Could President Donald Trump be falling into the same trap that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon? Two professors of presidential politics at the University of North Georgia in Gainesville offered different thoughts on the discussion.
Professor Glen Smith said he also would not be surprised to see an independent special prosecutor named sooner rather than later to investigate contacts between the Trump Administration and Russian officials before, during and after last year’s contentious presidential election.
The political science professor made his observations this week prior to Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing he would recuse himself from any investigation into Russian ties with Trump surrogates. Sessions' decision came after reports surfaced that he’d met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, although he denied any such contacts during his Senate confirmation hearings.
“They’re going to have an investigation into this,” Smith said. “There’s so much political will in Congress to do it, and Trump, if he’s smart. I think he would come out and not be so against it and compromise rather than being obstructionist.”
Yet Professor Douglas Young, who also teaches political science at UNG Gainesville, is not completely sure that a GOP-controlled House and Senate will rush into an investigation.
“If there’s credible evidence that one or more significant Trump administration officials may be coordinating policy with a Russian or Chinese or any other foreign government, then that could certainly open the door to major investigations,” Young added. “At this point, I’m skeptical as to the likelihood of that because the Republicans have such a large majority in the House.”
Smith said the Nixon presidency was brought down by fighting the investigation and attempted cover-up rather than the underlying Watergate break-in itself.
“That’s what ends up killing presidencies,” Smith said.
If all Republicans were behind Trump, the president would have nothing to worry about, but Smith said that’s not the case. He said Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as well as some Republicans in the House want to know what’s going on.
“There are Republicans that see (Vladimir) Putin as one of the biggest threats to the United States and they are very interested in knowing what kinds of ties Trump and Putin have," Smith said "There will be an investigation. I don’t think there’s any stopping the momentum toward an investigation.”
Trump fired his national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn over his contacts with Russian officials, and not being forthcoming about it with Vice President Mike Pence, and Young said the situation has the potential to become a scandal.
“If it could be shown that any significant Trump administration officials are acting as de facto agents of a foreign government, I think that could be a significant scandal,” Young said. “But I think that there needs to be more evidence of that in terms of actual activities, actions or policies undertaken by the Trump administration. I don’t think we’ve had time for that yet."