After two years of investigation and more than 30 indictments, the Special Counsel Robert Mueller presented his report to the Justice Department Friday evening in what is certainly the biggest “Mueller Friday” yet — and with a tangential connection to Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
But beyond being a Mueller Friday, the date the report was submitted has greater significance. On March 22, 1973, then-President Richard Nixon was recorded ordering his former Attorney General and Watergate defendant John N. Mitchell to “stonewall” the investigation.
“Stonewall it … plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up or anything else, if it’ll save it—save the plan,” said Nixon.
Reading too much into the actions of the Special Counsel as tea leaves can be a rabbit hole, but Mueller is known for using protocol to send messages. In this case, intentional or not, Mueller has drawn attention to the story of a president ordering his attorney general to resist an investigation to cover up the illegal activities of a campaign on the day he’s entrusted an attorney general with his report.
Attorney General William Barr stated in his confirmation hearing that he favored transparency. However, the full extent of what he’s required to share with Congress is only that Mueller’s report is complete. Whatever Barr sends to Congress could be sent as early as this weekend.
There are a lot of potential outcomes for Mueller’s final report, and Barr has a large role in deciding those outcomes. Famously, the Starr Report on President Bill Clinton became a bestselling book, while the Mueller Report could potentially be kept secret.
There’s a fair amount to learn about the nature of Mueller’s report through the Special Counsel’s use of so-called “speaking indictments” that go beyond the requirement for an indictment to make public certain information. Indeed, there’s already a fair amount known about Trump’s involvement — from references to “Individual-1” — in previous indictments.
And while Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said no further indictments are expected, former Watergate counsel John Dean was certain more indictments would be forthcoming, including a general conspiracy indictment. Former U.S. Attorneys from the Southern District of New York also expect further indictments in New York state — which is out of reach of Trump’s pardon powers.
And given the date of the submission of Mueller’s report, it seems reasonable to watch the Justice Department’s handling of the report itself closely in the coming days.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.