Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal included many facets, but it started with a break-in. The Republican White House hired a group of "plumbers" to uncover dirt on the president's political opponents. Nearly a half-century later, history isn't necessarily repeating itself, but to borrow a line, it is rhyming.
The fact that Donald Trump and his team have contempt for the international nuclear agreement with Iran is not new. What is new is the prospect of this Republican White House hiring outsiders to, in Nixonian fashion, uncover dirt on the president's political opponents.
The Guardian published a report over the weekend that managed to surprise many observers who are already inclined to believe the worst about Trump World.
Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a "dirty ops" campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.
People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to "get dirt" on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama's top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.
The allegations raised in the report have not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News. That said, if the reporting is accurate, the revelations are legitimately stunning.
Note, for example, that The Guardian isn't pointing to actions taken during the Obama presidency or during the international negotiations. Rather, the reported events described in the article unfolded last year, months into Trump's presidency, when the White House decided it wanted to derail the Iran deal and began looking for a rationale to justify a decision Trump had already made.
It was at this point, according to The Guardian, that the American president's aides hired spies to uncover dirt on Americans who served the nation's interests, and who are now private citizens, accused of nothing.
Rhodes told the British newspaper, "I was not aware, though sadly am not surprised. I would say that digging up dirt on someone for carrying out their professional responsibilities in their positions as White House officials is a chillingly authoritarian thing to do."
Wait, it gets much worse.