Watergate prosecutor: Mueller should 'promptly' file a report on Trump

Michael Isikoff
Chief Investigative Correspondent
Yahoo News photo illustration; photo: Philip Lacovara/Bloomberg Law

WASHINGTON — A former top Watergate prosecutor, expressing impatience with the pace of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, says the Justice Department special counsel should move “promptly” to file a report on President Trump’s conduct and stop “letting this thing drag on.”

“I think it’s in the national interest to move promptly to bring this matter to a head,” said Philip Lacovara, who served as senior counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, in an interview with the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”

“I think the public deserves to know — to put a riff on President Nixon’s comments — whether their president is a crook,” Lacovara said. “And that certainly applies to President Trump. And my view is that there should be enough evidence available to Mr. Mueller and his team to move now, or I say by the end of the summer, which is another two or so months, to make that call or do whatever he’s going to do and submit his report.”

Lacovora’s comments echo those of Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who in a hearing last week asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to direct Mueller to wrap up his investigation and present his findings.

“If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury,” Gowdy told Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, during a hearing last week. “If you have evidence that this president acted inappropriately, present it to the American people. Whatever you got, finish it the hell up.”

But Lacovara has a darker view of Trump’s conduct than Gowdy and his House GOP colleagues have. As Lacovara sees it, there’s already enough evidence to charge the president with obstructing justice, and Mueller should stop wasting his time trying to negotiate an interview with Trump.

“So, the question is, should the special counsel bring these matters to a head — at least with respect to President Trump — and do so without waiting for this never-ending saga of ‘maybe he will and maybe he won’t’ to continue playing out,” Lacovara said.

Download or subscribe on iTunes: “Skullduggery” by Yahoo News

“My basic point is that Trump’s testimony is not necessary to either of those things — for the simple reason that whatever he says is not likely to be believable,” he added. “The president’s statements simply are irrelevant to the truth. Or putting it more pointedly, the truth is simply irrelevant to the president’s statements, and therefore one cannot rely on the president either to exonerate the innocent – the allegedly innocent – or to convict the allegedly guilty.”

Lacovara argued that Trump’s public comments last year about the firing of FBI Director James Comey — telling NBC’s Lester Holt that he did so because of “this Russia thing” — provided sufficient grounds to trigger the obstruction statute.

“I don’t think there is much more that Mueller needed,” Lacovara said. “Now, that’s all over a year ago. I can’t even imagine any plausible basis for stretching out the analysis of obstruction or no obstruction.”

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