Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore
For Jon Taylor, head of the political science department at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the impeachment inquiry kicked off Tuesday
evokes memories of Watergate.
The scope and potential damage to President Donald Trump is more like that surrounding the probe into President Richard Nixon than those of Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson — the only other presidents to be subjects of formal inquiries.
At the urging of Republican leaders, Nixon resigned in August of 1974 to avoid impeachment.
"I think this is the most clearly Nixonian — using government resources to spy on and go after your political enemies," Taylor said. "Trump's approach may play well with his supporters, but it doesn't play well with Washington."
As with Nixon's, Taylor sees potential for this inquiry to grow in scope. While the 1970s hearings initially covered the Watergate break-in, they eventually expanded to examine Nixon's practice of refusing to spend congressionally authorized funds on programs he didn't like.
In Trump's case, the House investigation could dig deeper into his campaign's possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, charges of nepotism and whether the billionaire is enriching himself through his political position.
"I think Trump should be afraid of that comparison," Taylor said.
Even so, it would probably take "overwhelming evidence" of criminal activity to sway two-thirds of the Republican-held Senate to ratify a House impeachment vote, he added.
Given the stakes, Taylor called the inquiry a pertinent move. But he cautioned that the process will yield chaos for both parties, not to mention the political system and economy. It's also a wild card in the 2020 election since an impeachment vote probably wouldn't happen until late this year or in early 2020.
"Everybody needs to take a chill for a little bit and realize this is not going to be an easy or quick process," he said.
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