Senator Patrick Leahy Warns President Trump: 'It Would Be A Grave Mistake' To Not Release Mueller Report

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Special counsel Robert Mueller leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21, 2017. His investigation has cost more than $25 million, in both direct and indirect costs. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senator Patrick Leahy entered politics at the height of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The senior senator from Vermont is now warning current President Donald Trump to learn from the mistakes of that earlier administration and not attempt to hide the recently filed special counsel report.

"[A] democracy hidden from the people is no democracy at all," wrote Leahy in a new column for the Washington Post, in which he draws a handful of parallels between the two investigations: They both began with a crime; in Watergate's case it was a break-in of the Democratic National Committee's office, while the investigation recently closed by Robert Mueller was kicked off by Russian operatives' theft of DNC emails.

"In both instances, the sitting president attacked the investigators and fired the lead investigator, leading to concerns that he may have obstructed justice," noted Leahy. "And in both episodes, the ensuing investigation led to dozens of indictments reaching the closest aides of the president."

A key factor in Nixon's ultimate undoing was his refusal to comply with the investigation of Special Counsel Archibald Cox, who had issued subpoenas for recordings made by the president.

After Nixon cited executive privilege in his decision to not turn over the tapes, he ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. But Richardson would not oblige this request and instead resigned. Nixon then turned to Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who similarly resigned instead of agreeing to fire the special counsel. It was ultimately left to Solicitor General Robert Bork to dismiss Cox, but not before that day became known as the "Saturday Night Massacre."

In his Post column, Leahy argued that now that the Mueller report is in the hands of the Trump administration, "I believe it would be a grave mistake for the president to follow the footsteps of Nixon and seek to hide the truth from both Congress and the American people. Nixon fought the release of his secret White House recordings all the way to our highest court. He lost. If Trump attempts to hide the Mueller report, I believe he will lose, too."

It is not yet know when or if the Mueller report will be made available to the public. Attorney General William Barr is expected to provide members of Congress with his summary of the report as soon as this weekend, though Barr's office has not indicated how in-depth that summary might be, or what topics it might cover.

Some conservatives have also called for transparency regarding the release of the Mueller report, even as they criticize the investigation.

In an opinion column for Newsweek, political pundit and former congressman Newt Gingrich argued this week that while he believes the Mueller investigation has been used by Trump's opponents as a "cudgel to attack the Trump administration and rally the so-called 'resistance'," he nonetheless believes it needs to be released.

"[T]he American people have the right to see the investigation in full and decide for themselves whether this has been a legitimate investigation—or an inquisition carried out by bureaucrats who didn't like the choice Americans made in 2016," wrote Gingrich.

The White House and President Trump have been uncharacteristically quiet on the report since it was turned in on Friday afternoon.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote, "The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel's report."

Meanwhile, President Trump is spending his weekend at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he made a brief appearance at a dinner event on Friday night, but did not mention Mueller or the investigation, according to Politico.