John Dean was the lead-off witness before the House Judiciary Committee’s Monday hearings on the Mueller Report – a hearing called on seven days’ notice, with witness statements only being distributed to Minority members an hour before the hearing began. Dean’s intended role was clear from the outset – he was not appearing “as a fact witness.”
No, Dean’s appearance was part of a “bait and switch” gambit by Democrats controlling the Committee. Each of the three other panel members was more qualified to testify on obstruction of justice issues, but couldn’t compete with Dean’s notoriety. Without Dean and the possibility that he might really have something to say, the hearing would not have attracted a significant audience. In essence, Dean’s appearance was all show and no substance. And not surprisingly, while casting aspersions on President Trump, he somehow managed to omit specific descriptions of any of his own criminal acts.
But what could we expect? Dean’s appearance is analogous to getting a notorious, convicted safecracker from four decades prior to say that he believes a new model would be relatively easy to crack. He has no personal knowledge, of course, because he’s been out the safe-cracking business for almost fifty years. But it does make for good theater – because he’s an infamous crook --and apparently that’s all the Democrats and their mainstream media friends have to work with, at least with regard to adding drama to their opening session.
For his part, Dean has no first-hand knowledge or inside scoop about the Mueller investigation. He’s just a prominent name from yesterday’s headlines. So why would his opinions be of any value or importance at all?
Unlike the other panel members, John Dean is not in any sense a currently qualified expert on obstruction. He’s not even an attorney – not since he was disbarred by both the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1973.
Let’s reiterate that: John Dean hasn’t practiced any law, he hasn’t represented any clients, he hasn’t taught any law courses, he hasn’t appeared in any court to argue a case. The last time he was before a judge he was being sentenced to a one to four year prison term.
Here’s what John Dean is: a figure foisted on the American public from decades past who’s emerged as a media hero because of his seemingly endless ability to denounce alleged Republican missteps as being “worse than Watergate.”
In Watergate, there was an underlying crime, the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, that was being covered up. So you had motive, reason and rationale for obstruction. With Trump, as Mueller’s report made clear, there was no underlying crime, no collusion with the Russians.
Granted, Dean knows full well about the crimes of Watergate, precisely because he was an active party to their commission. Dean was assigned responsibility for preparing a campaign intelligence plan for President Nixon’s 1972 re-election effort. He’s the one who recruited and hired Gordon Liddy for the task – and accompanied him to two meetings in Attorney General John Mitchell’s office, where Liddy’s plan was presented.
And, of course, Dean ran the Watergate cover-up after Liddy’s team was caught red-handed in the Watergate Office Building; but he wasn’t acting as the president’s lawyer, his overriding motivation was to protect himself from prosecution.
Unlike Dean, it’s never been shown that President Nixon or his two closest White House aides -- H.R. (“Bob”) Haldeman and John Ehrlichman – knew of any plan to wiretap phones or photocopy campaign files in advance of the Watergate break-in.
Dean, in contrast, was heavily involved, not only in knowing about Liddy’s intel plan, but also in running the subsequent cover-up. He sat in on all of the FBI’s interviews of White House staff, he talked its Acting Director, Patrick Gray, into improperly providing him with copies of investigative reports, and he destroyed evidence found in Howard Hunt’s White House safe. He rehearsed Jeb Magruder for his perjured testimony before two grand juries and he improperly helped himself to $4,000 in campaign funds (for his honeymoon, no less!)
So, while Dean certainly could have testified as to how he obstructed justice, he could not testify as to how President Trump might have done so – because Dean has neither the experience nor the expertise to do so with any authority.
What is so telling about Monday’s hearing is that – while Dean deliberately failed to identify them -- none of the obstructive acts which he so clearly committed decades ago have any parallel to obstruction allegations against President Trump or anyone on his staff in this investigation: there have been no allegations of withholding or destruction of government documents; none about encouraging government witnesses to commit perjury; no payments of money to former government employees or campaign officials for silence.
In this sense, any Dean testimony about the specifics of his own past criminal acts – acts that actually occurred – would have seriously undercut the validity of obstruction charges against President Trump. Sure, both presidents ranted and raved to their staffs about the injustice of special prosecutor investigations – but only in Watergate were there clear acts of obstruction.
One more critical difference: In Watergate, there was an underlying crime, the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, that was being covered up. So you had motive, reason and rationale for obstruction. With Trump, as Mueller’s report made clear, there was no underlying crime, no collusion with the Russians.
So all the Democrats and their media friends are left with is tired old John Dean, the one who personally brought us the Watergate horror show many, many years ago, trotted out once again to criticize a Republican administration.