Former White House counsel under president Richard Nixon, John Dean, said that the Trump Justice Department secretly obtaining smartphone data of House Intelligence Committee Democrats is “Nixon on stilts and steroids”.
“Nixon didn’t have that kind of Department of Justice,” Mr Dean said. He then relayed how the Nixon administration responded to the leak of the Pentagon Papers. The classified documents revealed details of US political and military activity in Vietnam.
“I got a call from the Oval Office the day after he learned that, and could the Department of Justice bring a criminal action for this? Called over, found out the short answer was they could, but they won’t,” Mr Dean said. “So Nixon couldn’t use the department as he wanted to.”
CNN anchor Erin Burnett asked Mr Dean if the actions of the Trump DOJ was “beyond what Nixon did?”
“It is beyond Nixon, yes,” he said. “It’s Nixon on stilts and steroids.”
Mr Dean added that Mr Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr “was very willing to do his bidding. The memo he wrote to get the job says ‘I’m ready to execute your presidency like a unitary executive presidency should be,’ which means no bars hold. ‘Go anywhere you want to go. I think you’re the king.’ And he did that”.
“We now know there are countless examples of norms he was willing to break,” Mr Dean added. “At the end, however, he realized that this may be too far. He probably saw the handwriting on the wall before the rest of us that this man was never going to concede and he wasn’t ready to go there,” Mr Dean said about Mr Barr’s refusal to support Mr Trump’s baseless conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from him.
“I think Bill Barr has to testify,” Mr Dean said. “I’m surprised the Department of Justice hasn’t come out with a statement… I hope they’re getting their act together because this is going to be very troublesome.”