Playing card themed cookies featuring cartoon images of U.S. President Donald Trump, right to left, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg) 

Balance of Power: Watergate’s Ghosts

(Bloomberg) -- It's always been fashionable for Democrats to compare Donald Trump to Richard Nixon. And now they have a charge straight from the Watergate era to make that comparison stick: obstruction of justice.

Trump is facing the deepest crisis of his young presidency after ex-FBI Director James Comey said the commander-in-chief asked him to squash an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn -- an impeachable offense if true. The White House denies the version of events described by Comey.

This isn't one of the usual tangled controversies that surrounds Trump, like tweets about recording Oval Office conversations or revelations that he gave away secrets to the Russians. 

It's far more serious than that, a question of whether the president committed a crime in his first month in office. Already, a top House Republican has demanded to see a Comey memo recounting the conversation under threat of subpoena. Financial markets are also showing signs of jitters: the dollar yesterday fell to the lowest level since November and U.S. stock futures dropped overnight.

For now, the rest of the Republican wall is holding tight, which has helped Trump survive before. But it held for Nixon too, until the pressure grew too great.

Sign up to receive the Balance of Power newsletter in your inbox, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.

Balance of Power: Watergate’s Ghosts
President Donald Trump shakes hands with FBI Director James Comey during a reception at the White House in Washington on Jan. 22, 2017.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Global Headlines

The GOP dreams of a more stable White House | Republicans in Congress are increasingly dispirited over the chaos surrounding Trump, with several saying the nonstop revelations are imperiling their legislative agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Bloomberg interview that he would prefer “less drama.”

Iran's one-term president? | Stubborn unemployment and a perceived failure to improve living standards spell trouble for President Hassan Rouhani. While polls still have him out front, Marc Champion reports from Tehran that Rouhani could end up as the first president in Iran's 38-year history not to win when seeking a second term.

Balance of Power: Watergate’s Ghosts

Abe moves away from Japan's post-war pacifism | Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is rushing to revise Japan's U.S.-imposed constitution for the first time since World War II to formally recognize its military. Polls show the Japanese have mixed feelings about changing a document that most feel has served them well. And it could also damage ties with South Korea and China, where memories of Japanese atrocities are still fresh.

Macron's rivals bristle | French conservatives are trying to stop President Emmanuel Macron's momentum before next month's parliamentary elections. Republican party chief Francois Baroin yesterday said that Macron is trying to pick off too many members of his party after Republican moderate Edouard Philippe agreed to serve as prime minister. Baroin ruled out any deals with the president.

Britain's hard left plays the long game | Polls show that the Labour Party doesn't have much chance of winning June's election. But that may not be the point for leader Jeremy Corbyn and his inner circle of leftists, who yesterday unveiled a populist medley of tax hikes for the rich and free university tuition. They may instead be more concerned about shoring up their base after the election and solidifying the hard left's lock on the leadership for years to come.

Brazil's contenders warm up | Brazil’s presidential election is 17 months away, but some of the most high-profile names are already showing their hand. The latest was Joao Doria, the popular mayor of Sao Paulo, who told Bloomberg yesterday that he'd run if asked by his party. Recession, corruption and lingering bitterness from Dilma Rousseff's impeachment are setting the stage for one of the most turbulent elections since Brazil returned to democracy in 1985.

And finally… Trump's alleged conversation with Comey calls to mind the most famous example of presidential meddling. In June 1972, Nixon met with H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, his chief of staff, and discussed the progress of the FBI’s investigation into the Watergate break-in. The recording of that meeting became known as the "smoking gun” tape. Nixon wasn't prosecuted but resigned in August 1974. Click here for a transcript of that meeting.

Balance of Power: Watergate’s Ghosts
President Richard Nixon announces his decision to resign on Aug. 9, 1974.
Photographer: Tom Middlemiss/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Balance of Power: Watergate’s Ghosts

To contact the authors of this story: Craig Gordon in Washington at, Ben Sills in Madrid at, John Fraher in London at