John Dean, the Watergate-era White House counsel in the Nixon administration, knows more than most about presidential impeachments, having spent months in prison for his involvement in Watergate as the Michael Cohen of his day.
So he’s someone to pay attention to when he says, as he did yesterday to CNN’s Erin Burnett, that the revelations in the court filings by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and by federal prosecutors in New York in the cases of Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort give Congress “little choice” outside of commencing impeachment proceedings.
“I don’t know that this will forever disappear into some dark hole of unprosecutable presidents,” Dean said. “I think it will resurface in the Congress. I think what this totality of today’s filings show that the House is going to have little choice, the way this is going, other than to start impeachment proceedings.”
As White House counsel for Nixon from 1970 to 1973, Dean was tasked by Nixon to investigate the break-in to the Democratic Party campaign headquarters that precipitated the Watergate scandal. He would eventually turn on Nixon, linking the then-president directly to the coverup of the administration’s involvement in the break-in and admitting to his own role in the obstruction of justice, actions which earned him a one-to-four-year sentence that was later reduced to the four months he had already served after his cooperation with prosecutors earned him leniency.
Dean’s comments were inspired by the sentencing memo for former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen who implicated President Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in the payment of hush-money to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 election, payments that violated campaign finance laws.
“In August 2014, Chairman-1 had met with Cohen and Individual-1, and had offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-1’s relationships with women by identifying such stories so that they could be purchased and ‘killed,’ ” according to the prosecutors’ memorandum.
While the memo may have disguised the identity of the individuals in the meeting with Cohen, the context of the story makes it frighteningly clear that Individual-1 is Donald Trump and that Chairman-1 is David Pecker who heads up the company that owns the National Enquirer and who helped arrange the payment to McDougal for exclusive rights to her story which it promptly locked away in a vault and suppressed.
Dean has been a fierce critic of Trump in the past, having compared him unfavorably to his former boss, until now the most disgraced president in modern history.
Trump’s is making the long nightmare of Nixon’s Watergate seem like a brief idyllic daydream. History will treat Nixon’s moral failures as relatively less troubling than Trump’s sustained and growing decadence, deviousness and self-delusive behavior. Nixon=corrupt; Trump=evil.
— John Dean (@JohnWDean) November 4, 2018
“Nixon=corrupt; Trump=evil.” That just about says it all.
Let’s hope that the incoming Democratic House of Representatives fulfills his prophecy and that enough Republicans in the Senate see the writing on the wall to summon their patriotism and defend democracy by convicting Trump and expelling him and the rest of his administration from office.
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Original reporting by Michael Brice-Saddler at The Washington Post.