This is not to minimize the damage Watergate did to America. Richard Nixon oversaw an illegal effort to gain electoral advantage and then covered it up. He placed himself above the law and sought to shut down those entrusted with the responsibility of bringing him and his team to justice. Watergate was, undoubtedly, the gravest constitutional crisis America had faced in the modern era, until President Trump's shenanigans began.
At its heart, though, Watergate was also just "a third-rate burglary," as then-White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler termed it. It turned truly ruinous because of all that happened next. Today's situation is rooted in something considerably darker — an effort by a hostile power to undermine American democracy.
What's more, regardless of what we may learn about efforts within Trump's campaign to collude with the Russians, we can be certain our enemies have already benefited from his presidency.
Just last week, the White House announced that it would not be enforcing congressionally mandated sanctions against Russia. In Moscow, an anchor on Russian State TV celebrated the decision: "Trump is ours again," she told her viewers. Trump remains reluctant to accept the unanimous verdict of the intelligence community that the 2016 election was beset by Russian-sponsored attacks. Instead of recognizing an ongoing threat, he has offered Russian officials photo ops and dished out classified intelligence in private meetings.
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