Watergate 2.0

By Karuna Tuli and Kseniia Mamonova

Cleared of all charges and wrong doing by the officials, but can Hillary Clinton gain back the trust of the people?

The 2016 US Presidential elections have quickly become one of the dirtiest elections in recent history. With the announcement only moments away, the Clinton campaign has once again been rocked with scandal, amidst claims that new evidence has been discovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding misuse of Mrs Hillary Clinton’s personal email servers.  

With the investigation being reopened just 11 days before the election, Mrs Clinton has been working overtime to hold her lead in the polls and reassure voters that the investigation will not reveal any misconduct on her part.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has been quick to call the scandal ‘bigger than Watergate’. And the statement is not unfounded. In the wake of the latest FBI investigation, several comparisons have been made between former President Nixon and the current presidential hopeful. There are several parallels that can be drawn between the Clinton email scandal and Nixon’s Watergate. To some extent, history is repeating itself.

Considering Mrs Clinton had a front row seat to the prosecution and eventual impeachment of President Nixon while serving on the senate Watergate Committee 43 years ago, the re-investigation has added an ironic twist to the campaigns.


On 17 June, 1972, five men were caught and arrested after breaking into the Democratic National Party headquarters and attempting to bug it. Amongst these was James W. McCord, security co-ordinator for the Republican National Committee and a former FBI and CIA Agent. In the following days, former Attorney General and head of the Nixon re-election campaign, John Mitchell was accused of, and denied, any association with the break in. This led to a full investigation by the FBI that uncovered a larger operation by President Nixon that involved political espionage in order to enhance the efforts of the Republican’s campaign.

In July, 1974, one year after his re-election, Nixon was impeached and charged with obstruction of justice, leading to his retirement in August.

Watergate 2.0 (Clinton’s emails)

In July 2015, closely following the announcement of her candidacy, The State Department and Intelligence Community (IC) began an investigation into Mrs Clinton after finding classified information was being kept on her personal server and on a thumb drive by her attorney.

Mrs Clinton turned over her email server and emails regarding Benghazi were taken by the United States House Select Committee.

In August 2015, US District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan made it clear that Mrs Clinton had been keeping a private server, something forbidden by government policy.

In July 2016, the investigation was concluded, with the FBI finding that classified emails were sent and received on the personal server, and that Mrs Clinton had used her personal email while outside the United States. FBI Director James Comey stated that while Mrs Clinton was ‘extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information… No charges are appropriate in this case’.

On Sunday 6 November, 2016, with two days left before the elections, the FBI has once again come forward to clear Mrs Clinton of all charges.


Due to it’s timing, this clearance may not be enough to convince many Americans that Mrs Clinton is wholly innocent. Mr Trump has been very vocal in criticising the FBI in this decision, claiming “You can’t review 650,000 new emails in 8 days. You can’t do it, folks… Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it, the FBI knows it, the people know it, and now it’s up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box on November 8.”

There is still public opinion that Mrs Clinton acted deliberately in the way that Nixon did in order to conceal information from the courts. Both Mrs Clinton and President Nixon’s concealment of information was discovered almost accidentally. The information that led to President Nixon’s investigation came from allegations of his staff’s involvement in a cover up, Clinton’s from an investigation into Anthony Weiner, husband of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s former aide.

President Nixon’s’ eventual downfall was revealed to be through an anonymous source called Deep Throat, while there is speculation that more evidence on Mrs Clinton was revealed through WikiLeaks hacks.

Both have shown an inherent distrust of government systems, resorting to concealment of information. Having served on the committee during the Watergate investigation, one might assume that Mrs Clinton would have learned a lesson from the shamed president and therefore made the decision to erase her emails, something Nixon could have done to avoid prosecution.

Amongst the things discovered in Mrs Clinton’s emails were the “pay to play” scheme that showed foreign donations to the Clinton foundation that influenced her role as Secretary of State, her ‘off the books’ role in the Iran nuclear deal, and supplying arms to Libyan and Syrian rebels. If Nixon’s impeachment began the public mistrust of government, Mrs Clinton’s email scandal will only serve to bolster the growing resentment.

This year’s election has produced two candidates who are embroiled in unprecedented controversy. Mrs Clinton has been plagued with FBI and Senate investigations into use of personal emails and her actions in relation to the Benghazi attacks respectively, and Mr Trump, whom the mainstream media tout as racist, xenophobic and unhinged. It brings to light the issue of both parties needing to vet their candidates more closely before announcing them as represented nominees for president in order to avoid the possibility of having to investigate and impeach a president in office.

Trust in the government is already waning, and it should be the responsibility of the parties to put forward candidates who are trustworthy. Public polls and internet forums have mocked the quality of choice presented to them and have resigned themselves to voting for whoever they believe is the ‘lesser of two evils’, or not voting at all.

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