The Trump-Russia intrigue has produced a flood of speculation as to whether a new Watergate scandal was afoot. That crisis, which began with a break-in at Democratic party offices inside the Watergate hotel in 1972, brought down President Richard Nixon after two years, in the only resignation of an American president yet.
Whispers about impeachment, the most familiar constitutional procedure for removing a president, began to circulate even before Trump had taken the oath of office. But two months into Trump’s presidency, those whispers – and the search for any other possible emergency exit – have grown into an open conversation that has moved well beyond the realm of a Democratic party daydream. “Get ready for impeachment,” an influential, 13-term Democratic congresswoman tweeted after the bombshell FBI announcement.
Even before the FBI director announced on Monday that the bureau is investigating possible collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 presidential election, the precise rules for how the powers of the presidency might be transferred – or simply rescinded – in case of criminality or emergency had become the subject of newfound and intense focus in the United States.
For 125 minutes – as long as it took for Bush to enter and emerge from partial anesthesia, eat breakfast and display possession of his native wit – Dick Cheney held all the powers attached to the office of the presidency. (Some wags have suggested that Cheney wielded that authority, unofficially, over a much longer time span.)
On 21 July 2007, George W Bush underwent surgery to have five polyps removed after what was described as a routine colonoscopy. The date may have been lost to history, but for the rare invocation at the time of a constitutional amendment laying out how the transfer of power to the vice-president works in cases of presidential disability.