During Monday's edition of Anderson Cooper 360, two major players in the Watergate investigation drew parallels between the Russia investigation and the scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon, arguing that "Trump is Nixon on steroids and stilts" and warning of a "constitutional crisis."
CNN turned to two 1970s has-beens to help make the case that President Trump is Richard Nixon 2.0. Cooper asked John Dean, who served as White House Counsel during the Nixon Administration, if he was surprised that President Trump has called out Mueller by name on Twitter. Dean said that President Trump’s actions constitute a “very public obstruction of justice” and argued that he “has already exceeded everything that Nixon did.” When pressed by Cooper on whether President Trump has gone farther than Richard Nixon did to obstruct justice, Dean responded: “That’s exactly what I’m saying. I think Trump is Nixon on steroids and stilts.”
Carl Bernstein, one of The Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, also sat on the AC360 panel Monday night. As he sought to help his guests relive their glory days, Cooper put up a July 1973 headline from the Washington Post “Nixon sees ‘Witch Hunt’, Insiders Say.’” Cooper then asked Dean to draw parallels between Nixon and Trump, who has painted the entire Russia investigation as a witch hunt. Dean argued that parallels exist between the behavior of Nixon and Trump; adding that Nixon chose to engage in obstruction of justice privately while President Trump has chosen to obstruct justice publicly. Based on the media's standard for obstruction of justice, which seems to consist of criticizing the Special Counsel, Bill Clinton also engaged in obstruction of justice publicly as he and his surrogates repeatedly went after Independent Counsel Ken Starr throughout the course of his presidency.
Dean seemed excited about the prospect of another impeachment: “And if I look at the bill of impeachment that Nixon was held up to during the House and Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings, you’ll see right now Trump is far more aggressive than Nixon in what’s listed in that bill of impeachment.”
Cooper asked Bernstein about Republican silence on the President’s statements regarding the Russia investigation. According to Bernstein, “the Republican Party in Congress has been craven throughout this administration about saying we believe in the rule of law above partisan and ideological politics. The result is that this President is taking the country headlong toward a Constitutional crisis. That’s where those around him, once again, believe he’s willing to provoke a Constitutional crisis, he’s willing if need be perhaps to face impeachment because he does not want the truth to come out about what has occurred here.”
Throughout the entire segment, Cooper and his guests repeatedly brought up one exception to the Republican silence: Retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who has argued that President Trump should let the investigation play out and advising the President’s legal team “If you have an innocent client...act like it.” Gowdy’s comments came after White House lawyer John Dowd called for the end of the Special Counsel investigation.
It has become quite clear by now that the media wants the Special Counsel investigation to continue for as long as possible, hoping that the team of lawyers, which consists of more than a dozen Clinton donors, will find something, anything that will lead to the impeachment of the 45th President of the United States. The media never felt better about themselves than they did following the Watergate scandal, and their continued reliance on the Watergate players and obsession with the Russia probe and the prospect of impeachment proves that they desperately want to be a part of history once again.
A transcript is below. Click "expand" to read more.
Anderson Cooper 360
ANDERSON COOPER: John Dean, I mean occasionally, we raise the specter of what President Nixon would have done with Twitter. Are you surprised President Trump has now started going after Mueller by name?
JOHN DEAN: I am not. I, what I think we’re witnessing is a very public obstruction of justice. He, as I see it, has already exceeded everything that Nixon did. He’s really much more intimately involved than Nixon ever was in the cover up. Nixon, in the first eight months of Watergate, just learns a little bit now and then from his Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman. He doesn’t have, he’s not really in it; it’s later when things get hotter that he gets hands-on. But Trump, from the very beginning, he’s involved in this. And so I see a very different profile, and the big difference being Nixon was behind closed doors or everyone was surprised when there were recordings of it. Trump just got right out front on it, and he’s doing it very publicly.
COOPER: That’s a pretty stunning statement that I want that you’re saying, I just want to have you repeat, that you’re saying in your opinion, Donald Trump is, has gone farther than Richard Nixon did to obstruct justice.
DEAN: That’s exactly what I’m saying. I think Trump is Nixon on steroids and stilts.
COOPER: Carl, Carl, I’ve got to get you in. Do you, do you agree with that?
CARL BERNSTEIN: I think there is no question that he has provide, presided over a cover up from day one. The question is what is the criminality of the cover up that he is presiding over and that’s why we have a special prosecutor. But there is no question whatsoever that he has sought at every turn...look at the lies that he has told from the beginning. He has rarely been truthful about any matter involved in the whole Russian investigation. Trey Gowdy has got it exactly right. Mr. President, if you are innocent, including of collusion, why are you acting the way you have been acting? And so his only recourse in what we are seeing now is to go to his base and get them exercise that this is a witch hunt, which it is not. This is a legitimate investigation. And really, if there were a witch hunt going on, there are plenty of provisions that after this investigation is over, if it is allowed to run its course there ought to be, any serious punishment should happen for malfeasance or misfeasance including going to jail for investigators in the FBI or the Special Prosecutor’s office who have abused their authority. But that’s not where we are.
COOPER: John Dean, I mean when President Trump uses the term witch hunt, I talked about this with Carl and Bob Woodward a couple of weeks ago, I just want to put up one of their headlines from The Washington Post from July 1973: “Nixon sees ‘Witch Hunt’, Insiders Say.” I mean, the parallels, what parallels do you draw and as we’ve said before, President Trump, according to Michael Wolff’s book goes into a sort of rage whenever he sees you on TV so perhaps you want to address him directly, I don’t know but what sort of parallels do you see here?
DEAN: I tweeted that when I saw that headline, too. What I see, as I say, is one is private and the other is public. You’ve got to remember, Anderson, that the obstruction statute, if you’re looking at the criminal law is an endeavor statute. And all you have to do is have a corrupt motive and a corrupt intent and make overt acts towards that intent and you’re on the wrong side of that law. It’s not very hard. Trump is going to be judged not only on that but on a political standard. And if I look at the bill of impeachment that Nixon was held up to during the House and Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings, you’ll see right now Trump is far more aggressive than Nixon in what’s listed in that bill of impeachment.
COOPER: Carl, I mean, you know, you have Congressman Trey Gowdy, arguably one of Hillary Clinton’s, you know, biggest GOP congressional foes, saying that President Trump is not acting like an innocent man and so interesting what Republican members of Congress who aren’t running for re-election like Gowdy are willing to say compared to, you know, the majority of others who are.
BERNSTEIN: The terrible thing is that the Republican Party in Congress has been craven throughout this administration about saying we believe in the rule of the law above partisan and ideological politics. The result is that this President is taking the country headlong toward a Constitutional crisis. That’s where those around him, once again, believe he’s willing to provoke a Constitutional crisis, he’s willing if need be perhaps to face impeachment because he does not want the truth to come out about what has occurred here. And it’s not just about obstruction. There are suggestions in what we’ve seen so far from the indictments and other information that there may well have been collusion, we don’t know to what level it rises and whether it rises to the level of Donald Trump or his family. But certainly the Special Prosecutor is putting dots together. And why we should believe at this point Donald Trump when he says there’s been no collusion, when everything else practically that he has said in this matter has been shown to be false, goes back to Trey Gowdy’s statement, act like an innocent person, say, I’m an open book, let’s have this investigation run its course and when it’s finished there ought to be an investigation of the investigators because they’ve abused their power. If indeed the investigation is allowed to go forward and the facts come out. He does not want the facts to come out because so far as we have seen they are very, very damning about his conduct.