Vt. author draws parallels between Jan. 6 hearings, Watergate scandal

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 5:57 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - More witnesses are slated to testify this week before the Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

Some historians are drawing similarities between that and another major political drama a half-century ago, the Watergate scandal.

Vermont author and historian Garrett Graff, who has extensively researched Watergate, says he sees a connection.

The Jan. 6 hearings are back on this week, laying out a timeline leading up to the attack and explaining who in then-President Trump’s administration knew what and when.

Like the Watergate scandal 50 years ago, the hearings are playing out in real-time on live TV.

“We usually think of Watergate as the five burglars. At the end of Watergate, there were 69 people who actually faced charges in the scandals growing out of Watergate,” Graff said.

Graff’s latest book, “Watergate: A New History,” chronicles a chain of events leading up to the Watergate scandal which ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

“January 6th wasn’t an isolated set of events in the same way that the Watergate burglary wasn’t an isolated set of events,” Graff said.

He says like Watergate, a yearslong chain of events laid the groundwork for the Capitol riot, from the Mueller investigation to false claims of election fraud.

“Donald Trump was told repeatedly by aides that what he was doing was wrong and had no basis in reality and he persisted anyway,” Graff said.

Like the Watergate hearings, the Jan. 6 panel has been streamed and viewed by millions. But unlike the summer of ‘73, American media is more fractured where people select what they want to watch and hear.

In 1974, facing impeachment for his abuse of the executive branch, Nixon ultimately stepped down.

But Graff says the Trump administration’s alleged crimes are against one of the foundations of democracy-- the peaceful transition of power.

It’s unclear whether the Department of Justice will launch a criminal referral. But Graff says going forward, new laws giving power to partisan electors and potential decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court could have implications for election integrity.

“To me, the challenge is as we watch these hearings, Donald Trump remains the symptom, not the disease,” Graff said.

The next Jan. 6 hearing is Tuesday at 1 p.m. You can watch it live on WCAX.

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