Administration

Watergate prosecutor: Trump 'going full Nixon on Mueller'

A former Watergate special prosecutor is comparing President Trump's actions to those of former President Nixon, warning what could happen if Trump moves to fire the special counsel investigating Russian election meddling.

Richard Ben-Veniste wrote in an piece published Thursday in The Atlantic that Trump is "going full Nixon on Mueller."

"Like Nixon, President Trump appears eager to fire the man investigating campaign and White House officials' culpability in a high-profile scandal: Robert Mueller, the special counsel examining a broad range of subjects related to Russian interference in the 2016 election," Ben-Veniste wrote.

"And like Nixon, Trump seems one false move away from following through."

Ben-Veniste said he worked as a lawyer on the task force of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, investigating allegations of obstruction of justice against the 37th president.

"The nation correctly perceived that Nixon's true intention was to prevent Cox from uncovering evidence of criminal misconduct that Nixon was determined to keep hidden," he wrote.

"While Trump's true intentions remain unknown, his feelings about Mueller, at least, are crystal clear - he hasn't tried to hide them."

The president has repeatedly referred to the special counsel's probe as a witch hunt, and reportedly has sought to fire him more than once.

Ben-Veniste added that Mueller and his staff have thus far done nothing "publicly known that would provide a legitimate reason to justify dismissal.

"Instead, Mueller has been methodically investigating under the mandate he was given and is building out cases in multiple directions," he wrote.

He warned that Cox's dismissal was "the beginning of the end for Nixon."

"Firing or hobbling Mueller could precipitate a similar firestorm of public protest, perhaps matching the backlash against the Saturday Night Massacre in its scope and intensity," he wrote.

Trump's fury at the Russia probe has ramped up in recent days after the FBI raided the office, home and hotel room of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced plans to take up legislation to limit Trump's ability to fire Mueller.

The legislation would let Mueller, or any other special counsel, receive an "expedited judicial review" within 10 days of being fired to determine if it was for a "good cause." If it was determined it wasn't, he would be reinstated. 

Ben-Veniste wrote that if Trump "indeed, decided to remove Mueller once and for all, perhaps only a credible threat of impeachment will deter him."

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