(Updated) Manafort isn’t the first presidential campaign manager to be indicted. The last one went to jail.

John Mitchell, the chairman of President Nixon’s reelection committee and former attorney general, enters the Senate Caucus Room to testify before the Watergate committee.
Photo credit: U.S. Senate Historical Office

With news that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner have been indicted on twelve charges, let’s pause to remember another presidential campaign manager who faced federal criminal charges.

The man was John Mitchell, President Nixon’s campaign manager for his 1972 re-election campaign.

Mitchell headed CREEP, the Committee to Re-elect the President when the so-called White House plumbers broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate building. Before holding this position, he was the Attorney General of the United States and had portrayed himself as a strong supporter of law and order.

As the Washington Post, the paper most responsible for breaking elements of the Watergate conspiracy, notes:

In September 1972, stories by The Washington Post linked Mitchell to a secret campaign fund that paid for the Watergate burglary. When Post reporter Carl Bemstein called for a comment, Mitchell directed his response at the Post’s publisher:”Katie Graham’s gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s ever published.” According to later testimony, Mitchell approved $250,000 for the break-in. [source]

Now, we don’t know what will happen with today’s indictments or how many more (if any) will be coming and against whom.

We also don’t know how any of this relates to collusion to Russia (if at all), but Manafort certainly had ties to Russian oligarchs. Interestingly, his name is given in the Steele memo as the person who connected Trump with the Russian government.

But it’s worth remembering that the Watergate conspiracy was uncovered over time and the indictments did not all come at once.

Like Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey, Nixon tried to thwart the investigation by firing the special prosecutor.

Overall, 69 people involved with Watergate were indicted and 48 were found guilty. President Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator who resigned in August 1974 and about a month later was pardoned for all crimes by President Gerald Ford.

Mitchell was found guilty of three counts — perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice — and served 19 months in jail.

These verdicts delivered the message that no one, not even the elite closest to the president, are above the law.

Update: So far the most consequential news of the day involves another individual, former Trump foreign policy advisor Papadopoulos. When the FBI was investigating Russian collusion, he lied to them. But what did he lie about? Meetings with Russia when he was with the Trump campaign and seeking “dirt” about Hillary Clinton. He’s pleaded guilty and is providing information about others.

Read the now unsealed charges, with lots of detail, at this link.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.