Key Watergate Witness “Who Broke the Back of Nixon’s Obstruction” to Testify on Trump’s Obstruction

Published on June 9, 2019 by Athena Pallas

“Remember, he was the one who broke the back of Nixon’s obstruction of justice, who testified truthfully. He knows how a White House does it, and he can testify with respect to some of the evidence in the Mueller report and how that relates to his experience with obstruction of justice,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), according to The Hill, in describing the testimony upcoming tomorrow from John Dean. Dean served as Nixon’s White House Counsel and was involved in the Watergate coverup before turning into a key witness against Nixon, giving testimony that is widely viewed as helping to push Nixon to resign.

Dean also is of the opinion that President Trump very clearly committed obstruction of justice, saying in a CNN interview following the release of the partially redacted Mueller report, according to The Hill, that “This is clear obstruction. The obstruction statute is an endeavor statute as well as an actual overt action. If you endeavor to obstruct – and there is much evidence here of endeavor – you’ve violated the obstruction statute.” That distinction that the obstruction of justice statute is an endeavor statute is an important one, because it means that President Trump didn’t have to be successful in obstructing justice, he only had to try to obstruct justice to have committed obstruction of justice. Congress, rather than the courts, is now the arbiter of whether Trump committed obstruction of justice, as Robert Mueller himself indicated in his public comments, and so the House is fulfilling its duty by further investigating, at the least, the 10 instances where the Mueller report indicates that Trump may have committed obstruction. Mueller’s report does not exonerate Trump on obstruction, no matter how many times Trump and his allies say that it does. And so it is that Congressional Democrats are hoping that John Dean’s testimony will offer insight into presidential obstruction of justice. According to The Hill:

Democrats are ripping a page out of the Watergate playbook as they look to shine a spotlight on the unsavory details about President Trump’s conduct contained in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The House Judiciary Committee will grill John Dean, who served as White House counsel during Richard Nixon’s administration and was intimately tied up in the Watergate controversy, during a public hearing on Monday. “Dean was an incredibly important part of the public, the congressional Watergate investigation,” said Ken Hughes, an expert on Watergate and a research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “He set the agenda for the rest of the congressional Watergate investigation.”… Democrats describe Dean as an ideal witness who can provide historical context on obstruction of justice within the White House, given his pivotal role in the Watergate scandal. …“Not only can he provide some historical context, I think he is very immersed in what the actual procedures and laws are regarding issues of executive privilege, executive power versus congressional subpoenas,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a Judiciary Committee member. “He’s also intimately familiar with obstruction of justice as well as abuse of power.”

Democrats have also faced what might be called obstruction when it comes to testimony and document production from current and former Trump administration officials, who have been advised by the White House even to defy congressional subpoenas for those documents and testimony. In response the House will be voting on Tuesday on whether to bring contempt charges against both Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn. John Dean, on the other hand, is willing to testify, and since he has not been part of the Trump administration, is under no obligation to consider the White House guidance for people not to testify.

Featured image by Office of Public Affairs from Washington DC – NPOMS 2019-118 via Wikimedia Commons.