When it first came out in July that there were tapes, it was a context so thoroughly dry and routine, the importance might have been missed by the casual observer. The man making the insouciant declaration barely skipped a beat handing off that revelation to a stunned committee. And, Oh Lordy, what tapes there were! The “July” we are referring to was July 13th, the year 1973. The man in question was Alexander Butterfield. He was the deputy assistant to Richard Nixon, and he had just handed the Ervin Watergate Committee the bare end of a thread so malignant that when pulled hard enough and long enough it ineluctably unraveled the Nixon Presidency.
We don’t know how many tapes of Donald Trump there are – the latest reports say there may be more than a hundred – but however many, it’s difficult to imagine how they can’t be every bit as damaging as Nixon’s. Say what you like about Nixon, but his crime, concealing an inconsequential burglary of the office of the Democratic National Committee, the overseers of a candidate who was doomed anyway, have to be amateur next to the known crimes and collusions of Donald J Trump.
The first tape even has its own expletive not deleted. (Early on Trump can be heard to say, “It’s such bullshit.”) But the stunning part is this: Donald Trump and Michael Cohen conspired, probably criminally, to buy the silence of a woman Trump had an affair with. Of course, we will all be invited to strain at gnats and swallow camels by the Trump team. “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client?” Trump tweeted in response. But the fact remains that Trump has been caught, caught by his own words, caught plotting in secret, caught, as the expression goes, with his pants down. What more is out there is anybody’s guess. But it’s easy to imagine, given what Trump is willing to utter in public, the monsters of ignominy he is capable of hatching in secret.
As more tapes are revealed, the controversy will become heated up by distractions, spin and feigned outrages questioning the admissibility of those tapes. However derailed the narrative may become, in the cooler milieu of the Mueller investigation, inevitable justice will inexorably proceed. We have all seen before where that justice led. Just ask the ghost of Richard Nixon.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.