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17 former Watergate prosecutors say Trump should be impeached

Nixon had three articles of impeachment against him. The prosecutors say they’d also fit Trump.

Nixon stares into the camera on a 1978 broadcast.
Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 under the threat of impeachment after the Watergate scandal.
Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images

Seventeen former special prosecutors who investigated the Watergate scandal have weighed in on the unspooling Ukraine saga, and they believe that President Donald Trump should be impeached.

In a joint op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday afternoon, the lawyers — including former federal attorneys and previous head of the Washington, DC, bar — note that Richard Nixon had three articles of impeachment filed against him: one of obstruction of justice, another for abuse of power, and one for contempt of Congress. That fits Trump to a tee, the 17 former special prosecutors say.

“In our considered view, the same three articles of impeachment could be specified against Trump, as he has demonstrated serious and persistent abuses of power that, in our view, satisfy the constitutional standard of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’” they wrote.

They outline five main reasons for impeachment:

  1. Trump’s own public statements. They specifically mention those calling for China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top 2020 political rival for the president. It’s these comments that mainly led House Democrats to open an impeachment query against the president.
  2. What former special counsel Robert Mueller found in his Trump-Russia probe. Mueller outlined 10 episodes that may have amounted to obstruction of justice. The former special counsel didn’t say Trump broke the law, but he didn’t clear him, either.
  3. The White House’s partial transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In the transcript, Trump asks for a “favor” right after his counterpart requests military aid. That has led many to believe the president wanted a quid pro quo: Look into the Bidens before the US delivers the long-promised support.
  4. Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the House-led impeachment inquiry. On Tuesday, the White House sent a scathing letter to Democrats saying they considered the investigation to be a political hit job and wouldn’t work with the probe in any way.
  5. New evidence showing that US government employees were in on the aid-for-probe scheme. Text messages that just-resigned special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker gave to the House last week showed that he, US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, and US ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor all coordinated to pass the message on to Ukraine’s leadership.

This is a big deal. These are nearly 20 people who looked into Nixon’s impeachable conduct and determined that Trump’s actions meet the same standard. (Nixon resigned from office before he could actually be impeached.)

Of course, the op-ed is unlikely to change any Republican minds, and those who want to see Trump gone will likely be disappointed by a future vote to convict the president in the GOP-led Senate. But what these lawyers have done is asked one all-important question necessary to pose to all Republicans: Why do they think they know better than those most familiar with Watergate?