House Republicans lined up to hammer John Dean, the Democrats' star witness at Monday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, saying the Nixon White House counsel deliberately obstructed their questioning of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen earlier this year, and pointing out that he has breathlessly accused numerous Republican presidents of Watergate-like misconduct over the years.
At one point, the hearing room broke out into laughter, as Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz grilled Dean for turning Nixon comparisons into a profitable "cottage industry" for himself. Dean assisted with the Watergate coverup and pleaded guilty to obstruction before becoming a key prosecution witness, and President Trump has called him as a "sleazebag" and a "RAT."
Gaetz began by referencing Dean's 2005 essay, "George W. Bush as the New Richard M. Nixon: Both Wiretapped Illegally, and Impeachably; Both Claimed That a President May Violate Congress' Laws to Protect National Security." Dean, in 1987, had also called the Iran-Contra affair "Major League" for Ronald Reagan, compared to the relatively "minor league" scandal of Watergate.
"Mr. Dean, how many American presidents have you accused of being Richard Nixon?" Gaetz asked.
"I actually wrote a book about Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney with the title, 'Worse than Watergate,' Dean responded, prompting loud laughter from those in attendance. Asked whether he made money on the book, Dean replied that it was "very successful," but declined to state how much he made exactly, other than that it was less than $1 million.
Dean also said he is unsure how much money he makes as a CNN contributor, where he frequently attacks the Trump administration. (Late Saturday, Dean escalated his personal attacks on Trump, tweeting: "Would someone get Trump a dog. He needs a friend so he won’t endlessly vent on Twitter. He’s uninterested in government and policy. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t exercise. He has no real friends. A dog might save humankind. Admittedly, it a lot to ask of a dog. But help is needed.")
In another dramatic moment, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan pressed Dean on his conversations with Cohen attorney Lanny Davis, saying Dean collaborated with Davis to "obstruct" Republicans' questioning of Cohen in February.
"Did you give advice to Lanny Davis or Michael Cohen prior to Mr. Cohen's testimony to Congress?" Jordan asked.
"No," Dean responded.
"Well, you said on [CNN anchor] Erin Burnett's show the night before Mr. Cohen testified in front of the Oversight Committee ... that you had talked to Lanny Davis and that Michael Cohen should hold his testimony as long as possible from Republicans. You didn't say that to Mr. Davis? You said it on Erin Burnett's show the night before Mr. Cohen testified."
"I didn't say it directly to Mr. Cohen," Dean responded. He then acknowledged, "I did say, as soon as you turn your testimony over, it will be picked apart."
"You know what?" Jordan said, hammering Dean's effort to "obstruct" Republicans' questioning of Cohen. "They took your advice. Mr. Cohen kept his testimony from us for as long as possible."
According to a transcript of Dean's Feb. 26 interview with Burnett's show, "OutFront," Dean discussed his contacts with Davis, and said he had advised Cohen's legal team to hold Cohen's statement "as long as you can."
"You were discussing earlier with the congressman whether he would accuse the president of crimes. Well, Lanny Davis tells me he will, so that's one of the things to anticipate," Dean told Burnett. "[Crimes] while in office, yes, which is interesting to say the least. What I've really been talking about with them though is not the substance of their testimony, rather the process matters, things that I thought and as once a former committee counsel in the House Judiciary Committee, and then as a very long-term witness, that sitting alone at the table is important, holding your statement as long as you can so the other side can't chew it up, giving them kind of process advice like that is what I've mainly done."
"They took your advice. Mr. Cohen kept his testimony from us for as long as possible."
For his part, Georgia GOP Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, mocked Democrats for bringing Dean in for testimony, accusing Democrats of using him to try to attack the president. “This committee is now hearing from the Seventies and they want their star witness back,” he said.
Collins mockingly added, “Let the show begin.”
Dean’s testimony kicked off what could be a dramatic week related to oversight of the Russia probe: Nadler announced plans Monday to hit pause on efforts to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt over his refusal to turn over Russia probe-related documents, Democrats could still move forward on a separate contempt-related resolution this week to enforce subpoenas for Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
Separately, the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announced plans to hold an open hearing on Wednesday titled, “Lessons from the Mueller Report: Counterintelligence Implications of Volume 1.”
Fox News’ Alex Pappas and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.