Andrea Mitchell: Citizens United Could Be Final 'Nail in the Coffin' for Watergate Reforms

To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the infamous 1972 break-in at the Watergate, Andrea Mitchell on Monday hosted John Dean, President Nixon’s former legal counsel. The MSNBC anchor and the conservative critic actually connected the scandal to the 2010 Citizen United Supreme Court case. 

During the interview, Dean complained that the “financial reform that came with Watergate is gone because of Supreme Court decisions.” Mitchell promptly agreed, calling it the“the nail in the coffin” for these supposed post-Watergate reforms. Mitchell continued her off-topic rant about the Citizens United ruling, complaining that if it "ends up being the law of the land for all future campaigns” it will be detrimental to the political system since, “there's no transparency as to where the money is coming from."  

If it "ends up being the law of the land?" It's already been decided by the highest court in America.

Citizens’s United prevented the government from banning independent donations to political campaigns by unions and corporations on the basis of First Amendment protections on free speech. 

Never during this interview did Mitchell or Dean give any link between donations from unions and corporations and any aspect of the Watergate cover-up. 

The longtime journalist also ignored the elephant in the room. If you're discussing Watergate, the White House and scandal, how can you skip the brewing controversy over whether the Obama administration leaked classified security information related to the war on terror? 

Instead, Mitchell changed the topic and launched into a question about Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s recent Washington Post article condemning, "the five separate wars that Richard Nixon was waging at the same time."

Slyly attempting to link a Supreme Court decision that she and many liberals do not agree with into a conversation about a completely unrelated instance of political intrigue that happened forty years ago? Well done, Andrea Mitchell.

A transcript of the June 11 segment, which aired at 1:35pm EST, follows: 

ANDREA MITCHELL: And 40 years ago this week, what the White House called a third-rate burglary started unraveling a web of White House deception and crimes that eventually reshaped the way Americans look at politics and the presidency. That's when a team of burglars in business suits and rubber gloves were arrested at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate, the first domino in the scandal and cover-up that ultimately led to President Nixon's resignation. John Dean served as counsel to President Nixon and in 1973, testified about his efforts to keep a lid on the scandal, and concerns that it would boil over.

JOHN DEAN (in Congressional testimony): The president told me I had done a good job and he appreciated how difficult a task that it had been, and the president was pleased that the case had stopped with Liddy. I responded that I could not take credit because others had done much more difficult things than I had done. As the president discussed the present status of the situation, I told him that all I had been able to do was to contain the case and assist in keeping it out of the White House. I also told him that there was a long way to go before this matter would end and that certainly -- I certainly could make no assurances that the day would not come when this matter would not start to unravel.

MITCHELL: John Dean joins me now. Good to see you, 40 years later. What have we learned and was it a lot worse than we thought at the time?

DEAN: Well, it was worse than it was reported, no question, as the tapes later revealed. It was certainly broader and deeper than a lot of people thought and as the White House has tried to portray it, but what have we learned? For awhile we learned a lot, but those lessons seem to have faded, Andrea. Today, by and large, all the post-Watergate reforms are no longer in existence. For example, the independent counsel law is gone, investigative journalism is too expensive for most journalists and journalistic enterprises to undertake, financial reform that came with Watergate is gone because of Supreme Court decisions. So not necessarily in any malicious way have those reforms gone, but just for other reasons, that they have dissipated.

MITCHELL: Citizens United could be the nail in the coffin, in fact, on that. If it ends up being the law of the land for all future campaigns because there's no transparency as to where the money is coming from. Let's go back to the tapes, at least the transcript of the tapes, and some of the things that we learned since. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein over the weekend wrote back in The Washington Post about the five separate wars that Richard Nixon was waging at the same time, that we did not fully know about. In one, Nixon says to you, “how much money do you need.” Dean, “I would say these people are going to cost a million dollars over the next two years.” This is of course, the burglars, the cover-up. Nixon, “and you could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotten. It's not easy but it could be done.” This is a conversation on March 21, 1973.

DEAN: That's where I alerted him there was a cancer on his presidency, as he would later write, I'm the only person who ever bothered to warn him and tell him of the problems. In that conversation, what I'm actually trying to do is not raise money, trying to get Nixon to put his fist down on the table, say we've got to end this, this thing is preposterous. I earlier called it an obstruction of justice to make sure he knew we were violating the law, and every time I come back to the problems, he has an answer. Andrea, I think that's the first morning I really met Richard Nixon, because I'm pressing him very hard. He and I had had dealings, incidental dealings, I'm now carrying all of the news for him on Watergate and watching his response to it. It wasn't a response I was hoping for, but it was the response I got.

MITCHELL: Did you ever think that he should have been told to burn the tapes and that he should have burned the tapes?

DEAN: Well, he was told that, as I understand, by John Conley, his Secretary of Treasury, and had he done so, history might have been very different. It was very, very much at the last minute that I inserted that in my testimony, that I thought I had been taped. That would be the bit of testimony that would result in the minority counsel saying, you know, Dean thought he was taped, that probably isn't possible, and asking Alex Butterfield that question, and of course, the rest is history.

MITCHELL: And when you listen to the tapes, and there are many of us who listen to these tapes whenever they come out and also sometimes on C-SPAN radio, they play them on weekends, and it's just completely shocking. One of them that was quoted this weekend, this is July 3, 1971, Richard Nixon, who had brought in, you know, Henry Kissinger, Leonard Garment, a host of--

DEAN: Bill Safire.

MITCHELL: Bill Safire, a host of Jewish officials within his cabinet and on his White House staff. He says “the government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal. You know what I mean? Generally speaking, you can't trust the bastards. They turn on you.” Was that the atmosphere inside the White House?

DEAN: You know, it really wasn't. I don't think that Garment or Kissinger or Safire would think he's anti-Semitic from anything that they dealt with him. But clearly there is this streak in his conversations, and some actions to follow up what he had Fred Malek look at the problem, at one point he demands the names of every Jew in his administration. I never saw that. But they were clearly, those actions happened and they are really a rather sorry chapter in that presidency with his focusing on that problem or that situation.

Conservatives & Republicans Campaign Financing 2012 Presidential Campaigns & Elections Andrea Mitchell Reports Video Audio Andrea Mitchell John Dean