Not even Nixon could stop the G-men

Tim Weiner at the Post tells us that Trump can’t kneecap the FBI.

Not even Richard Nixon could stop the G-men. God knows he tried. Trump is no student of history, but he would do well to recall Nixon’s battle with the bureau.

When Hoover died in May 1972 — six weeks before the Watergate break-in — Nixon installed a politically loyal stooge, L. Patrick Gray, in his place. “You’ve got to be a conspirator,” Nixon counseled Gray. “You’ve got to be totally ruthless.” Nixon tried to sabotage the FBI as soon as it started looking into the break-in, ordering the CIA to obstruct the bureau’s investigation, on spurious national security grounds. Gray destroyed devasting evidence linking the White House to the Watergate burglars. But to a man, the FBI agents on the case fought furiously against Gray’s attempts to undermine them.

Five leakers at high levels of the bureau made sure word got out. These included not only Associate Director Mark Felt, a.k.a. “Deep Throat,” but the head of the Washington field office, the supervisor who kept the running chronology of the case, and the chief and the lead agent of the white-collar-crime division. “They would meet at the end of the day and discuss what happened, what they knew, in the investigation,” Paul Daly, an intelligence division agent, said in an FBI oral history. “They would make a decision, a conscious decision, to leak to the newspapers. They did that because of the White House obstructing the investigation.”

I did not know that. That’s new information.

Defying the president, his attorney general and the FBI director, they followed the evidence that made Nixon an unindicted co-conspirator in the obstruction of justice — and sent the men who had served as his campaign manager, attorney general, chief of staff and counsel to prison.

So anyone who works for Trump should feel very nervous.

Trump may be counting on Whitaker to be his ruthless executioner. The acting attorney general should take care not to become the president’s co-conspirator in any obstruction of justice. Mueller’s grand jury might judge him harshly.

If Trump follows Nixon down the road to hell, the FBI will be on the case. As Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent, recently wrote in the New York Times, “To ‘shut down’ the investigation at this point would require not just a face-off with Mr. Mueller but also with special agents in charge of multiple field offices with a vested interest in seeing their responsibilities through.” Trump may fight the law, but the law will win in the end.

FBI agents have gathered a mountain of evidence for Mueller and for U.S. attorneys in Washington, New York and Virginia. They know a lot about Trump that we do not know. And that evidence can be preserved on flash drives that cannot be deleted by presidential edict — or shredded by criminal enablers.

It may be FBI agents’ investment in their work that saves the day.

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