Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued a warning to President Donald Trump on Friday, just hours after special counsel Robert Mueller turned in his report: Don’t pull a Richard Nixon.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Leahy recalled the downfall of Nixon’s administration following the Watergate scandal, making clear that Trump ought to be as transparent as possible with Mueller’s findings if he hopes to avoid forever damaging public trust in the government.
Leahy, who was elected in 1974, the same year the nearly impeached Nixon resigned, recognized “the strain it placed on our democratic institutions” to have faced such a controversy.
“Those years serve as a reminder that a democracy hidden from the people is no democracy at all,” he said.
Now that Mueller has given the findings of his probe into the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election to Attorney General William Barr, Leahy cautioned that “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.”
The senator is one of several calling for Barr to make the report public, a demand that has been heard from both sides of the aisle. However, Democrats have called for the findings to be released immediately, whereas some Republicans have made watered down requests.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Friday that Barr “needs the time” to examine the report, but hoped the attorney general would give “as much information as possible.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made a similar remark, saying that Barr “will pursue as much transparency as possible.”
But in January, Graham argued that “some of it should be sanitized because there’s probably information that you don’t want the public to know,” Politico reported.
If Trump doesn’t comply and the matter devolves into a legal battle, Leahy thinks the president won’t win. In making his argument, he pointed to the tapes that revealed Nixon’s attempt to cover up the Watergate break-in.
“Nixon fought the release of his secret White House recordings all the way to our highest court,” Leahy noted. “He lost. If Trump attempts to hide the Mueller report, I believe he will lose, too.”
Regardless of what may be included in Mueller’s report, Leahy offered Trump one last bit of advice:
The truth has a way of coming out in the end. If Nixon taught us anything, it is this: the harder the attempts to conceal the truth, the harder the fall.