U.S. archivists on Wednesday revealed one of the last great secrets of the Watergate investigation — the backbone of a long-sealed report used by special prosecutor Leon Jaworski to send Congress evidence in the legal case against President Richard M. Nixon.
The release of the referral — delivered in 1974 as impeachment proceedings were being weighed — came after a former member of Nixon’s defense team and three prominent legal analysts filed separate lawsuits seeking its unsealing after more than four decades under grand jury secrecy rules. The legal analysts argued the report could offer a precedent and guide for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as his office addresses its present-day challenge on whether, and if so, how to make public findings from its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including any that directly involve President Trump.
The legal specialists said they and Watergate veterans sought to have the Jaworski report made public because of the historical parallels they see to the current probe and the report’s potential to serve as a counterexample to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s report before President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
The 453-page Starr report, written in 1998, deepened partisan divisions when its graphic detail and legal conclusions about Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky were immediately made public by House Republicans, who suffered an electoral backlash.
By contrast, the reputation of Jaworski’s report has fared far better, even as its bare-bones form remained a mystery. The Jaworski report is known colloquially known as the “Sirica road map,” for then-Chief Judge John J. Sirica, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who approved its creation and transmission to lawmakers.
“There were no comments, no interpretations and not a word or phrase of accusatory nature. The ‘Road Map’ was simply that — a series of guideposts if the House Judiciary Committee wished to follow them,” Jaworski wrote in his 1976 memoir, “The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of Watergate.”