Former Nixon administration White House counsel John Dean said special counsel Robert Mueller’s report is “more damning” than the Watergate findings that led President Richard Nixon to resign, as well as other political scandals since then.
“I looked on my shelf for the Senate Watergate Committee report, I looked at the Iran Contra report. I also looked at the Ken Starr report,” Dean told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “The Lead.”
“This report from the special counsel is more damning than all those reports about a president,” he added. “This is really a devastating report.”
The Mueller report “did not establish” conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, despite ties between members of the campaign and Russian officials. The report also said that while the investigation did “not conclude” that Trump had criminally obstructed justice, it also “does not exonerate” him. The report detailed 10 instances of possible obstruction by the president.
Dean said he believed Trump clearly obstructed justice, based on the report.
“As far as obstruction goes, this is clear obstruction,” Dean said. “The obstruction statute is an endeavor statute, as well as an actual overt action. If you endeavor to obstruct — and there is much evidence here of endeavor — you’ve violated the obstruction statute.”
The president attempted to influence the Russia investigation, according to the Mueller report, but in certain cases, staffers refused to carry out Trump’s orders (such as when White House counsel Don McGahn declined to pass on Trump’s message that Mueller should be fired).
“Obviously, Mr. McGahn did the right thing in not following up — as did others in not following [Trump’s] orders,” said Dean, who added that the president “doesn’t give a hoot about the law.”
But that “doesn’t eliminate [Trump’s] mental attitude and the endeavor part of obstruction. In other words, just because it’s not successful doesn’t mean that you didn’t try to obstruct.”
Dean said he found Attorney General William Barr’s attempt to put a positive spin on the president’s conduct “very disappointing.”
“One of the post-Watergate norms was that attorneys general did not serve as the president’s personal counsel,” he said. “Mr. Barr violated all the norms that had been established post-Watergate, and took us back right into Nixonian-type operations.”
Watch the full interview below.