— All In With Chris Hayes 3/20/17
44 years after he testified against Nixon, John Dean watched another high-profile hearing focus on an official investigation that could potentially have similar consequences to Watergate.
Transcripts aren’t yet available, so any mistakes are my own.
This segment begins with a June 25th 1973 video clip of John Dean, former White House counsel to Richard Nixon, testifying before the Senate Watergate committee.
John Dean 1973:
“To one who was in the White House and became familiar with its inner workings, the Watergate matter was an inevitable outgrowth of a climate of excessive concern over the political impact of demonstrators, excessive concern over leaks, an insatiable appetite for intelligence, all coupled with a do-it-yourself White House staff regardless of the law.”
Chris Hayes (2017):
“June of 1973, John Dean, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel, sat before the senate Watergate committee and talked about the president’s subversion of the Constitution”
“Forty Four years later, the man who testified against Nixon, watched another high profile hearing focused on an official investigation that could potentially have similar consequences to Watergate.”
[video clip] of representative Adam Schiff (Ca-D) questioning FBI Director James Comey:
“..now here I think you’ve said that there is no evidence of an illegal wire-tap by President Obama, is that right ?”
“I’ve said the FBI and the Department of Justice have no information to support those tweets”
“But there is evidence is there not, of a break-in of the Democratic headquarters by a foreign power using cyber means ?”
“Yes there was.”
“and there was an effort by the Russians to cover-up their break-in of the Democratic Headquarters by using cut-outs like Wiki-leaks to publish the stolen material, is that right ?”
“certainly to cover up that they were the ones releasing it.”
“joining me now is John Dean, former White House counsel to Richard Nixon. You know I was thinking about what you made of today’s hearings today because I was incapable of finding any precedent or any point of comparison even, historically, for what we saw..What was your reaction to it ?’
“Well my reaction to the hearing itself was that it was very early. They’re just starting to unravel what’s happening..just learning the basics. We’re just getting affirmations of things that have been rumbled in the press. So it’s not a pinnacle moment..it’s just a really preliminary moment, if you will, is what i saw..
“..and I was more stunned by the reaction of the White House and their handling of it, which seemed to me over-the-top”
“that’s why I wanted to talk to you, because there are two issues here and I think we’re now headed towards a crash course.. they’re sort of headed into each other..”
“..one is what may or may not have happened between the [Trump] campaign and any Russian elements. Let’s put aside that for a moment..
..”there’s also the question of whether this White House will obstruct essentially, an investigation. You now have the head of the FBI with a target painted on its back, the Front Line investigators with targets painted on their backs; you have a US attorney the pr*sident said he was going to retain who has been summarily fired in Preet Bharara, and it strikes me that there is in some ways a kind of obstruction land-mine.. that the entirety of the White House now has to tip-toe through. And if they do not have a culture of compliance in that White house, they’re going to blow themselves up”
“that’s absolutely correct. In fact, they are in a cover-up mode. There’s just never been any question in my mind about that. I’ve been inside a cover-up. I know how they look and feel. And every signal they’re sending is: ‘we’re covering this thing up’ . Experienced investigators know this. They know how people react when they’re being pursued, and this White House is not showing their innocence, they’re showing how damn guilty they are, is what we’re seeing.
“So this is par for the course, and they seem to learn nothing from history, because there’s been too many cover-ups. And they’re typical trying to distance themselves from people that are involved. Their characterization of what’s going on”
“I want to stop you there because that to me was such a striking moment..the Paul Manafort ..General Flynn moment today in the press briefing where Sean Spicer basically tries to essentially say they barely had anything to do with the campaign. While we all watched it unfold where Manafort was the campaign manager ..Did that strike you as odd as well ?”
“It absolutely did. Let me tell you how predictable this is and how cover-up-ish it is. Because this is exactly what happened during Watergate. For example; when it came clear that i had broken rank and become a public person out there, suddenly Nixon had never had any meeting with me at all... Then he had one or two meetings with me. Well.. we had thirty seven meetings about Watergate. And he knew damn well that we had been deep in the thicket of it, but suddenly they distance themselves from it…
..”that’s exactly what we’re seeing here. When the break-in occurred for example at Watergate, and Hunt and Liddy were uncovered in fact they worked at the White House, suddenly they had done nothing at the White House. They’d had no real assignments...
“..So this is classic cover-up Chris...what we’re seeing”
“Let me ask you.. the idea that the pr*sident of the United States...one thing that stuck with me: the day after the inauguration he [Trump] tracks down the acting Director of Park Services to essentially instruct him to find pictures of the inauguration that showed bigger crowds...
“And if he does that for that, the question is; does he call someone at the FBI..does he call Comey.. at Frontline at a desk at the FBI ?.. I mean, all of those things are the kind of things you can imagine a president wanting to do and only being restrained by proper advice and counsel ?”
“Well he certainly has no problem calling out judges on his twitter account and that’s getting closer to the area of obstruction.”
[skipping ahead for a few words]
“they’re going into this with a very bad mentality. Now, and it’s going to get him in a lot of trouble”
“It was the impaneling of a Grand jury that ultimately was so crucial in Watergate. What kind of development did that represent then ?”
“Because of the break-in and the arrests of the break-in, there was a natural and a probable cause to create a Grand Jury and to unravel what happened at the arrests at the Watergate...
..”But that Grand Jury then, after the successful trial of those that had been arrested, went on and started looking at the cover-up. And that’s where a lot of people got in a lot of trouble. They lied. They dissembled on things they didn’t have to. Some people got before the Grand Jury who weren’t even involved in the Watergate and just lied about their activities at the White House — They ended up with perjury charges…
“So these things can spread..”
“I don’t dispense legal advice on this show, but if you’re watching and you ever have an interview with the FBI; retain legal counsel, and don’t lie...
“..John Dean thanks for joining us ”
(end of transcript)
Kudos: to both Chris Hayes and John Dean for an inside look at the past and how it connects to the present day