Let us recast Watergate for a moment, shall we?
What if President Richard Nixon, instead of covering up for bumbling members of his re-election campaign staff who tried to break into the office of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex, spied on the 1972 George McGovern campaign with an embedded informant?
What if that spy turned out to be an agent — at least an operative — of the FBI? What if electronic surveillance also was employed? What if the FBI director was a party to those goings-on? What if unverified information was used to obtain a FISA warrant on an unpaid adviser to the McGovern campaign? What if the information the operative believed was relevant then was used in an attempt to punish and silence the Democratic candidate's campaign?
If we knew the Nixon administration — perhaps with the knowledge and permission of Nixon — had engaged in the above activities, we would believe serious abuses of law had occurred, right?
We know now, given recent reporting by The New York Times and others, that the Obama administration engaged in all of the above. We don't know how much Obama knew, but we know he intensely disliked candidate Donald Trump and desired to have Hillary Clinton replace him so the country could continue to be run as he had run it.
Such a conspiracy, assuming all is true (and reports continue to corroborate the facts of what the FBI called Operation Crossfire Hurricane), would be "bigger than Watergate," the president tweeted last week.
Of course, Trump has opined that a number of things contrary to his liking were "bigger than Watergate," but he may have hit on one that is.
After all, The New York Times, which went out of its way to describe the espionage activities of the embedded FBI informant as everything other than "spying," nevertheless concluded that "a politically compromised intelligence apparatus manufactured an investigation."
In other words, the FBI began looking into Trump, based on conversations with Russian officials by lower Trump campaign political operatives, for political reasons.
The president's been alleging that for months, though his political opponents and the media have continually derided him for it.
The movements of the operative (Stefan Halper, an American who worked at Cambridge University), according to the Times account, read like a Robert Ludlum novel and included a request "for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers," a meeting with "a young woman," the offer of a $3,000 honorarium" to pique the interest of one of the advisers, and the questioning of the former adviser over dinner and drinks at a fancy hotel about "the subject of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails."
Our trusty Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary tells us the verb "spy" means "to watch secretly, usually for hostile purposes." The noun "spy," it says, is "one who keeps secret watch on a person or thing to obtain information."
Well, if it walks like a spy and talks like a spy, it's undoubtedly a spy.
Trump, in turn, has asked the Justice Department to begin an investigation into whether the FBI and/or the Department of Justice infiltrated or surveilled his campaign for political purposes.
On Monday, the Justice Department asked the office of inspector general to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the FBI investigation's or the Justice Department's tactics concerning the president's campaign.
Of course, all of the above is also tied to the probe by former FBI Director Robert Mueller of whether Trump and his campaign had any ties to the efforts by Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. And Trump is only tied to the special counsel's probe because of discredited information about him given to the FBI and because he later fired the FBI director, James Comey, who apparently authorized the spy who infiltrated Trump's campaign.
A sideshow to all of that is what part the Clinton campaign played in either colluding with the Obama administration or working with the FBI alone in order to discredit the Trump campaign.
Further, some Republicans are now calling for a second special counsel to sort it all out.
Confused? Sure. Especially when Comey said before he was fired that Trump was not a subject of the then-FBI investigation and since when it was said he is not a "target" of the investigation. Still, the probe goes on, with few charges filed, yet word that the special counsel's probe could end by Sept. 1.
But go back to the Watergate scandal for a moment and substitute all of the above for Nixon's misdeeds. The person or persons responsible would be given serious prison time, and we don't believe we've even heard the last of what occurred.
Bigger than Watergate?
It's bigger than Troopergate, Filegate, Nannygate and all the other Bill Clinton-era scandals that drew the "gate" suffix. We believe if all the truth comes out, it could be the first presidential scandal actually to be Watergate-worthy.