The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Monday afternoon to discuss “lessons learned” from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference, featuring a panel of experts that included John Dean, former White House counsel under President Nixon.
Though Republicans had an expert of their own from the Heritage Foundation to defend President Donald Trump — whom the report implicates in at least 10 instances of possible obstruction — they instead used their time to engage in tantrums and speeches, sometimes not even asking a single question.
Ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA) opened early joking, “This committee is hearing from the ’70s and they want their star witness back.” Nobody in the chamber laughed.
Collins also described Dean as “the ’70s star of obstruction.” He couldn’t understand why Dean was testifying, though Dean explained during his opening remarks that he saw many direct parallels between the investigations of Nixon and Trump that were worth noting.
During his questioning, Collins expounded at length on how believed the committee was pursuing a “redo” of Mueller’s investigation, which lasted nearly two years and handed down indictments against 34 people and three Russian businesses. Mueller also referred several cases for outside prosecution, which are ongoing.
Nadler gave Dean a chance to respond, noting that the Mueller report has not been widely read in the United States. “It’s not even been widely read in the Congress from some of my conversations,” Dean added. “But I think it’s a very important function that the committee is serving by bringing these matters to public attention.”
Collins responded, “I appreciate that and for the educational purposes, I meant it more as a statement and not a question.”
Later in the hearing, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) appeared to accuse Dean of having “ordered the break-in of the Watergate headquarters.” Dean quickly denied this portrayal of his involvement in Nixon’s controversies and rejected several of Gohmert’s other descriptions of events.
At one point, Gohmert complained that Nadler was “not as liberal” with the Republicans on the committee when it came to keeping time. When Gohmert’s time did expire, Nadler noted out loud that the Texas congressman had not actually asked any questions during his allotted five minutes.
An agitated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attempted to paint Dean as extremely biased against Trump, choosing to highlight the president’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Dean was far more successful at eliciting laughs from the chamber when he noted his answers would be out of order. Jordan proceeded to claim Dean had gone to prison, which he had not.
Nadler, in response, chastised Jordan as having “cast aspersions on the character and truthfulness of the witness.” Jordan objected, shouting, “You’re wrong!”
Nadler proceeded with the hearing unperturbed.
During his questioning, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) demanded to know how much Dean had made from his book and from appearing as a regular contributor on CNN, accusing him of make a “cottage industry” out of comparing other presidents to Nixon. Nadler objected to the personal inquiries, but Dean countered by noting that Gaetz had not been born when the Nixon scandal played out.
Later, Gaetz asked Dean how Democrats planned to pay for “Medicare for All,” stating, “I figured if we were going to ask you about stuff you don’t know about, we’d start with the big stuff.” When Dean asked if Gaetz could be more specific, Gaetz suggested getting more specific to Nixon, prompting Dean to quip, “Well Nixon did have a health care plan.”
Gaetz ended by suggesting Dean was being used as a prop. Once again, Nadler gave Dean a chance to respond.
“That was a speech. I don’t believe I can respond to it. It’s not sufficient time,” Dean said, prompting more laughs.
The White House also spent the day chiding Dean in the media and on Twitter. During a Fox News appearance Monday morning, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway mocked Dean, saying, “I’ve never been disbarred. I passed four state bars, never been disbarred. Never went to jail for obstruction of justice and don’t plan on it.”
Shortly before the hearing began, Trump himself objected to Dean on Twitter, noting his affiliation with CNN, which Trump regularly attacks.
Can’t believe they are bringing in John Dean, the disgraced Nixon White House Counsel who is a paid CNN contributor. No Collusion – No Obstruction! Democrats just want a do-over which they’ll never get!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2019
“Can’t believe they are bringing in John Dean, the disgraced Nixon White House Counsel who is a paid CNN contributor,” he wrote. “No Collusion – No Obstruction! Democrats just want a do-over which they’ll never get!”