Throughout American history, many White Houses have faced scandals of one degree or another, but the number of presidents who personally faced federal criminal investigations is extremely small.
Richard Nixon was first, and he was forced to resign in disgrace. Bill Clinton was second, and he was impeached. And Donald Trump is third, though his fate remains to be seen.
For quite a while, Trump grudgingly conceded that the investigation into the Russia scandal was ongoing, but he went to great lengths to insist that he, as president, wasn’t personally under investigation – to the point that he leaned on a variety of officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, to publicly declare to the nation that the president wasn’t the focus of any probe.
As recently as November, Trump said, “As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t been told that we’re under investigation, I’m not under investigation.”
All of that appears rather ridiculous now that we know Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating allegations that the president obstructed justice – an allegation that helped drive Nixon from office and helped lead to Clinton’s impeachment.
These recent developments remind me of our previous coverage of what Trump used to say about the very idea of the United States having a sitting president facing a federal investigation. In November 2016, less than a week before Election Day, Politico reported on Trump’s closing message:
Trump predicted that Clinton’s election would bring “an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis” because of the looming investigation and suggested Americans would not want to endure a second Clinton administration marred by scandal.
Three days later, Trump insisted that Clinton, as president, couldn’t possibly be expected to govern – because the distraction of a federal investigation would make such an endeavor impossible.
He wasn’t the only Republican pushing this line.The week before Election Day, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told a group of voters, “Obviously, we all understand the importance of this presidential race. I would just ask everybody this: Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI? Think of the trauma that would do to this country.”
Yes, think of it.
Jeb Bush said two years ago this month, in reference to Hillary Clinton, “All I’m saying is that she’s under investigation by the FBI. Just pause and think about that. That’s not, that’s a pretty uncommon thing for a presidential candidate.”
It’s even less common for a president.
In June 2016, Mike Huckabee complained that he saw news organizations covering Trump-related controversies more than Clinton-related controversies. “Gee,” Huckabee said at the time, “you’d think the guy was under an FBI investigation!”
Well, as it turns out….