BOSTON (CBS) – There’s only one thing I’m sure of when it comes to the Mueller report: One way or another, we will get to see the substance of it.
It is inconceivable, given the importance of the issues probed by the special counsel and the political implications of its findings, that this document will stay private or be heavily censored.
It might take a legal battle to flush it out. But I suspect that won’t be necessary.
If the report is exculpatory for the president and his family, chances are he will personally tweet it out in PDF form.
If it incriminates them, and the White House tries to squelch it, it will be leaked.
I wouldn’t try to guess what Mueller has found. We don’t even know the full extent of the evidence he gathered.
But as we await the facts, consider some of the lessons of Watergate:
– Persuadable skeptics will need a smoking gun. Richard Nixon’s polling and political support were holding up until he lost his legal effort to suppress the Oval Office tapes and everyone could hear his voice orchestrating the cover-up. If, say, the raid on Michael Cohen’s office or the Trump tax returns produced incriminating evidence, that could take a potentially-fatal bite out of the president’s numbers. (Keep in mind that polling has consistently shown approval of Trump’s handling of the Russia affair lagging well behind his overall approval.)
– It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. Failure to document direct collusion in the Mueller report won’t let the president off the hook, and the obstruction of justice aspect has seemed potentially more threatening since his ill-advised on-camera confession that he fired FBI Director James Comey over the Russia probe.
– Once the polls collapse, it’s game over. Nixon was never actually impeached. He resigned when his remaining political support vanished. Whether or not Mr. Trump would take the same route is one of the many lingering questions about this whole story that may be about to get answered.