I was amazed and appalled yesterday to watch the bitterly partisan hearing of the House Oversight and Reform  Committee. It was a daylong grilling of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer for ten years.

When I was the young general counsel and staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee I watched the 1973 spectacle of the Watergate Committee. The hearings were held in the Senate Caucus Room, which is adjacent to the offices of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In fact, our committee hearing room was used as a holding room for witnesses and their attorneys. 

The Watergate Committee was composed  of 7 members, which in included 4 members of the Democratic Majority and 3 members of the Republican Minority. A kindly old “country lawyer” from North Carolina named Sam Ervin was the Chairman and a nice young Senator from Tennessee named Howard Baker was the Ranking Republican. My boss Herman Talmadge was a Democratic. member of the committee.

All members of the members of the committee were civil and nonpartisan in these public hearings. I was a friend of the young counsel for  John Dean.  His name was Bob McCandless. Both he and my friend JD Williams were were proteges of Senator Bob Kerr of Oklahoma. Also, both worked in the losing Presidential campaign of Hubert Humphrey, to whom I dedicated my  book, “The Death of Civility and Common Sense”.

John Dean had been the White House  Counsel of President Nixon, who was later supposed to be Nixon’s fall guy. He later wrote some books, the first of which was “Blind Ambition”. It was made into a popular movie. The literary career Bob Woodward was made, because he and Carl Bernstein were the young Washington Post reporters who reported the Watergate break-in . Woodward recently released his latest book which is a New York Time s Bestseller “Fear: Trump in the White House”.  I have read it and would recommend it.

My point is that the Watergate hearings were  civil and nonpartisan, while this is the most bitterly partisan hearing I have ever witnessed. Some Republican members have repeatedly attacked Michael Cohen, who was Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer for ten years. These attacks by Republican supporters of President Trump are unlike anything I have ever seen.

Of course, Michael Cohen had nothing to lose at this point because he has already pleaded guilty to charges and will spend the next few years in jail. Despite the rabid attacks of the most partisan members of the House Oversight Committee,  Cohen refused to promise that he will not write books like John Dean did. He pointed out that he still needs to support his family.

I predict that things will only get worst as we get closer to the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections.

Michael R. McLeod