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Without Kenneth Dahlberg, the Watergate burglary mystery may have remained largely unsolved. If you’ve seen the movie All the President’s Men, you may remember the part where Carl Bernstein, played by Dustin Hoffman, goes to Miami to see what he can find out about the Cubans who had made up the majority of the Watergate crew.

While meeting with a man named Martin Dardis, who was an investigator for Dade County District Attorney Richard E. Gerstein, he was shown “a photostatic copy of a cashier’s check for $25,000 that had been deposited into the bank account of a real estate firm owned by Bernard Barker.” The check had been written out to Dahlberg and signed over to Barker, who was one of the burglars.

This was curious. Kenneth Dahlberg lived in Minnesota. He was an ace pilot in World War Two who had been shot down three times and eventually became a prisoner of war. But he was also the Midwest finance chairman for Richard Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). Why had the the Midwest finance chairman of CREEP given a check for $25,000 to a real estate company controlled by a Cuban-American from Miami? This appeared to be money to pay for the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Bob Woodward tracked down Dahlberg’s phone number and called him. After some initial back and forth, Dahlberg revealed that the money had been given to him by Dwayne Andreas, chief executive officer of Archer Daniels Midland, as a contribution to the president’s campaign.  He couldn’t remember precisely, but he had either handed the money over to CREEP or more specifically to Maurice Stans, the national finance chairman for CREEP. Beyond that point, he had no further knowledge of how the money had been spent.

This put the conspiracy to break into the DNC squarely within the president’s campaign.  And following that string, eventually the whole plot and subsequent coverup was revealed to be orchestrated from within the Oval Office.

It was incredibly careless to pay the burglars with a cashier’s check in the name of Kenneth Dahlberg, but that’s what they did.  It was a seemingly small mistake that brought down a presidency.

Yesterday, we learned that Michael Cohen made a similar mistake. Michael Cohen was the national deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. He used a limited liability corporation as a cut-out to help Elliott Broidy (also a national deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee) pay for the silence of a Playboy playmate he (or possibly Donald Trump) had impregnated. He used the same LLC to pay Stormy Daniels to stay silent about her affair with the president. His LLC was essentially a slush fund, similar to the one used by Nixon’s CREEP to pay the Cubans. And like Maurice Stans’s slush fund, which had been funded in part by the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, Michael Cohen’s slush fund was funded by the CEO of Novartis.

Where things differ is that the 2015-16 break-in of the DNC headquarters wasn’t conducted by Cubans with ties to the CIA. It was done remotely and electronically by hackers with ties to the Kremlin. And instead of the slush fund paying the burglars, the burglars put money into the slush fund.

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was hired last year by the U.S.-based affiliate of a Russian business magnate who attended Trump’s inauguration and was recently subjected to sanctions by the U.S. government, the company said Tuesday.

The New York investment firm Columbus Nova said it retained Cohen as a consultant “regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures.” Though Columbus Nova has been described in federal regulatory filings as an affiliate of the Renova Group, founded by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, the company said Vekselberg was not involved with hiring or paying Cohen.

Routine denials aside, Viktor Vekselberg is very close to Vladimir Putin and he put a half a million dollars in Michael Cohen’s slush fund where it was commingled with money used to silence women who had information that would be damaging to the president. I can hardly think of a less prudent thing to do than to take money from the Kremlin, but to take it and put it into the same account as the one used to cover up the president’s affairs is reminiscent of paying the Watergate burglars with a cashier’s check in the name of an RNC finance chairman.

It looks like Trump is destined to repeat all of Nixon’s mistakes, and to meet the same fate.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at