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John Dean before the Senate Watergate Committee. Photo: Bettmann via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted this morning: "The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic], he must be a John Dean type 'RAT.' But I allowed him and all others to testify — I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide."

What we're hearing: This afternoon, I called up said "RAT," John Dean, to get his take. Dean was Richard Nixon's White House counsel and heavily involved in the Watergate cover-up before he became a key witness for the prosecution.

  • "I am actually honored to be on his enemies list as I was on Nixon's when I made it there," Dean told me. "This is a president I hold in such low esteem I would be fretting if he said something nice."

Dean told me he read the hard copy of The New York Times this morning and enjoyed the "fascinating" story about the White House counsel, Don McGahn, cooperating "extensively" with Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

  • "It says more than it seems just in the cold print of the story," Dean said. "Trump doesn't really know what he's done. ... I don't think he really knows what this involved, and it's got to be incredibly helpful to Mueller, to put things in perspective and timelines...from somebody who was right there."
  • "Rudy [Giuliani] may think he [McGahn] had nothing but nice things to say about the boss, but Rudy has to remember his days as a prosecutor where, if you can get this kind of information, it can put a lot of other pieces into perspective that aren't so good for the defendant, or the potential subject or target."

Why this matters: Per the latest reporting from the NYT's Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt, "The president, who is said to be obsessed with the role that John W. Dean, the White House counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, played as an informant during Watergate, was jolted by the notion that he did not know what Mr. McGahn had shared [with Mueller]."

What's next? As Politico first reported, Dean has been talking to Michael Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, who became a friend when they both appeared regularly on cable news during the Bill Clinton impeachment.

  • Dean says he sees parallels between his own Watergate experience and what Cohen is going through now.
  • Both were in the cross-hairs of criminal investigations (including a Southern District of New York investigation), both engaged with multiple congressional investigations, and both had been attacked by the president in order to discredit future testimony.

"There are some parallels," Dean said. "Nixon made a comment in his memoir, that I found striking. That he wasn't worried about my Watergate testimony, but it was everything else I had to say. Because I had become privy to so many activities... and he said that's what killed him."

  • "He [Cohen] can place this president in a broader context of how he operates."

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.