to his statements which is not truthful, it’s deception, which is illegal. Then you have a false statement to agents.”

Already, several associates to Mr Trump have faced a bevy of convictions, from his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to his longtime attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. The president has suggested he would be willing to pardon Manafort, and possibly other aides who refuse to cooperate with investigators.

Whether or not he follows through with pardoning his associates appears to be the one event Mr Hall cannot predict.

In Mr Nixon’s case, the former president promised his aides pardons, before eventually reneging that vow.

“Trump may pardon them as his final act,” he said. “In Watergate, Nixon’s top advisers – all of them – were facing jail time. In this case, I think the president’s top advisers will, too. And they should. If you are a top adviser to the president you should know better.”

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