Trump’s ‘smoking gun’ tape is worse than Nixon’s
But congressional Republicans have less incentive to do anything about it, writes Ken Hughes
At least Donald Trump’s “smoking gun” tape is simpler than Richard Nixon’s.
Schoolchildren can easily grasp Trump’s high crime, in contrast to the complex, Machiavellian plot immortalized on the tape that led to Nixon’s downfall. It will be harder to explain to them why congressional Republicans decided to hold Nixon accountable, but not Trump.
It certainly wasn’t for lack of evidence. The tape is clear. Children can identify the principle at stake. They understand cheating. They know that the loser of a race should not declare himself the winner. They know it’s wrong for the loser to try to change the results of the race by threatening those who keep the score and enforce the rules.
That is what Trump, the loser of the 2020 election, tried to do to the top election official in Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in a phone call on Saturday.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump said.
Trump lost Georgia by 11,779 votes. To pressure this state official to do his bidding, Trump brandished the threat of criminal prosecution. He claimed—falsely, baselessly and ridiculously—that Georgia’s ballots were corrupt even as he was trying to corrupt them himself:
You are going to find that they are—which is totally illegal—it is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know, what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan [Germany], your lawyer.
The nature of this threat (nice place you got here, hate to see anything happen to it … or to you) won’t be lost on anyone familiar with mobster movies. Trump’s take on the tough-guy cliché wasn’t particularly coherent, but it met the trope’s two basic requirements. It was both clear enough to be unmistakable, and vague enough to minimize his own exposure to criminal prosecution.