When James McCord, formerly of CIA and FBI, broke into the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) offices in the Watergate hotel, he did not have a search warrant. Because he and all in the White House who knew of and supported this penetration were trying to get information with which to discredit President Nixon’s opponents during the 1972 presidential campaign, theirs was no minor burglary, but a political crime of the highest order in America. Moreover, if the White house had asked for such a warrant, alleging the need to protect national security, any ordinary judge would have discounted the (plentiful) evidence that Democratic Party operatives were in contact with North Vietnam (with which we were at war), Cuba and others in light of the obvious motive for penetrating the DNC: domestic political advantage.Fast-forward 44 years. In October, as opposition presidential candidate Donald Trump was surging in the polls, U.S. intelligence officials broke into his communications. But this time they had warrants. Approval, if not instigation, for seeking them had to come from the highest levels of the administration. One seems to have been obtained on the basis of a specious claim that the real targets were Russians, not Americans. But the other apparently aimed squarely at alleged contacts between Mr. Trump’s electronic communications system and Russians. It is difficult to imagine what threats to national security, supported by “probable cause,” these warrant requests might have alleged that could have outweighed the obvious fact that preventing the opposition candidate’s election was the point of the penetration. By legalizing precisely the same thing that the Watergate burglars had done — a political crime of the highest order — these warrants changed American politics.