On October 20, 1973, Richard Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor who had been appointed to investigate Watergate. Both the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned rather than carry out the order, but eventually Nixon found someone to do it, and the event became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”1
Right now, we are living through our very own, slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre, and it is up to us to stop it.
Just as Nixon did during Watergate, Trump has been doing everything he can to stop this investigation. First, he ordered the firing of FBI Director James Comey, effectively obstructing an active investigation.2 Then, he ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whom Trump’s own Justice Department had appointed—and was only stopped when his White House lawyer refused to comply with the order.3
But Trump, his team, and his enablers in Congress have continued to undermine the Mueller investigation—and over the past week, the threats to the investigation, and our democracy itself, have a reached a terrifying fever pitch.
Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was forced out.4 A coordinated effort between Republicans in Congress and the White House is underway to release Devin Nunes’ dangerous and inaccurate memo bashing the FBI and the Justice Department, a memo which has the aim of discrediting and replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller. (Notably, it was reported late Wednesday that Devin Nunes also materially altered the memo before it was sent to Trump, meaning this version has not even been approved by the congressional committee.)5 Paul Ryan himself called for a “cleanse” of the FBI.6 And meanwhile, Republican pundits have been going on TV to undermine Mueller’s independence, and there are reports that Trump has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about prosecuting Mueller himself!7
These actions are all clearly aimed at discrediting the Russia investigation and creating the framework for Trump to fire Mueller or incapacitate his investigation, despite the investigation proving its merit by already leading to multiple guilty pleas. Which means it is more important than ever that we stand up and fight back.
The news over the past week has been horrifying, but MoveOn (allied with Indivisible) was prepared for it. And with your help, we can lead and win this fight.
Here is what we have planned:
- Preparing rapid-response rallies across the country to take place the same day if Mueller is fired. Over 200,000 MoveOn members and allies have already stepped up to host or attend a stunning 700 rapid-response events if Mueller is fired, but we need to get the word out to expand these events even more.
- Generating pressure to pass bipartisan legislation that would defend Mueller’s investigation from White House interference. There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress, but several Republicans are trying to stop the legislation from advancing. We will use big, media-grabbing events and on-the-ground actions to turn up the heat.
- Working to remove Nunes from the Intelligence Committee. Last spring, after MoveOn filed an ethics complaint, Nunes, a Trump crony and enabler, announced he was recusing himself from the probe.8 That has not been the case. We’re turning up pressure on Paul Ryan to remove Nunes and driving actions in Nunes’ home district to create the pressure that will force him from his destructive and disruptive position of power.
- Forcing Republicans to stand up for our democracy—or to feel pressure back home. We’re planning actions around the country—focused on many of the Republicans who are feeling the most vulnerable to constituent pressure—to demand they stop hiding the truth about Trump.
- Helping to coordinate a group of national allies to fight back, by promoting the voices of a diverse range of opinion-leaders, civic leaders, and other respected women and men—from legal scholars to faith leaders, veterans, past administration officials, and even some prominent conservatives—to make sure that Americans everywhere are hearing about and understanding the stakes of what’s at play.
Throughout the Watergate scandal, Nixon emphatically proclaimed his innocence and, presciently, once even claimed that of course he was not lying about his involvement because, “what really hurts in matters of this sort … is if you try to cover it up.”9 He was certainly right about that.
Trump is reading from the same playbook as Nixon, but this time we’re ready for it.
Thanks for all you do.
–David, Tiina, Robert, Shari, and the rest of the team
P.S. Interested in joining or hosting a rapid-response event if Trump fires Muller? Click here to RSVP to an existing event or create one of your own! If Trump fires Mueller before 2:00 p.m. local time on any given day, MoveOn members and our allies will be in the streets at 5:00 p.m. local time the same day. If news breaks later in the day, we will rally at noon the following day.
Our response in the hours following an authoritarian move to put Trump above the law will help drive the national media narrative and could certainly help determine whether we’re able to make sure Congress holds Trump accountable.
- “What was the Saturday Night Massacre,” The History Channel, December 4, 2013
- “F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump,” The New York Times, May 9, 2017
- “Trump moved to fire Mueller in June, bringing White House counsel to the brink of leaving,” The Washington Post, January 26, 2018
- “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Stepping Down Immediately,” Slate, January 29, 2018
- Tweet by Representative Adam Schiff, January 31, 2018
- “Paul Ryan calls for a ‘cleanse’ of FBI and wants Trump to release the secret GOP memo,” Business Insider, January 30, 2018
- “Trump is reportedly talking about asking Attorney General Sessions to prosecute special counsel Mueller,” CNBC, January 30, 2018
- “House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes recuses himself from Russia probe,” The Washington Post, April 6, 2017
- “Richard Nixon Quotes,” ThoughtCo., accessed January 31, 2018
Want to support our work? The MoveOn community will work every moment, day by day and year by year, to resist Trump’s agenda, contain the damage, defeat hate with love, and begin the process of swinging the nation’s pendulum back toward sanity, decency, and the kind of future that we must never give up on. And to do it we need your ongoing support, now more than ever. Will you stand with us?