In September, 1972, about ten weeks after the Watergate break-in, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward huddled in the vending-machine room at the Washington Post’s old headquarters, on Sixteenth Street. Most days, the two reporters met there before presenting their latest scoops to the top editors. This was a particularly nerve-racking meeting. They had confirmed that John Mitchell, Richard Nixon’s former Attorney General and the manager of his reëlection campaign, had controlled a secret fund that paid for the break-in.
Bernstein told me that he felt a chill, unlike anything he has felt since. He put a dime in a machine for some coffee and turned to Woodward. “Oh, my God,” he said, “the President is going to be impeached.”
That July, the Supreme Court forced Nixon to release the “smoking gun” tape, which revealed that Nixon had instructed H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, to tell the C.I.A. to block the F.B.I. probe of Watergate. This was clear obstruction of justice, and it triggered key Republicans on Capitol Hill to break with Nixon. In August, all but certain to be impeached and removed from office, he resigned.
After a week of revelations about Donald Trump’s efforts to impede the F.B.I. investigation into his campaign, I asked Bernstein if he thought we had reached the turning point of 1972, or that of 1974.
“Almost inevitably, unreasonable government secrecy is the enemy—and, usually, the giveaway about what the real story might be,” Bernstein said. “And when lying is combined with secrecy there is usually a pretty good roadmap in front of you.” He added, “Yes, follow the money. But also follow the lies.”