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Analysts’ comparison of the Obama administration’s trifecta of major scandals to Watergate strikes a note of irony for Hillary Clinton, who as a budding political star in 1974 was a researcher for the staff that drafted the articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, which included charges he attempted to use the Internal Revenue Service to defeat his enemies.
Clinton – who has been accused of covering up politically motivated malfeasance related to the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack when she was secretary of state – has not commented on the admission by the IRS that underlings discriminated against conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Her office did not respond to a request by WND to weigh in as talk of impeachment mounts inside the Beltway, fueled by the Benghazi and IRS scandals along with the Justice Department’s admission that it monitored the communications of Associated Press reporters in the House gallery at the Capitol.
But fresh out of Yale Law School, in 1974, 27-year old Hillary Rodham poured her considerable talent and energy into the case against Nixon as a member of the impeachment inquiry staff advising the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Clinton, whose focus was on the historical grounds and standards for impeachment, ended up drafting a brief arguing Nixon should not be granted legal counsel due to a lack of precedent.
As WND reported in 2008, her supervisor, lifelong Democrat Jerome Zeifman, not only was unimpressed with her work, he called it fraudulent and fired her for unethical behavior.
Zeifman, who was the general counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee, recalled the episode in a 2008 New York Post column when Clinton was running for president, calling her a liar and an “unethical, dishonest lawyer.”
Franklin Polk, the House panel’s chief Republican counsel, confirmed Zeifman’s story.
In its articles of impeachment against Nixon, the panel charged that the president tried to obtain confidential personal information from the IRS and use income tax audits “in a discriminatory manner.”
Unlike the Obama administration, however, Nixon was unsuccessful, as officials in his administration prevented him from carrying out his plans to the use the IRS against his enemies.
In Article 2 of the articles of impeachment against Nixon, concerning the abuse of the powers of his office, the House panel stated:
He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be intitiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.
Nixon announced his resignation Aug. 8, 1974, making impeachment proceedings unnecessary.
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, who famously teamed with Carl Bernstein to investigate the Nixon administration, compared Watergate to the Benghazi scandal in an interview Friday with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Woodward called Benghazi “a very serious issue” and found similarities between Nixon’s release of edited transcripts and the Obama administration’s politically motivated editing of its “talking points.”
Protecting the Kennedys
Zeifman contends Hillary Clinton was collaborating with allies of Sen. Ted Kennedy — a future Democratic presidential prospect — to block revelation of John F. Kennedy-administration activities that made Watergate “look like a day at the beach.”
Her brief, Zeifman said, was so fraudulent and ridiculous, she would have been disbarred if she had submitted it to a judge.
Polk, in an interview with Dan Calabrese recounted in a WND guest column, confirmed Clinton wrote a brief arguing Nixon should not be granted legal counsel due to a lack of precedent. But Clinton deliberately ignored the then-recent case of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who was allowed to have a lawyer during the impeachment attempt against him in 1970.
Moreover, Zeifman claims Clinton bolstered her fraudulent brief by removing all of the Douglas files from public access and storing them at her office, enabling her to argue as if the case never existed.
Polk confirmed the Clinton memo ignored the Douglas case, but he could not confirm or dispel the claim that Hillary removed the files.
Zeifman said Clinton was hired to work on the investigation at the behest of her former law professor, Burke Marshall, who also was Sen. Ted Kennedy’s chief counsel in the Chappaquiddick case.
‘She conspired to violate the Constitution’
When the Watergate probe concluded, Zeifman said, he fired Clinton from the committee staff and refused to give her a letter of recommendation. She was one of only three people who earned that dubious distinction in Zeifman’s 17-year career.
Zeifman told Calabrese he fired Clinton because she was a liar.
“She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer,” Zeifman said. “She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”
Zeifman said Clinton collaborated with several individuals, including Marshall, special counsel John Doar and senior associate special counsel Bernard Nussbaum, who later became counsel in the Clinton White House. Their aim, he said, was the seemingly implausible scheme to deny Nixon the right to counsel during the investigation.
The Kennedy allies, Zeifman said, feared putting Watergate break-in mastermind E. Howard Hunt on the stand to be cross-examined by the president’s counsel. Hunt, according to Zeifman, had evidence of nefarious activities by President John F. Kennedy’s administration, including purportedly using the mafia to attempt to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Polk regarded Clinton’s memo as dishonest because it tried to pretend the Douglas precedent didn’t exist. But, unlike Zeifman, he considered it more stupid than sinister.
“Hillary should have mentioned [the Douglas case] and then tried to argue whether that was a change of policy or not instead of just ignoring it and taking the precedent out of the opinion,” Polk told Calabrese.
But Zeifman argues that if Clinton, Marshall, Nussbaum and Doar had succeeded, House Judiciary members also would have been denied the right to cross-examine witnesses and denied the opportunity to even participate in the drafting of articles of impeachment against Nixon.
Polk recalls Zeifman told him at the time he believed Clinton’s primary role was to alert Marshall if the investigation was taking a turn against the Kennedys’ liking.
“Jerry used to give the chapter and verse as to how Hillary was the mole into the committee works as to how things were going,” Polk said.
Polk remembered some Democrat committee members, as well as nearly all the Republicans, were upset at the attempt to deny counsel to Nixon.
Zeifman said top Democrats, including then-House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill, believed Nixon clearly had the right to counsel.
“Of course the Republicans went nuts,” Polk said. “But so did some of the Democrats – some of the most liberal Democrats. It was more like these guys – Doar and company – were trying to manage the members of Congress, and it was like, ‘Who’s in charge here?’ If you want to convict a president, you want to give him all the rights possible. If you’re going to give him a trial, for him to say, ‘My rights were denied,’ – it was a stupid effort by people who were just politically tone deaf. So this was a big deal to people in the proceedings on the committee, no question about it.”