To head off a 21st century Saturday night massacre, a bipartisan group of senators took the first step last week to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from White House interference. That’s a move that harks back to the last century, when President Nixon initiated the firings that are the signature move of the Watergate scandal after a deal fell through for a sympathetic third party to review the incriminating audio tapes he didn’t want to turn over to Congress. Pat Buchanan, then a top Nixon aide, told the Daily Beast in an email that Nixon had “no choice” but to remove the special prosecutor looking into Watergate, Archibald Cox, by firing Cox’s boss, Attorney General Elliot Richardson, after he refused to fire Cox. “Yom Kippur war was going on, Henry (Kissinger) was in Moscow. RN (Richard Nixon) told me in Oval Office, he could not be seen by (Russian President) Brezhnev as backing down to Elliot.” It was the Cold War, and national security offered a compelling rationale, but Nixon more likely acted more to save his own skin. “If I have to get down to a GS-7 at Justice” by firing every person with a higher pay-grade,”I’m going to fire him (Archibald Cox),” Nixon told Buchanan.

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