A former Watergate prosecutor told NBC Bay Area on Monday that there is little chance the Trump administration could survive a Saturday Night Massacre.
Washington, D.C., attorney George Frampton was one of a small team of lawyers working on the Watergate prosecution when President Richard Nixon fired special prosector Archibald Cox, a move that led to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on Oct. 20, 1973.
Frampton was in his late 20s, just a couple of years out of Harvard Law School, when he got the call to join the Watergate investigation. He described to NBC Bay Area what it was like to be in the middle of it and the comparisons he sees with the current investigation of President Donald Trump's administration.
Frampton said the pressure on the Watergate investigators was intense. Much like today, there were cries from the White House about a witch hunt.
"We felt as though we couldn’t make a single mistake," Frampton said. "If we’d made a single mistake we’d be dead."
No mistakes and no leaks, and no chance the incriminating evidence would have come to light without the special prosecutor.
"Congress was not going to get those tapes," Frampton said. "We only got those tapes because the criminal justice process went forward. We were entitled to get them for the investigation."
Frampton said without Robert Mueller’s investigation, the truth may never come out about what happened in the meetings between President Trump’s campaign and the Russians.
"I think taking the meeting shows they certainly had an interest in collusion," he said.
But is that criminal? Frampton said it depends on where the investigation leads.
"And that’s why we have a special prosecutor, and we have someone who I think is trained and responsible about making those not-so-easy decisions," Frampton added.
Assuming there was no collusion, Frampton said Trump's White House still managed to arguably create criminal conduct by unnecessarily lying and covering thing up.
"But that’s of course the lesson of Watergate, that it’s really the cover-up and the lying that ended up entangling people in potential criminal conduct, certainly in political peril," Frampton said.
Meanwhile, Frampton believes Mueller can’t be fired without devastating consequences for Trump.
"Not without another massacre, without another group of people within the Justice Department resigning, and I doubt he could survive that," Frampton said.