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Why Everyone Is Comparing James Comey’s Firing to Richard Nixon

2 minute read

When President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, people were quick to cry Nixon.

“This is Nixonian,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said.

“This is nothing less than Nixonian,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) echoed.

“Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened and our faith in the independence and integrity of those systems so shaken,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.).

Trump’s dramatic decision does have historical echoes to Nixon’s presidency: Trump fired Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. President Nixon also fired someone investigating him.

In 1973, in what would become known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, a special prosecutor looking into the burglary at the tip of the iceberg of the Watergate scandal. Both Nixon’s attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned in protest, and the “massacre” marked a key step in the scandal that led to his resignation less than a year later.

But, as the Richard Nixon Presidential Library pointed out on Twitter, the comparison doesn’t track all the way.

“FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian,” the library tweeted Tuesday evening.

The last president to actually cut the FBI Director was Bill Clinton, who fired William Sessions in 1993 amid ethical concerns. But it hasn’t been since Nixon that a president terminated a person investigating him.



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Write to Tessa Berenson Rogers at tessa.Rogers@time.com