Watergate prosecutor says Trump will ‘pay political price’ for resistance on Mueller report

Clark Mindock

This week, House speaker Nancy Pelosi stood before reporters in the US Capitol and called for patience.

Just days after the the Trump administration showed its disdain for congress by refusing to honour a subpoena for the full Mueller report and its underlying evidence, Ms Pelosi channelled the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team and asked America to trust the process.

With congressional investigations already under way, the House speaker claimed the goal is uncovering truth, and that it will take time for Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee – whose spurned subpoenas have led to contempt charges against attorney general William Barr – to set up a case against Donald Trump, should one be warranted.

And, as if announcing the world’s most obvious trap, Ms Pelosi continued to outline just how Mr Trump might help that process along.

“Every day they are advertising obstruction of justice by ignoring subpoenas and by just declaring that people shouldn’t come and speak to congress so that the American people can find out the truth about the Russian disruption of our election so that it doesn’t happen again,” Ms Pelosi said.

The dismissal of the subpoenas has already set several processes into motion, but Democrats have largely resisted impeachment so far. The House, following the subpoena refusal earlier this week, swiftly initiated contempt charges against Mr Barr – a charge that would make the attorney general just the second man in his position to be hit with the symbolic mark on his record.

But, with those threats in mind, the Trump administration has held fast, declaring executive privilege over the entire Mueller report, which Mr Barr has attempted to portray as conclusive in finding that the president and his campaign did no wrong in 2016.

There’s one more concern, too, and that’s whether special counsel Robert Mueller himself will testify before the House. Mr Trump, for his part, has oscillated on the issue, saying at times that he doesn’t know if Mr Mueller should testify, while at other times saying it is either a bad idea or a great idea.

Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor, told The Independent that any effort to keep Mr Mueller from testifying is likely to fail. And, the more it looks like Mr Trump and his team are resisting that effort – resisting the effort for Americans to hear “the truth”, as Ms Pelosi might put it – the more it will hurt the 45th president.

“I think ultimately Robert Mueller will testify, and that the more the president and his attorney general seek to delay or derail Mueller’s public testimony the more of a political price it will pay in the court of public opinion where people will be asking the logical question: what is the president hiding?” Mr Ben-Veniste said.

He continued: “Why does he fear Mr Mueller’s testimony before a congressional committee that obviously has the ability to provide bipartisan questioning?”

For her part, Ms Pelosi noted that those Watergate investigations into Richard Nixon also took time. Presidents aren’t impeached overnight, just like the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t build itself into a playoff calibre team overnight.

It takes time, and it takes a process.