John Dean: I Testified Against Nixon. Here’s My Advice for Michael Cohen.

March 2, 2019

Image result for john dean and richard m.nixon


There are several parallels between my testimony before Congress in 1973, about President Richard Nixon and his White House, and Michael Cohen’s testimony this week about President Trump and his business practices. Setting aside the differences regarding how we got there, we both found ourselves speaking before Congress, in multiple open and closed venues, about criminal conduct of a sitting president of the United States. This is not a pleasant place to be, particularly given the presidents involved.

There are some differences: Unlike Mr. Cohen, who testified in public for a day, I testified for five days. His prepared statement was about 4,000 words; mine was some 60,000 words. Nielsen reports over 16 million people watched his testimony. I am told over 80 million people watched all or part of mine.

Polls varied widely after my testimony. One said 50 percent of Americans believed me, 30 percent did not, and 20 percent were not sure. Another poll had 38 percent believing the president, who denied my statement, and 37 percent believing me. The instant polls on Mr. Cohen’s testimony vary by party affiliation, as was the case with my polls. But 35 percent found him credible. I believe that number will grow.

While my testimony was eventually corroborated by secret recordings of our conversations made by Mr. Nixon, before that it was other witnesses who made the difference. I was surprised by the number of people who surfaced to support my account. The same, I suspect, will happen for Michael Cohen. The Mafia’s code of omertà has no force in public service. I have heard no one other than Roger Stone say he will go to jail for Donald Trump.

Mr. Cohen should understand that if Mr. Trump is removed from office, or defeated in 2020, in part because of his testimony, he will be reminded of it for the rest of his life. He will be blamed by Republicans but appreciated by Democrats. If he achieves anything short of discovering the cure for cancer, he will always live in this pigeonhole. How do I know this? I am still dealing with it.

Image result for John Dean and Richard M.Nixon

Just as Mr. Nixon had his admirers and apologists, so it is with Mr. Trump. Some of these people will forever be rewriting history, and they will try to rewrite it at Mr. Cohen’s expense. They will put words in his mouth that he never spoke. They will place him at events at which he wasn’t present and locations where he has never been. Some have tried rewriting my life, and they will rewrite his, too.

Image result for John Dean and Richard M.Nixon

Even now, with proof beyond a peradventure of a doubt in hand, it is difficult to comprehend what a scoundrel we selected, twice, to be President of the United States. It is difficult, too, for men who thought they ought to know him well, men such as Elliot Richardson, and Richard Kleindienst, and perhaps even Gerald R. Ford. It is difficult for Henry Petersen, who didn’t think he needed to know the President to trust the President. They thought he was, at least, their friend.

I am thinking of people like Mr. Stone, the longtime Trump associate who worked on the 1972 Nixon campaign and so admires the former president that he has a tattoo of the man’s likeness between his shoulder blades. Mr. Stone, whom I never met while at the White House, has been indicted as part of the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, on charges of lying to Congress about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.

He prides himself as a political dirty trickster, and he has never met a conspiracy theory he did not believe. Mr. Cohen can be sure that Mr. Stone will promote new conspiracy theories to defend Mr. Trump and himself, even if it means rewriting history. Presidential scandals tend to attract a remarkable number of dishonest “historians.”

There is one overarching similarity that Mr. Cohen and I share. He came to understand and reject Mr. Trump as I did Mr. Nixon.

Mr. Nixon first called on me regarding Watergate some eight months after the arrests of his re-election committee operatives at the Watergate. We had 37 conversations, and when I felt I had his confidence, I tried but failed to get him to end the cover-up. The day I told Mr. Nixon there was a cancer on his presidency was the day I met the real Nixon. I knew I had to break rank.

Mr. Cohen has likewise come to see Mr. Trump for his true nature. At the very end of his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, he sought permission to read a closing statement.

He thanked the members, and again accepted responsibility for his bad behavior. He then told the legislators, “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power, and this is why I agreed to appear before you today.” This was the most troubling — actually, chilling — thing he said in his five hours before the committee.

