A historian says comparing the Russia investigation to the Salem witch trials is “hot air.” And among the past 10 presidents, Mr. Trump has signed the second-fewest bills to become law at this point in his term.
Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History…and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2018
This requires context.
President Trump’s complaints of unjust persecution are a matter of opinion — or, at the very least, a premature conclusion. But by quantifiable measures, the investigation of Russian election meddling to benefit Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign is not the longest, least fruitful or most harmful inquisition in American history.
The largest literal witch hunt in American history was, of course, the trials and persecutions of people accused of witchcraft in Salem, Mass., from 1692 to 1693, said Robert Thurston, a historian who wrote the book “The Witch Hunts.”
The Trump-Russia investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, “is nothing like a real witch hunt,” Mr. Thurston said. “No, no, no. Twenty people were executed at Salem. Nobody’s been executed in Mueller. It’s all hot air.”
The Salem trials and witch hunts became popular metaphors for unjust political persecution in the 1930s, during industry purges in the Soviet Union and accusations of communism in the United States.
When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rose to prominence in 1950, the Wisconsin Republican claimed in his “Enemies From Within” speech that he had obtained a list of 205 communists who were working in the State Department. His ensuing campaign lasted four years, and he “had not been able to produce even one identified Communist Party member in the State Department,” The New York Times wrote when Mr. McCarthy died.
By comparison, the Russia investigation has so far spanned one year and yielded five guilty pleas.
Overall, the McCarthyism campaign touched 12,000 to 13,000 people. It forced employees from their jobs in 100 cases, said Ellen Schrecker, a historian.
In that sense, the Russia investigation is “not a witch hunt,” said Ms. Schrecker, who for decades has researched the era of McCarthyism. She said the Russia investigation that had enraged Mr. Trump was opened “because of what his campaign did, not because of his political beliefs.”
The White House did not respond to a request for evidence backing up Mr. Trump’s claim that he has led “the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history.” But in the past, the president has noted the number of bills he has signed, deregulation and the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to prove this point.
Seventeen months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has signed the second-fewest bills among the last 10 presidents, said Joshua Tauberer, the creator of GovTrack, a web tool for tracking legislation. (President Barack Obama had signed the fewest by this point in his first term.)
Qualitatively, Mr. Trump has enacted tax cuts and veterans’ benefits. But he has largely been unable to achieve some of his top campaign promises, like repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act or building a border wall.
Like Mr. Trump, a Supreme Court justice was confirmed in the first years of the presidencies of Mr. Obama, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Sources: Interviews, GovTrack, The New York Times