Newswise — Monday’s news that George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty -- and that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have been indicted -- brings the Trump presidency “a step closer to a scenario that resembles the Watergate investigation” that forced former President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974, according to Northwestern assistant professor Jon Marshall.

Marshall, an assistant professor in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, can be reached at [email protected].

“The aggressive criminal charges against the three former campaign officials make it more likely that other Trump aides will start cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in exchange for leniency,” Marshall said. “A similar desire for leniency from prosecutors motivated John Dean, Nixon’s White House Counsel, to start spilling the beans about the Watergate cover-up,” he said.

“Trump is more vulnerable to current and former aides turning against him than Nixon was,” Marshall added. “While Nixon’s White House team was loyal, disciplined and experienced through his first term, the Trump administration is known for its chaos and back biting. A revolving door of aides have either resigned or were fired by Trump in the first year. If there’s a smoking gun that connects Trump to criminal activity, one of these former aides is likely to provide it.”

Unlike Nixon, Trump has so far had a Republican Congress to protect him from potential impeachment, Marshall added. “Democrats were eager to challenge Nixon, but the current GOP Congress has not pushed hard to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” he said.

“This protection could weaken if Trump is unable to get Congress to agree on a tax bill, which is the big prize desired by GOP leaders and donors. Trump’s support in Congress will deteriorate even faster if his polling numbers continue to drop and representatives no longer think being tied to him will help them win reelection,” he said.

Marshall teaches media history and reporting courses with a focus on social justice issues. Marshall also is the author of “Watergate’s Legacy and the Press: The Investigative Impulse” (Northwestern University Press, 2011). He has written for, Christian Science Monitor, CBS News’ Public Eye, Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business and many other publications.

More News at Northwestern Now