Congress

Nixon counsel John Dean will testify Trump’s actions are ‘strikingly like Watergate’

Dean will be the star witness at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Monday

John Dean, White House Counsel for United States President Richard Nixon will testify to the House Judiciary Committee Monday. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon John Dean drew parallels from how the former president tried to cover up the Watergate break-in to President Donald Trump’s actions to impede the Mueller investigation in a television interview Monday.

“Nixon was hands-on very early, just like Trump was hands-on very early. The firing of James Comey was not unlike the actions Nixon took,” Dean said in an interview with CNN ahead of his testimony to Congress on presidential obstruction. 

[This obscure 1973 memo kept Mueller from considering a Trump indictment]

Dean will be the star witness at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Monday afternoon on the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The hearing will focus “on President Trump’s most overt acts of obstruction,” committee chairman Rep. Jared Nadler said in a statement when the hearings were announced.

The Mueller report plainly stated that the special counsel found evidence of presidential-level obstruction: Trump tried on multiple occasions and through multiple aides to hinder, limit and even end the probe.

[Mueller: ‘The report is my testimony’]

Dean has some firsthand experience in presidential obstruction. He testified to the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973 about “a devastating mosaic of intrigue, illegality and abuse of power” by the Nixon administration. Dean served four months in prison for his own efforts to aid the White House coverup of the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

In a preview of his testimony, Dean said in an interview with CNN that Trump's misdeeds are “strikingly like Watergate.”

He defended Democrats for drawing parallels to history while they build a case for impeachment in the court of public opinion rather than hearing from White House officials.

“I think they’d like those witnesses too, but they’re stonewalling this committee,” Dean said. “You have to start somewhere and I think drawing from a historical base is a good foundation for them.”

Republicans have criticized calling on Dean to testify as political theatre. 

“This appears to be part of a strategy to turn the Committee’s oversight hearings into a mock-impeachment inquiry rather than a legitimate exercise in congressional oversight,” ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Doug Collins chided Nadler in a letter he sent on Friday.

Trump lashed out at Dean, calling him a “CNN sleazebag attorney” in a tweet Sunday night. Trump argued Democrats' hearings amount to an effort to “do-over” the Mueller report.

[Mueller increases pressure on some Democrats to move toward impeachment]

Dean speculated on CNN the tweet was “meant to clue to his admirers I'm not on his team, but I think they knew that before today.”

Dean said in his own tweet that Trump “needs a friend so he won't endlessly vent on Twitter.”

The hearing comes as a growing minority within the Democratic caucus has called for the initiation of impeachment proceedings. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has resisted. 

John Bennett contributed to this report.Correction: Jun 10, 2019, 2:02 p.m.| An earlier version of this story did not explain that the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, but President Richard Nixon resigned as president before a House vote took place. 

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