Opinion: A Capitol staffer’s job during Watergate: ‘Find the truth’

richard nixon
Richard Nixon boards a helicopter on Aug. 9, 1974, on the White House grounds after submitting his resignation as president.
(Associated Press )

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, some letter writers have been drawing comparisons between him and the failed American leaders of the past. The name that most often comes up is Richard Nixon, who up until last week readers have held alongside Trump as overseeing a vaguely similar scandal-plagued administration.

Those comparisons have became more frequent and focused this week, after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a sacking that readers say bears a striking similarity to Nixon’s dismissal of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1974. Here are some of those letters.

Harmon Sieff, a past president of the Santa Monica Bar Assn., recalls his days working as a young staff member on Capitol Hill during Watergate:

In 1974, I was an “almost lawyer” hired by the Republican House leader as a legal grunt in the U.S. Capitol building. Impeachment investigations were everywhere, but it was clear that my task was not to defend Nixon, but to identify the law of impeachment and find the truth.


When the “smoking gun” was discovered, no one was more disappointed than my Republican bosses.
Harmon Sieff, former House Republican staff member

I scrutinized voluminous “Nixon versions” of “transcribed” tapes, and later compared them (“expletives deleted”) to the actual tapes. I found hundreds of discrepancies.

I was never asked to advocate or obfuscate. When the “smoking gun” was discovered, no one was more disappointed than my Republican bosses, who recognized that their ultimate loyalty was to the Constitution, not their party or president. Three courageous and patriotic Republican leaders visited the White House to inform the president that it was time for him to go.

We can only hope that current Republican leaders are equally courageous, patriotic and committed to the truth.


Huntington Beach resident Peter Morin wants today’s Republicans to draw inspiration from Watergate:

Equating Trump with Nixon and Watergate is spot on. There were men of courage in politics in the 1970s; but then, as now, there were also White House lackeys deflecting as best they could.

It’s time for the Republicans to call for a special prosecutor and put the people’s interest above theirs and the GOP’s. We put the lawmakers there to represent our interests, and we can take them out.

Elizabeth Rumelt of Santa Barbara draws two historical parallels:

Many people are now forcibly reminded of Nixon’s firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Perhaps Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, whose memo critical of Comey served as the initial rationale for the FBI director’s firing, should look a little further back in history for the fate of those who carry out the wishes of an autocrat to do an injustice to a person of integrity.

The knights who took the word of King Henry II as command and rushed to rid him of “this meddlesome priest” by assassinating the Roman Catholic archbishop of Canterbury were not thanked by the king and were punished by the pope. Rosenstein may learn he has made a bad bargain.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook

Get our weekly Opinion newsletter