SPONSORED:

Democrats begin Mueller hearings with Watergate-era witness

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee began their hearings on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s report Monday with a blast from the past: John Dean, the former White House counsel under President Nixon who testified before Congress in the Watergate era.

Democrats sought to use the testimony of Dean, a pivotal witness during the Watergate hearings and known critic of President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE, to elucidate key details from the report, while Republicans tried to undercut his credibility.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a steamy hearing room, Democrats read directly from Mueller’s 448-page document and used props to highlight the episodes Mueller examined as potentially obstructive conduct.

Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeVictims' relatives hold Capitol Hill meetings to push police reform Democrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote House panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations MORE (D-Texas) and Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenLobbying world Buttigieg charms Washington with his accessibility Chris Christie joins board of New York Mets MORE (D-Tenn.) cited page numbers as they regurgitated details about Trump’s conduct toward former White House counsel Don McGahn and the president’s efforts to have Mueller removed, which the special counsel examined in his inquiry into potential obstruction of justice.

In many cases, Dean responded by drawing parallels between Trump’s conduct and the cover-up scandal that engulfed the Nixon administration.

“When I read the Mueller report in detail, my first reaction was that McGahn took the high road, acting more like Elliot Richardson and Bill Ruckelshaus, and I thought that was admirable,” Dean said, comparing McGahn to the Nixon-era attorney general and deputy attorney general, respectively, who resigned amid the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.”

At one point, Dean said, "I would say the Trump administration is in fast competition with what happened in the Nixon administration."

The hearing, which lasted more than four hours and also featured former prosecutors who have described Trump’s conduct as obstruction and one conservative legal expert, represented a deliberate effort by Democrats to move forward with their own investigations in the absence of testimony from Mueller himself and other key witnesses like McGahn.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Mr. McGahn will testify here before long,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to consider anti-Asian hate crimes bill, protections for pregnant workers this month A historic moment to truly honor mothers Britney Spears to discuss conservatorship in court MORE (D-N.Y.) said in opening remarks.

“Between now and then, we still have an obligation to investigate the deeply troubling evidence outlined by the special counsel — not merely the portions that implicate Russian nationals, as some have suggested, but the entire report, including the volume that lays out some of the president’s troubling behavior,” Nadler said.

The hearing featured some fiery moments from Republicans, who accused Democrats of engaging in political theater, with some noting that Dean’s views could be easily obtained by watching his regular appearances on cable news.

They noted he is a paid contributor for CNN. 

In one memorable exchange, Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan says 'votes are there' to oust Cheney from GOP leadership Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one MORE (R-Ohio) read aloud Dean’s tweets and asked him why at one point he asserted Trump was “incapable of accomplishing anything.” The exchange prompted Nadler to admonish Jordan for casting “aspersions” on Dean’s truthfulness as a witness.

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzRural community leaders call on Gaetz, Greene to 'stop dividing America' ahead of US tour Gaetz, Greene start tour of America Liz Cheney: A profile in courage MORE (R-Fla.) also sought to land some punches by asking how many presidents Dean has compared to Nixon, while claiming he is “exploiting these accusations for his own economic benefit.” 

Dean, who brushed off the criticisms, repeatedly maintained he was “not here as a fact witness” after Republicans suggested he lacked knowledge about material facts in Mueller’s report.

Democrats were likely hoping the Monday hearing would be a good show for cable, but the three news networks shifted their attention to New York after news of a helicopter crash in Manhattan.

It did catch the attention of the president, however. Trump called Dean a “loser” in remarks to reporters at the White House on Monday, denying any similarities between himself and Nixon.

“John Dean’s been a loser for many years,” Trump told reporters.

“You can’t impeach somebody when there’s never been a thing done wrong,” Trump said. “When you look at past impeachments. ... there’s a big difference, I don’t leave.”

Updated at 2:11 p.m. on Tuesday.