Since Mr. Cohen’s warning came in his closing words, there was no opportunity for committee members to ask follow-up questions. So I double-checked with his lawyer, Lanny Davis, if I had understood Mr. Cohen’s testimony correctly. Mr. Davis responded, “He was referring to Trump’s authoritarian mind-set, and lack of respect for democracy and democratic institutions.”

Indeed, what is most similar about my and Mr. Cohen’s testimony is that we both challenged authoritarian presidents of the United States by revealing their lies and abuses of power. Mr. Trump is the first authoritarian president since Mr. Nixon, and neither he nor his supporters will play fair. Mr. Cohen will be dealing with these people the rest of his life.

John W. Dean, who served as White House counsel under Richard Nixon, is the author of “Conservatives Without Conscience,” which he is revising to discuss Donald Trump and his followers in collaboration with Bob Altemeyer, a retired professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba, a leading expert on authoritarianism.

7 thoughts on “John Dean: I Testified Against Nixon. Here’s My Advice for Michael Cohen.

  1. Pingback: John Dean: I Testified Against Nixon. Here’s My Advice for Michael Cohen. — Din Merican: the Malaysian DJ Blogger | Arlin Report

  2. Not to be unexpected, Trump has shown himself to be a bad loser, LaMoy. He will bring the GOP along with him. The question is who in the overcrowded pool of Democratic hopefuls will be able to defeat him in 2020? Biden,Warren or the Burn? –Din Merican.

  3. Yes, Din, hahaha, an “overcrowded pool of Democratic hopefuls”, indeed, much like crammed, jammed, packed sardines. None of the above, bro, according to my unscientific survey of the Democratic friends I associate with, six out of ten like Beto O’Rourke.

    Michael Cohen testimony has provided a treasure trove of new information for Congress and opened up more investigations against Trump. Congress wants to investigate Trump for various financial crimes, including fraud against the US government. The takeaway from the Cohen testimony is that Trump’s financial crimes are more comprehensive than anyone could imagine. Trump is and was engaged in a wide variety of fraud. Trump cheated banks. Trump cheated insurance companies. Trump cheated the United States government. Congress will be investigating it all.

    In addition to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other federal prosecutors (especially the Southern District of New York), several US congressional committees are pursuing investigations focusing on Donald Trump, looking at questions regarding Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election as well as Trump’s finances. It appears to me now it doesn’t matter what the Mueller report finds, Donald Trump will still be facing years of criminal investigations related to his business practices and finances.

    Donald Trump is rage-tweeting again this morning, because events of the past week show that his daughter Ivanka is in big trouble. Michael Cohen has implicated Ivanka in the sprawling story of Trump’s shady business dealings during his testimony before the House Oversight Committee. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced they were bringing in Trump Organization financial officer Allen Weisselberg and Russian mafia money launderer Felix Sater to testify about their roles in Donald Trump’s scandals. Ivanka has ties to both Sater and Weisselberg, and both of them have immunity to testify against her and her father. This could be really bad news for Ivanka.

    It’s clear to me that Trump’s children will be indicted soon. I believe Don Jr. will go to jail for sure, and I won’t rule out the son-in-law Kushner. And Trump’s beloved darling daughter is now in really bad news. It is becoming more and more probable to me that the self-professed supreme dealmaker will use his presidency as a bargaining chip with federal and state authorities agreeing to leave office in exchange for the relevant authorities not pursuing criminal charges against him, his children or the Trump Organization.

    Then, who will these jammed packed Democratic sardines run against in 2020? I think the Southern District of New York will get Mike Pence the sycophantic lap-dog, too.

    • Trump is likely to step down to save himself and his family.With poodle Pence in trouble, as you say, Pelosi will takeover. North Korea will not deal with him since he is going to be a lame duck and that was why Kim ditched him in Hanoi.Kim has time on his side. He needs Moon’s help. Cohen gave him hell.The House of Trump is shaky in the coming months.–Din.

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