Trump declares, 'I learned a lot from Nixon'

As Trump politicizes the rule of law and takes aim at those on his enemies list, does he really want to declare, "I learned a lot from Richard Nixon"?
Donald Trump and Richard Nixon.
Donald Trump and Richard Nixon.AP/Reuters
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By Steve Benen

About a week after Senate Republicans ended the impeachment trial against Donald Trump, the president said he found himself reflecting on Richard Nixon's White House portrait.

"[Y]ou know, I think of Nixon more than anybody else, and what that dark period was in our country," Trump told Geraldo Rivera in February. "And the whole thing with the tapes and the horror show. It was dark.... Every time in the White House, I pass this beautiful portrait of various presidents, right? But the portrait of Richard Nixon, I sort of -- I don't know. It's a little bit of a different feeling than I get from looking at the other portraits of presidents."

He didn't elaborate on what exactly that "different feeling" was, though it may have been admiration. TPM noted this morning:

During an interview on "Fox and Friends," Trump explained why he chose not to go on a firing spree amid Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation a la Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate scandal.

"I learned a lot from Richard Nixon: Don't fire people," the president said. He added, "I study history, and the firing of everybody... I should've, in one way, but I'm glad I didn't because look at the way it turned out."

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, let's note a few relevant facts for the record. First, the idea that Trump studies history is hilarious, but obviously untrue. Second, if Nixon taught Trump not to fire anyone, the current president didn't learn the lesson especially well: Trump has fired all sorts of people.

For that matter, if Trump is eager to reflect on "the way it turned out," he might pause to notice he's a scandal-plagued, impeached, and unpopular president, an international laughingstock, and a leader considered by scholars to be among the worst presidents in American history.

But even putting these relevant details aside, as Trump politicizes the rule of law and takes aim at those on his enemies list, does he really want to tell a national television audience, "I learned a lot from Richard Nixon"?