Legal experts petition judge to unseal Watergate report before Mueller finishes Russia probe

Legal experts petition judge to unseal Watergate report before Mueller finishes Russia probe
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A trio of legal experts petitioned a judge on Friday to unseal a major Watergate-era report before special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE concludes his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times reported.

The court filing requests that a March 1974 report from Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski be released to the public. The 55-page report, known as the “Road Map,” was sent to Congress and detailed the evidence gathered regarding President Nixon’s role in the scandal.

The House Judiciary Committee had access to the report, but it has been sealed from public release, the Times noted.

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The experts hope that the release of the Road Map will set a historical precedent for Mueller to make his findings known to Congress, as opposed to simply internally at the Justice Department.

“Not only does the Road Map carry immense historical significance in understanding the Watergate investigation, it provides a key precedent for assessing the appropriate framework for Special Counsel Mueller to report to Congress any findings of potentially unlawful conduct by President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE,” the petition states.

The report does not make any legal recommendations about whether Nixon’s misconduct was an impeachable offense but rather outlines the evidence gathered in the probe.

The legal experts argued in their court documents that most of the figures in the Watergate scandal have died and a majority of the evidence has been released since.

“This petition presents an extraordinarily compelling interest in disclosure arrayed against a vanishingly small countervailing interest,” the petition argues.

It was filed by three legal experts: Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare; Harvard Law school professor Jack Goldsmith, a Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration; and Stephen Bates, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

Bates worked as a federal prosecutor during Ken Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Clinton. He also co-wrote the report to Congress recommending that Clinton be impeached, the Times noted.

All three are represented by a government watchdog group called Protect Democracy.

Two Watergate prosecutors, Richard Ben-Veniste and Philip Lacovara, as well as John Dean, the White House counsel for Nixon, also advocated for report’s release in the petition.

President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed earlier this month that the president’s legal team may invoke executive privilege to stop Mueller’s final Russia report from being released to the public.

Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinTrump distances himself from Rosenstein by saying Sessions hired him AP: Trump polled staff on board Air Force One over whether to fire Rosenstein House Judiciary chair threatens subpoena if DOJ doesn’t supply McCabe memos by Tuesday MORE, the Justice Department official overseeing the probe, has the ability to release the finalized report to Congress and the public.

Giuliani, however, told The New Yorker that the Trump legal team may strike a deal with the special counsel that would allow the White House to reject the public disclosure of information covered by executive privilege.

Giuliani also told the Daily Beast earlier this month that Trump's legal team is almost finished with a “voluminous” report aimed at discrediting Mueller. 

“The first half of it is 58 pages, and second half isn't done yet. … It needs an executive summary if it goes over a hundred,” Giuliani told the Beast.