Published July 06, 2020 by Rebecca Goldfine

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen ’62, H'75 Raises Alarm about Second Trump Administration

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, William Cohen ’62, H'75 was blunt in his warning about the impact of a second Trump administration: "We would not recognize America as a democracy."

Cohen, who was a Republican US Representative for Maine during the Watergate investigation, told Amanpour that President Trump "is taking us down the road to tyranny." Cohen also served as a Republican in the US Senate from 1979 to 1997.

"[Trump's] trying to replicate what he sees as a positive in" Russia, Turkey, China, and North Korea, Cohen continued. "I think he wants to have one-man rule, and it's not the rule of law but just the opposite, the law of rule where he only can make decisions."

When Amanpour asked whether Cohen has lost faith that US institutions can ward off this challenge, he replied that while the US Congress, Department of Justice, and military are "holding for now," they may not survive a second term.

"[Trump] is doing his best to tear down these institutions and to politicize them, so that they bend down to his rule," Cohen said. "He likes to call the judiciary 'my judges,' and the military 'my generals.'"

Cohen also expressed his worry about the upcoming election, and criticized his party for inhibiting people's ability to vote. "I don't think [the election] will be fair," he said. "I think the Republicans will do everything in their power to suppress the vote."

Meanwhile, Trump is busy "degrading the notion of write-in ballots," an ominous sign that he's already calling into question the legitimacy of the vote before it even occurs. "I don't think he'll accept the results—assuming he loses. Again, that's a big assumption, because I think they'll do everything to suppress the vote in those states and those areas where minorities are the strongest."

In the course of the sixteen-minute conversation, Cohen spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter protests. He praised the people who are taking to the streets to demand the uprooting of systemic racism in the country, and he noted how important it is for white people to participate.

"I am delighted to see the people on the street, especially white people in the street. Because it won’t happen without us, because we’re the one who have the instruments of power, and we have had them all along. We have done everything in our power to subordinate, to subjugate, and to keep our knee on people of color," he said.

"So the time has come for an awakening of what we have done and what we need to do to be a better America and a better world."