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Arizona presidential historian sees contrasts between Trump, Nixon situations

In this Feb. 16, 1969, file photo, President Richard M. Nixon, is shown at his desk in the White House. (AP Photo/File)

PHOENIX — A Valley presidential historian said the White House hasn’t reached Watergate level with President Donald Trump’s sharing information with Russia and his firing of the FBI director.

Arizona State University professor of history Brooks Simpson said there was one major difference between the 1973 Watergate scandal, which forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and the current state of affairs in the Trump administration — the possible involvement of a foreign power.

“Frankly, this deals with national security in a way that Watergate did not. The issues in 1973 … were internal political issues with American domestic politics,” Simpson said.

“At this point, there’s some superficial similarities, such as taping conversations in the Oval Office. It’s not quite Watergate yet in terms of what we know but what we’re starting to suspect it may well be.”

Simpson said this is still at the fact-finding stage, determining what the principles were willing to say under oath.

“You can look at where we’re at now as being right before the Senate Watergate hearings of 1973. The actions of Congress and others in going forward and investigating this will allow us to start to understand what’s really going on and separate reports and rumors from actual testimony.”

Simpson said Nixon’s downward spiral was somewhat more gradual in that he didn’t contribute to the erosion of support for himself.

“Trump has shown a remarkable ability to undercut himself with comments, excuses and rationalizations given by his own spokespeople.

“There are different ways where Trump has been self-destructive in ways, that frankly, we’ve never seen in a public president.”

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