'You ought to be tarred and feathered': Politicized anger toward Watergate grand jury provides parallel for controversy over Mueller report
Robert Mueller testifies before Congress (screengrab)

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Vladimir Pregelj, a former Library of Congress researcher who served as the foreman on the first grand jury in the Watergate investigations, recounted how politicized his grand jury proceedings became.


"You all ought to be tarred and feathered," wrote one woman from Wichita, Kansas, as he and the grand jury deliberated over the fate of President Richard Nixon as he was accused of obstructing probes into spying and burglary against his political opponents. "Why don't you stop this terrible thing? It is ruining our country both home and abroad! Try digging up the dirt and mistakes of former presidents. None are perfect."

On the other hand, other people wrote to him urging him to release the truth after Nixon resigned and President Gerald Ford granted him a pardon. "This can't happen to our country!" wrote one woman from Cary, North Carolina. "I urge you to inform the public of the facts ... if no one else will."

The recount described in the Post Bears a striking resemblance to the proceedings surrounding special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia and the possible involvement, or obstruction, by President Donald Trump and his allies. The whole case has been trashed as a "witch hunt" by the president, while his opponents are clamoring to see the full report for a broader context of what evidence there was and why it did not rise to the level of bringing charges or recommending impeachment.

Pregelj, for his part, told the Post he believes that the grand jury information in special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia should be made available to the American people.

"In my citizen's heart I feel the information gathered by the grand jury should be made public," Pregelj told the Post, although he qualified his statement by adding that "I'm not on [this] grand jury."

Pregelj also said that he believed former President Richard Nixon ought to have been indicted based on the evidence his grand jury was shown. "It was in a sense a disappointment that justice didn't run its course," he said.

The grand jury information in Mueller's investigation has become a major sticking point for releasing the full report, which does not recommend charges against Trump or his campaign for conspiracy with the Russian government and is agnostic on obstruction of justice, but reportedly contains some inconclusive evidence against the president.

Special counsel regulations generally prohibit the release of grand jury information, to prevent injuring the reputation of criminal suspects for whom evidence is insufficient to bring charges. However, in cases of massive public significance like these, where disclosing all the evidence would be of interest to the public, the DOJ can petition a court to waive these rules, and there is no indication that Attorney General William Barr has done this or plans to do so.