Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who broke the Watergate story, said Sunday on CNN that President Donald Trump’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump attempted to shake down Raffensperger for 11,980 additional votes was “something far worse than occurred in Watergate” and merits an immediate criminal investigation.
Listen to the call here, courtesy of The Washington Post.
An annotated transcript of Bernstein’s remarks has been provided below.
“It’s not deja vu. This is something far worse than occurred in Watergate. We have both a criminal president of the United States in Donald Trump and a subversive president of the United States at the same time in this one person – subverting the very basis of our democracy and willing to act criminally in that subversion,” Bernstein said.
“But more importantly,” Bernstein added, “what we hear on this tape – this is the ultimate smoking gun tape. It is the tape with the evidence of what this president is willing to do toll undermine the electoral system and illegally, improperly, and immorally try to instigate a coup in which he remains the president of the United States.”
Bernstein told host Fredricka Whitfield that Trump’s mob-like demand warrants impeachment and that Republicans should be screaming for his resignation:
In any other presidency, this tape would be evidence enough to result in the impeachment of the president of the United States, his conviction in the Senate of the United States, and really an immediate call by the members of Congress, including of his own party, that he resign immediately. That’s really what we ought to be hearing from Republicans at this moment. ‘Mr. President, resign, leave the White House, this is unconscionable, it is wrong, and we of your party will not permit it.’ No, we’re not gonna hear that, but we might from a few Republicans, but that’s what’s really called for here. And the one thing we should recall from Watergate is that the heroes of Watergate were Republicans who would not tolerate Richard Nixon’s conduct.
Whitfield asked Bernstein if Trump’s actions posed a true danger to the nation and if Raffensperger is a “hero” for pushing back against Trump’s transparently corrupt behavior.
“First of all, your implication is absolutely correct,” Bernstein replied. “This is a threat, a real threat, and not just for some general purpose but a very specific criminal purpose – for the secretary of state to come up with a certain number of votes plus one – to deliver illegally an election to the president of the United States. We’ve never had a tape like this before, including the Nixon tapes.”
Bernstein continued, saluting Raffensperger, who rebutted Trump’s lies directly to him:
As for heroes yes, the secretary of state of Georgia is a hero, but so are hundreds of other election officials and state officials who have done their job, counted the ballots, stuck with it, despite threats including to their safety and health. We’ve had a lot of heroes here. Where we have not had heroes is the Senate of the United States, particularly Republican members, except for a few who have been craven in refusing to condemn this kind of conduct by an out-of-control president of the United States, and the real disgrace in the House of Representatives, more than 140 probably a majority of the Republicans in the House, willing to promulgate and continue this idea, despite the evidence of upending a legal, proper election in which the evidence is clear, the results are clear? This is fantasy. It’s not delusion, because they know what they’re doing is his fantasy. It’s not a delusion, because they know what they’re doing. And the question is: is some real leader of the Republican Party – [Congresswoman] Liz Cheney (R-WY) has done it, and I hope she continues to – but is there a leader in the Senate – could [Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell (R-KY) – miracle, no I doubt it – get up and say, ‘now, Mr. President, you have gone too far?’ That would certainly curtail some of the craziness and outrages we are seeing from the Republican Party.
Bernstein predicted that Trump’s end-of-term shenanigans could portend a death knell for the GOP:
Also, in the long run, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I would think that the Republican Party, that this presidency, and particularly in its end and supporting what this president is doing in the final days of his presidency may be the end of the Republican Party as a constructive, decent force in our politics in this country, and all these Republicans from [Senator Ted] Cruz (R-TX) and all the rest of them who have participated in this sham, really ough to be made to pay by history, as should their party. This is not some kind of forgivable act. This is not about two, simple, equal sides of an equation. There are no two sides to this question.
Bernstein concluded the interview by describing the foredoomed coup as “astonishing,” and that “disgrace” will forever follow its enablers:
This is about democracy, fundamental principles and the astonishing thing is to see one of the great political parties, the party of Lincoln, the party of Eisenhower, etc, etc. What was also for a while the party of [former Senator Joseph] McCarthy, and now we have for the first time a president of the United States who has exceeded McCarthy’s authoritarianism, his disrespect for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the Republican Party of our time with McConnell’s leadership, with [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy’s (R-CA) leadership, has gone along with it to their disgrace.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.