Scandal

Worse than Whitewater?

David Brooks: “In retrospect Whitewater seems overblown. And yet it has to be confessed that, at least so far, the Whitewater scandal was far more substantive than the Russia-collusion scandal now gripping Washington.”

“There may be a giant revelation still to come. But as the Trump-Russia story has evolved, it is striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred — that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians. Everything seems to be leaking out of this administration, but so far the leaks about actual collusion are meager.”

Also important: “The politics of scandal drives a wedge through society. Political elites get swept up in the scandals. Most voters don’t really care.”

Hastert Faces New Sex Abuse Accusations

Less than three months before former Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-IL) scheduled release from prison, “a new accuser has come forward with allegations saying he was sodomized by Hastert decades ago,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The lawsuit comes nearly two years after an explosive indictment into secret hush-money payments brought down Hastert, a local coaching legend who became one of the country’s most powerful politicians. Federal prosecutors said the former U.S. House speaker touched at least five male students when he was a Yorkville High School coach from 1965 to 1981.”

McCain Walks Back Watergate Comparison

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) walked back earlier comments that the controversy surrounding investigations into potential collusion between associates of President Trump and the Russian government had reached “Watergate size and scale,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said McCain: “Now the question is, how is it handled? Is it handled the way Watergate was where it’s drip, drip, drip, every day more, or do we handle it like the—like Ronald Reagan handled Iran Contra? It was a scandal. He fired people. He went on national television and said, we made mistakes, we did wrong and we’re not going to do it again and the American people let him move forward.”

Weiner Will Plead Guilty In Sexting Scandal

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), whose “sexting” scandals ended his political career and embroiled him in a tumultuous FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton before the election, is to appear in a federal courtroom to enter a guilty plea, the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Weiner will plead guilty to a single charge of transferring obscene material to a minor, pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan… Mr. Weiner surrendered to the F.B.I. early Friday morning.”

“A likely result of the plea is that Mr. Weiner would end up as a registered sex offender… The charge carries a potential sentence of between zero and 10 years in prison, meaning Mr. Weiner could avoid prison. The ultimate sentence would be determined by a judge.”

Even The Biggest Scandals Can’t Kill Party Loyalty

FiveThirtyEight: “We went back and looked at key congressional votes during three relatively recent periods in which a president was accused of wrongdoing: Watergate (Richard Nixon), Iran-contra (Ronald Reagan) and the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Bill Clinton). Two trends stick out. First, partisanship still matters. And in a big way. Second, when defections do come, they’re more likely to come from the centrist wing of a party.”

“These were three of the biggest scandals in modern American history, and party loyalty stayed strong almost through the end of each.”

Ex-Christie Aides Get Prison Time for Bridgegate

“Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority who became caught up in the bizarre scheme of political retribution that became known as Bridgegate, was sentenced Wednesday to 24 months in prison,” the Newark Star Ledger reports.

Said Baroni: “I regret, more than anything, that I allowed myself to get caught up in this.”

“Bridget Anne Kelly, a former top aide to the governor whose “time for some traffic problems” email became a focal point of the Bridgegate investigation, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.”

Huma Abedin Gives Marriage Another Try

New York Post: “After years of public humiliation by her sext-a-holic husband, Anthony Weiner, 40-year-old Abedin finally separated from the former congressman in August, one day after The Post reported that he had sent yet another explicit photo to a woman — this one showing his toddler son asleep beside him.”

“But sources tell The Post that Hillary Clinton’s righthand woman is now giving the marriage another try.”

Sometimes the Smoke Is the Fire

Mike Allen: “I was chatting with a smart Republican about the White House’s Russia issues, and he said: ‘This is the rare case where the smoke IS the fire.’ What he meant is that even if the White House wound up being right that there’s no ‘there’ there (harder to see, with each day’s revelations), the warning signs and botched reactions and mounting questions have themselves become huge problems for the President.”

“So many of the players — by slow-rolling, obscuring or trashing the facts — have made it LOOK like they have something to hide.”

“Republicans close to the White House said events seem to be moving from the Distraction Zone to the Danger Zone. Democrats see that the scandal and investigative machinery that was used against them in the Clinton administration can now be cranked up to hobble this president, just as he heads into the months when he needs to be putting legislative points on the board.”

Carl Bernstein Smells a Cover Up

Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein told CNN the Trump administration is trying to cover up its ties to Russia.

Said Bernstein: “There has been a real attempt to stonewall the press, to stonewall the FBI to stonewall congressional investigators. That’s what we know so far from people around the Trump campaign, where this goes and the seriousness of it we don’t know in terms of the ultimate disposition and what all the facts are.”

He added: “In this instance what we are finding out is that there appears to be some attempt somewhere to cover up what has occurred and we are trying to penetrate that cover up. Whether or not the cover up involves those closest to the President of the United States, independent operators, former campaign aides, all of that will be determined.”

As Big as Watergate?

Dan Rather: “Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of Armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour.”

“And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.”

A Remarkably Normal Political Scandal

Washington Post: “What’s remarkable about the Flynn saga was how incredibly routine it was. A deeply damaging story comes out. The White House goes into bunker mode. Conflicting reports from conflicting aides emerge. And then, whammo: resignation.”

“It was a prototypical Washington scandal that played out like hundreds of similar ones before it. It felt, dare I say it, normal. Normal is worth noting in a presidency — and an administration — that has been anything but in its first 24 days.”

Playbook: “This shows that, despite the unorthodox approach to everything, Trump is still operating under some D.C. norms: don’t lie to the VP, and have him embarrass himself on national television on multiple occasions… Kellyanne Conway went on television hours before he was canned saying he had Trump’s full confidence. That should give you some context.”