'There will be no rules that would go unbroken': Ex-GOP lawmaker warns Trump will grow more dangerous if not ousted
On Thursday, not a single Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a resolution to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump — the most prominent conservative to vote in favor of the resolution, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, is no longer a Republican. But in 1973 and 1974, during the Watergate scandal, there were serious, heated debates among House Republicans over whether President Richard Nixon deserved impeachment.
One Republican from the era who opposed Nixon, William Cohen, was highly critical of Trump during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week.
The Maine Republican, now 79, was serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives when, in 1974, he voted in favor of Nixon’s impeachment. Cohen had a reputation for being a northeastern Rockefeller Republican in those days, and when both Rockefeller Republicans and Goldwater Republicans — including Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater himself — were turning against Nixon in 1974, it was obvious that the Watergate scandal would only get worse and worse for him. Fearing that he would become the first president in U.S. history to be removed from office via the Senate, Nixon announced his resignation on August 8, 1974 — and Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as president of the United States the following day.
Forty-five years after taking a stand against Nixon, Cohen — who also served as a senator and as President Bill Clinton's Defense secretary — is calling out Trump. And Cohen told Amanpour that Trump obviously believes he is above the law. Trump, Cohen asserted, “feels that he alone can take action without regard to any other institutions, which are there to make sure the rule of law stays intact…. And that has the sound of, you know, a dictator, or a dictatorship where only I can solve this problem.”
Cohen went on to tell Amanpour that if Trump is reelected, his behavior will likely become even worse. If Trump wins a second term, Cohen warned, he would believe that “there’s no need to go to Congress to say, ‘Gee, I am sorry. I broke this rule.’ There will be no rules that would go unbroken.”
In 1974, Cohen was among seven Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who voted to impeach Nixon — which was quite a contrast to all the House Republicans who, on Thursday, voted in lockstep against the House resolution to proceed with an impeachment inquiry.
Unlike all the pro-Trump Republicans in the House, Cohen finds Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr to be seriously problematic. That day, Trump tried to pressure a foreign leader into investigating a political revival — former Vice President Joe Biden — and his son, Hunter Biden.
Trump has often been criticized for attacking the United States’ long-time NATO allies while praising authoritarians all around the world — from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Cohen told Amanpour that Trump’s disdain for “the rule of law” is evident in how often he praises tyrants.
“If you don’t have the rule of law,” Cohen asserted, “you have the law of rule — and that’s something the president seems really more akin to. He likes President Putin, he likes Kim Jong Un, he likes President Xi Jinping, he likes President Erdogan. He doesn’t much like our allies in terms of paying the same kind of tribute to them that he does to those who have the kind of one-man rule.”