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."