In 1974, when special prosecutor Leon Jaworski delivered a report regarding the cover-up by President Richard Nixon of the break-in at Watergate, it was a tightly-written 55-page & # 39; s evidence catalog. It contained no moral judgments and made it clear that the action against the president was with Congress.
The most important Jaworski document that was delivered to the House of Representatives was sealed more than four decades ago, only released last October. The Starr report became immediately public, distributed on the internet and shocked the audience with its extensive details of Clinson's follies with Lewinsky.
Nixon resigned before he could be accused. Clinton was deposed but acquitted by the Senate.
Today, as Mueller allegedly approaches the end of the probe determination from Russia to 2016, these two historical episodes suggest possible approaches to a final report, but also point to differences for the current multi-year probe that hangs over the presidency of Trump.
Contrary to the work of Jaworski and Starr, Mueller works according to a statute that requires him to submit a confidential report to the Attorney General, who has the necessary discretion about how to deal with it. William Barr, probably soon confirmed as Attorney General, has not promised to make the full report public. And it is unclear what information will be passed on to Congress.
According to guidelines from the Ministry of Justice, a sitting president can not be charged with criminal charges; it is up to Parliament to take action against possible allegations of obstruction of justice or other misdeeds. If it were to accuse the president, there would be a lawsuit in the Senate.
Jaworski & # 39; s road map & # 39;
The Nixon and Clinton studies differed considerably from the outset. The first started with the burglary in June of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the office building Watergate.
At the time that Jaworski delivered his report from March 1974, he had already filed a number of criminal cases against officials who spoke in the burglary and the cover-up. His office had received several guilty pleas and charges had been filed against Nixon officials in the highest echelons, including former Attorney General John Mitchell. Jaworski was about to demand a summons for Nixon's Oval Office tapes, and the House Court had already begun the demolition process.
In Jaworski's letter of dismissal to former Attorney General William Saxbe in October 1974, he remarked briefly: "Although the report of the grand jury, in which the evidence chain was extensively presented, has not been published, it is stated that it served as an important guideline. for the staff and the members of the committee in the development of … the articles of the accusation. "
That report was made public last October, through a lawsuit filed by Protect Democracy, on behalf of Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith, editor-in-chief of LawFare, Benjamin Wittes, and Stephen Bates, currently a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who the 1990s was part of Starr's legal team.
"It does not claim that Nixon committed an objectionable offense," they wrote. "It simply makes a series of factual allegations, each written in a reserve and clinical way, each supported by quotes from the special office of the prosecutor's office to Congress."
Goldsmith and Wittes said that for Mueller one lesson would be: Less is more.
"The document is powerful because it is so reserve, because it tries to inform, not to convince, because it lacks completely rhetorical abundance," they wrote. "Starr took a different path."
The Starr report, which was also drafted by the court judge Brett Kavanaugh, was intensively prosecuted and was spared little in terms of sexual descriptions of the Clinton and Lewinsky liaisons.
Bates, who defends the Starr report, however, agrees with Goldsmith and Wittes on the value of a special council that emphasizes the role of Congress in determining the fate of a president. In an interview on Saturday, he also emphasized the differences in the Capitol during the episodes of Nixon and Clinton.
Unlike in 1974, when the House of Judicial Watergate Committee was already pursuing, he said that in 1998 the House was essentially waiting for the Starr report.
Whatever the Starr office would send to the hill, it would be more detailed than the Jaworski report, & # 39; Bates said.
When the Starr report was in the hands, house republicans initiated proceedings for dismissal. Clinton was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice. The senate acquitted Clinton and he served his entire second term as president.
Van Mueller predicted a more complete analysis than that of Jaworski, simply because the investigation in Russia seems much more complicated.
Bates added: "The world is just waiting for Mueller."