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Fri Apr 19, 2019, 05:06 PM

Lasting damage

April 19, 2019

When transcripts of Richard Nixon’s Oval Office tapes were released during Watergate, they were punctuated by the White House with the prissy editing notation: “Expletive Deleted.” As edited by Attorney General William Barr’s blue pencil, the Mueller report has added a new phrase to the political lexicon: “Harm to Ongoing Matter.”

Some of Barr’s redactions appear to be the legalistic equivalent of the cavalry riding over the hill to save Trump in the last reel of an old Western. Discussing the Russian hacking of Democratic computers during the 2016 campaign, Mueller and his team provocatively wrote, “In addition, some witnesses said that Trump was aware that <Harm to Ongoing Matter> at a time when public reports stated that Russian intelligence officials were behind the hacks, and that Trump privately sought information about future WikiLeaks releases.”

Before Republicans shout “no collusion” with the repetitiveness of a mobster invoking the Fifth Amendment, they should be challenged to come up with a benign interpretation of the missing words in the above sentence ...

... never dismiss the power of political gravity. Nixon collapsed in the polls during the mid-1973 Senate Watergate hearings and then drifted slowly downward until his resignation in August 1974, when just 24 percent of the public approved of him. Even a year before Nixon flew into exile at San Clemente, 57 percent of Americans already agreed in a Harris Poll that “Watergate has turned out to be the worst scandal in our history” ...


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