Watergate expert says the Trump-Russia investigation is just getting started

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally concluded his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, delivering his report to Attorney General William Barr last night. As we await the report’s conclusions and findings, it may feel as if we are about to learn the ultimate fate of Donald Trump and everyone in his orbit. But the reality is that only the Special Counsel’s investigation is ending. No matter what the report says, and even if no new indictments come directly from Mueller, the inquiries are far from over.

On CNN last night, Erin Burnett asked Tim Naftali, the former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, for his insight into the significance of the report’s release, especially as compared to the release of the final report in the Watergate scandal. Naftali’s answer was informed and insightful. He quickly dismissed the idea of a historical similarity between the Nixon and Trump reports, claiming that “this is not a parallel at all.” Naftali pointed out that the Watergate special prosecution force’s final report actually came out a year after Richard Nixon had resigned. “It was the end of the process, and right now we are at the end of the beginning of the process.”

Naftali went on to explain that during Watergate, Congress and the press did the heavy lifting when it came to investigating Nixon before a special prosecutor even entered the scene. With Trump’s scandals, however, “it’s the other way around,” he explained. “And so, if indeed there is more misconduct surrounding this administration, expect more investigations. They just won’t be led by Mueller.”

Given Donald Trump’s antagonism toward what he has insisted all along to be a “witch hunt,” it is amazing that Mueller made it to the finish line without Trump firing him. It is also encouraging to learn tonight that Barr revealed there were no instances in which Mueller’s “proposed actions” were denied for being “so inappropriate or unwarranted.” Hopefully, transparency will rule the day and we will soon learn exactly what Mueller found in his investigation. But as far as expecting a swift and just conclusion to all things Trump right now, remember that, as one leading Nixonian scholar just put it, we are only at the end of the beginning.

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