John Dean (AP/Alex Brandon)

John Dean: Nixon "might have survived if there’d been a Fox News"

The former Nixon White House counsel thinks the Russia investigation is just heating up, too


Rachel Leah
January 2, 2018 11:16PM (UTC)

John Dean knows first hand about White House investigations. The former Nixon White House counsel who became the star witness for the prosecution during the Watergate hearings had a message for President Donald Trump: Your idea that Robert Muller's Russia investigation will wrap up soon is "wishful thinking."

Speaking to Politico's "Off Message" podcast, Dean said he finds it "remarkable" how little the Trump team has learned from past White House investigations including Watergate. "Every signal they've thrown from the get-go has been 'we're covering this up,'" he told Politico. "While Ty Cobb says he’s cooperating with the prosecutors, turning over documents and witnesses and what have you. Well, those witnesses should have all been marched down there to the grand jury and said, 'We’ve got nothing to hide.'"

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"I can only conclude they are hiding something," Dean added, saying that he doesn't know exactly what or whether the Trump campaign's actions were in fact criminal or not, but that the administration's behavior doesn't point to pure innocence.

Since Watergate is Dean's point of reference, he discussed the many similarities. He warned Trump and his counsel not to be overconfident about what Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos knew and could tell Robert Mueller.

"They didn’t know how much I knew," Dean said of Watergate. "I knew much more than they thought I did . . . With Flynn and his proximity, he had even more proximity than I did." Dean also warned that even if Trump is considering to pardon Flynn, "that doesn’t end his testimonial responsibilities," Dean said, "in fact, to the contrary, he can be indicted again for perjury."

Dean also cautioned Trump that ignorance is no defense. "Unfortunately, motive and intent in the law are different. What they thought [was that] because what they were doing was purely political, and trying to minimize the impact of this blundered break-in at the Watergate, they had no criminal intent," Dean said. "Well, they intended to do the actions they did, which was stop the investigation. That’s what Trump did. His motive is irrelevant."

Dean noted that there is one major difference between Watergate and the Russia collusion investigation, explaining that today's political climate, social media and the existence of Trump's favorite broadcaster, Fox News, set a very different stage. "There’s social media, there’s the internet; the news cycles are faster," he said. "I think Watergate would have occurred at a much more accelerated speed than the 928 days it took to go from the arrest at the Watergate to the conviction of Haldeman and Ehrlichman and [John] Mitchell, et al." He added, "There’s more likelihood he [Nixon] might have survived if there’d been a Fox News."

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Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah.

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