Tag Archives: Watergate

Michael Cohen’s Upcoming Federal Sentencing & James McCord’s Role in Watergate

(Also on Twitter, slightly edited–)

1/ On Michael Cohen’s upcoming federal sentencing & James McCord’s role in #Watergate—

2/ #MichaelCohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes, two related to Trump’s campaign finances & six related to Cohen’s personal finances.

3/ In pleading guilty to the campaign finance crimes, Cohen implicated President Trump in hush money payments to two women in 2016.  Cohen & Trump worked together during his presidential campaign, Cohen told the Court, to conceal affairs that the women had with Trump.

4/ Cohen also pleaded guilty last week to an additional federal crime: making false statements to the U.S. Senate about Trump’s secret efforts during his presidential campaign to make a real estate deal with the Russian government.

5/ Cohen’s Aug. 2018 guilty plea was negotiated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  His Nov. 2018 guilty plea was negotiated with the Office of Special Counsel Robert #Mueller.

6/ Cohen reportedly concluded earlier this year “that his life has been utterly destroyed by his relationship with Mr. Trump and his own actions, and [that] to begin anew he needed to speed up the legal process by quickly confessing his crimes and serving any sentence he receives…”  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/03/nyregion/michael-cohen-trump-strategy.html

7/ Cohen thus decided to plead guilty without having a deal with prosecutors requiring him to cooperate in continuing investigations & possible future trials & then to seek credit in sentencing for that cooperation.

8/ Cohen has, however, cooperated actively with federal law enforcement & with state law enforcement, & he has pledged to continue to do so.

9/ Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on this Friday, Dec. 7, in the SDNY by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley, III.  Cohen’s attorneys have detailed to the Court his cooperation & asked that he be sentenced to probation.

10/ President Trump has tweeted that Cohen “should … serve a full and complete sentence.”  https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1069614615510859776

11/ Mueller’s office agreed with Cohen to inform the Court of his cooperation.  It is expected to do so soon.

12/ The #Watergate comparison:  Cohen’s role in the investigations of possible crimes involving President Trump & others close to him in business, in his presidential campaign, & in his administration, resembles the role that James W. #McCord, Jr., played in Watergate.

13/ McCord, formerly an FBI agent & then a CIA officer, worked in 1972 as a bodyguard & a security coordinator at the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) [#Nixon].

14/ On June 17, 1972, McCord was one of five burglars arrested in Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate hotel & office complex in Washington, D.C.

15/ The U.S. Department of Justice—the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C.—investigated.  It persuaded a federal grand jury to indict McCord, his fellow Watergate arrestees, & two others to whom they were connected.

16/ Judge John J. #Sirica, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, tried the case.

17/ Early in the trial, five of the defendants—a former White House employee named E. Howard Hunt & the four other burglars who had been arrested at the Watergate with McCord—pleaded guilty.

18/ The trial of McCord & his remaining defendant, CREEP general counsel G. Gordon Liddy, went forward.  The jury convicted each man on every charge.

19/ Chief Judge Sirica, skeptical that all the facts had been brought out at the trial, then prepared to sentence the seven men.

20/ On Tuesday, March 20, 1973, three days before the scheduled sentencing, Judge Sirica was shocked to find McCord in the reception area of the judge’s chambers, talking to one of his law clerks.

21/ McCord was there to deliver a letter.  It turned out to be one of the most consequential letters in U.S. history.

22/ After taking appropriate precautions, Judge Sirica, before witnesses, opened McCord’s letter.  As he read it, he began to think, according to his memoir, “This is it, this is it, this is the break I’ve been hoping for.”  http://watergate.info/1973/03/19/mccord-letter-to-judge-sirica.html

23/ Judge Sirica kept the letter secret from the public until McCord’s sentencing at the end of that week.  But, on that Tuesday evening, he shared & discussed it with his other law clerk.  “I’ve always told you I felt someone would talk.  This is going to break this case wide open.”

24/ On March 23, Judge Sirica read McCord’s letter in open court.  He then sentenced the convicted defendants.  He gave lengthy sentences to six & put off sentencing McCord.

25/ McCord’s letter indeed began the unraveling of Watergate.  It led to further investigations, confessions, guilty pleas, indictments, & convictions, & to a President’s resignation.

26/ McCord committed serious crimes.  Then he came forward & told truthfully to prosecutors, juries, & Congressional committees, what he had done & what he knew.

27/ This cooperation earned him judicial credit.  Chief Judge Sirica sentenced James McCord in November 1973 to one to five years in prison.  He ended up serving four months.

Nixon on the Jukebox (August 8, 1974)

NIXON RESIGNATION

Growing up, I had the good fortune to live with my family for long summer stretches in Ephraim, Wisconsin.  It’s a small, beautiful town on Green Bay, and in the summer it’s a resort/vacation spot.  A heart of local commerce is Wilson’s restaurant and ice cream parlor.

In 1974, having just turned thirteen, I worked at Wilson’s as a busboy.  The shifts were 4-midnight.  The pay was minimum wage.  The place was busy and fun.  At the end of each night, the perks included, always, free ice cream sundaes and sometimes, just across the road, moonlight swimming.

This is my memory of Thursday, August 8, 1974.  The White House had announced that President Nixon would be addressing the nation that evening.  The papers, filled with news of Watergate, the “smoking gun” tape,  the collapse of congressional support for the President, and his certain impeachment, reported that he would be announcing his decision to resign.

I was at Wilson’s, either working or just hanging out.  It had, in one side of the restaurant, a jukebox that played constantly.  At this appointed hour, however, someone unplugged it.  Someone produced a television, balanced it with care on the rounded glass top of the jukebox, and turned on a network.  The room, and the rest of the crowded restaurant, fell silent.

The President came on and spoke.  He announced, decisively, tragically, correctly and not very briefly, that he would be resigning at noon the next day.

In Wilson’s at least, that was it.  The crowd absorbed it, then began to murmur and disperse.  The TV disappeared.   The noise, including the jukebox, picked up.  People started eating, ordering, talking and laughing.  The sound, including from the jukebox, rose.

The first song that played was that summer’s standard (because it had been a big hit two years earlier):  Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (and here’s a great video version).  In that surreal moment of major flight and crash, it seemed to fit.