Anyone in the Trump administration who has knowledge of the Ukraine affair or other misdeeds should study the hard lessons learned the last time a Republican president faced investigation and likely impeachment. This is what Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr. wrote after serving time in prison for crimes committed in service to President Richard Nixon:
“In a country like America, where the rule of law is supposed to be paramount, we have to be able to believe in the integrity of our public officials, civil servants, business leaders and neighbors. Without this respect for each other and our underlying beliefs, without a commitment to living and acting with integrity, we can only expect more of the same problems, with good people placed in circumstances where bad decisions become all but unavoidable.”
As an eager young lawyer in Seattle, Krogh had been invited by a close family friend and father-like figure, John Ehrlichman, to join the Nixon presidential campaign and later the White House staff. In his courageous and cautionary 2007 book “Integrity — Good People, Bad Choices and Life Lessons From the White House,” Krogh details how, little by little, out of loyalty to Nixon and his policies, he was placed in charge of the “Special Investigation Unit,” aka the “White House Plumbers,” a covert operation to stifle leaks. In that role, Krogh planned the illegal and ultimately botched break-in to steal confidential medical records from Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office.
In the process, and by his own admission, Krogh ended up betraying his oath of office, committing crimes, violating the civil rights and invading the privacy of a fellow American citizen, and undermining the Constitution.
Krogh’s personal journey and repentance should be a wake-up call for those in the Trump administration, including members of Congress, who should be asking themselves how they have condoned and excused the many inexcusable and likely illegal acts of this president and his associates.
As Krogh wrote in his book, “Because if you compromise your integrity, you allow a little piece of your soul to slip through your hands. Integrity, like trust, is all too easy to lose and all too difficult to restore.”
Remarkably, unlike many of Nixon’s advisers and inner circle, and unlike many of Trump’s defenders today, Krogh eventually had an epiphany and realized how fundamentally wrong and un-American his actions and those of the president truly were.
“I had come to the view that some of us on the Nixon White House staff had succumbed to a horrendous meltdown of our personal integrity …,” he writes.
“I didn’t feel I could defend my conduct any further because it violated a fundamental principle in our country: The right of an individual to be protected from an unlawful action by his government.”
Rather than seeking a plea bargain or a pardon, as we have seen with many Trump associates, Krogh voluntarily went to the special prosecutor, said he intended to plead guilty and insisted he be sentenced.
“Because I could have stopped the operation but didn’t, I was fully responsible.”
He then proceeded to tell the full truth of everything he knew about the Watergate affair and cover up. No appeal for leniency, no blaming anyone else, no claim of “faulty memory” — just acknowledgment of wrongdoing to individuals and to the nation and a recognition that such actions demand and deserve consequences.
“Serving a prison sentence” he wrote, “was an opportunity for me to pay part of the price that had to be paid for my misconduct.”
Krogh ultimately went to federal prison and was disbarred from practicing law. After serving his time, he then embarked on a lifelong mission to promote ethical values and conduct with the goal of preventing others from falling victim to the seduction of power and blind loyalty. In 1980, he received permission to again practice law.
Krogh’s personal journey shows how good people in positions of power can go wrong but can recognize their errors and put the good of the nation over personal, political or professional self-interest.
Sadly, it appears there are too few, if any, Kroghs in the Trump administration, but at least some there and in Congress should read his book, follow his example, accept responsibility and at long last hold this president accountable.
That would take courage and integrity, but it is not too late to do what is right for the sake of your country and the Constitution.