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Trump follows the Nixon playbook in response to Michael Cohen raid

It didn't work out well for the 37th president.

Richard Nixon (1913 - 1994) gives the thumbs up after his resignation as 37th President of the United States. His son-in-law David Eisenhower is with him as he says goodbye to his staff at the White House, Washington DC.   (Photo by Gene Forte/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)
Richard Nixon (1913 - 1994) gives the thumbs up after his resignation as 37th President of the United States. His son-in-law David Eisenhower is with him as he says goodbye to his staff at the White House, Washington DC. (Photo by Gene Forte/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

President Trump’s initial reaction to Monday’s news that his personal attorney was raided by the FBI has been to repeatedly proclaim himself the victim of a “witch hunt” — echoing a talking point used by the last president to leave office in disgrace.

“It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt,” Trump said during comments to the media on Monday night. “Here we are talking about Syria, we’re talking about a lot of serious things with the greatest fighting force ever, and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now.”

Hours later, Trump again railed about a “witch hunt” on Twitter.

It wasn’t the first time Trump has posted nearly that exact tweet.

Richard Nixon — who resigned in August 1974 less than a year after he ordered top Department of Justice official to fire the special prosecutor overseeing the investigation of him following the Watergate break-in — also deployed this talking point.

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Three months before the “Saturday Night Massacre,” the Washington Post published a story reporting that Nixon perceived himself to be the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Woodward and Bernstein reported that Nixon and his top aides saw the Senate Watergate hearings as “unfair” and nothing more than “a political witch-hunt.”

The sources said that the President in recent weeks had expressed bitterness and deep hostility toward the two-month-old proceedings. “The President sees the hearings as an attempt to get Richard Nixon and do it just damn unfairly,” one source said.

Like Nixon in the fall of 1973, Trump is now openly considering ordering Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, whose team is currently investigating the president’s campaign for possible collusion with Russia, among other matters — including a hush payment Trump’s personal lawyer made shortly before the election to an adult film actress who says she had an affair with Trump, which may have violated campaign finance laws.

“Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on — we’ll see what happens —  but I think it’s a sad situation when you look at what happened and many people have said you should fire him,” Trump said to reporters on Monday. “Again, they found nothing, and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”

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Trump immediately changed the topic to Rosenstein, and that Rosenstein signed a warrant allowing the FBI to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Despite Page’s well-documented ties to the Kremlin, Trump and his allies argue that surveillance of him was inappropriate.

Trump posted another tweet Tuesday morning suggesting he thinks the basis of the FBI’s raid was illegitimate.

But even the legal analyst on Trump’s favorite cable news network thinks Trump’s legal footing is precarious. During a segment that aired shortly after news of the raid broke and as Trump was reportedly watching TV coverage of the development, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano explained that attorney-client privilege does not apply if there is “a serious allegation of illegal activity, by the lawyer with the client.”

“There must be some evidence presented to a federal judge here in New York City sufficient to persuade that judge to sign a search warrant to permit the FBI in broad daylight to raid an attorney’s office, particularly when that attorney has one client and it happens to be the president of the United States,” Napolitano told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “That evidence would have to be such as to persuade a neutral observer, the federal judge, that it is more likely than not, that among these seized documents is evidence of crimes by Mr. Cohen or Mr. Cohen and the president.”