WASHINGTON — Anxious to see the results of all those Russia investigations going on in Congress and in special counsel Robert Mueller's office? Well, take a deep breath. It's likely to be awhile.
The constant stream of news about witnesses, subpoenas and closed-door testimony may make it feel like the Russia probes have been going on forever, but Mueller has only been on the job about four and a half months and the three congressional committees conducting inquiries didn't really start digging in until spring.
That's not long when you consider that the Watergate investigation of Richard Nixon took about 20 months — considered relatively fast — and the Whitewater investigation of Bill Clinton, which morphed into the Monica Lewinsky investigation, spanned about five years.
"The public and the press have always been impatient about how quickly these types of investigations are moving, but they have gotten more so," said Charles Tiefer, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and the special deputy chief counsel for the House Iran-Contra Committee's investigation of the Reagan administration. "The 24-hour news cycle means that speculation outruns the actual investigation and demands responses."
Tiefer estimated that it could take Congress until spring and Mueller about a year to begin to show initial results, such as preliminary reports from the committees or the first round of indictments from the special counsel.
The special counsel, the Senate and House Intelligence committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee are all investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
"They have difficult obstacles to overcome," Tiefer said. Among them: convincing reluctant witnesses to cooperate, obtaining scores of documents from both inside the U.S. and Russia, and trying to persuade one of the targets to break ranks and become a witness for the prosecution.
Attorney Richard Ben-Veniste, who served as an assistant special prosecutor in the office of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and chief minority counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee, said the Russia probe and Watergate are "roughly comparable in terms of the complexity."
"Judged by other investigations and given the breadth of this one, I don't think the public should be too expectant, but rather appreciate the complexity ... and scope of the areas that both Mueller and congressional investigators are charged with looking into," Ben-Veniste said.
Bruce Udolf, a criminal defense attorney in Florida who served as an associate independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation, said he believes Mueller is "moving at lightning speed" in putting together a team of investigators and questioning witnesses.
Mueller is dealing with complicated issues of money laundering and obstruction of justice, with witnesses and evidence scattered across the globe, Udolf said.
"Of necessity, it's going to take a very long time," he said. "I would be surprised if it was completed in less than a year. But it sounds like he's making a lot of progress. I'm sure his team is working around the clock."
It's more important that an investigation be thorough than fast, Udolf said.
"You turn over one stone, and it leads you down another path," he said. "And you're dealing with people who are trying to prevent you from doing your job, which is getting to the truth."