Democrats needle Trump with Watergate witness

Democrats needle Trump with Watergate witness
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Democrats are ripping a page out of the Watergate playbook as they look to shine a spotlight on the unsavory details about President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren unveils Native American policy plan Live-action 'Mulan' star spurs calls for boycott with support of Hong Kong police Don't let other countries unfairly tax America's most innovative companies MORE’s conduct contained in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE’s report.

The House Judiciary Committee will grill John Dean, who served as White House counsel for former President Nixon and was tied up in the Watergate controversy, during a public hearing on Monday.

Dean was intimately involved in the Watergate cover-up and delivered televised testimony before Congress following his ouster that helped contribute to Nixon’s resignation. Dean was also sentenced to jail for his role in the cover-up but was ultimately granted time served.

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“Dean was an incredibly important part of the public, the congressional Watergate investigation,” said Ken Hughes, an expert on Watergate and a research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “He set the agenda for the rest of the congressional Watergate investigation.”

Dean has been no stranger to the public eye in recent years. He’s been a vocal critic of President Trump, arguing he engaged in obstruction based on what is described in Mueller’s report.

“This is clear obstruction,” Dean told CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperFormer acting solicitor general: 'Literally unfathomable' that Trump would retweet conspiracy theory about Epstein death Consoler in Chief like Biden is the perfect antidote to a Divider in Chief like Trump Democrats blast Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet as Conway defends the president MORE following the release of the public report in April. “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.”

Democrats describe Dean as an ideal witness who can provide historical context on obstruction of justice within the White House given his pivotal role in the Watergate scandal. Many Democrats have drawn comparisons between Nixon’s conduct in Watergate and Trump’s actions as Mueller portrays them in his 448-page report.

“Remember, he was the one who broke the back of Nixon’s obstruction of justice, who testified truthfully,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death French officials call for investigation of Epstein 'links with France' National Archives: Trump, Bush can review Democrats' request for Kavanaugh records MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters Wednesday. “He knows how a White House does it, and he can testify with respect to some of the evidence in the Mueller report and how that relates to his experience with obstruction of justice.”

The hearing is the first in an expected series focused on the details of the Mueller investigation. Democrats say they want to elucidate key parts of the special counsel’s dense report without having secured testimony from Mueller himself.

Democrats say they are looking for Dean’s firsthand expertise on obstruction of justice to guide their sweeping investigation into Trump and his conduct. They’re likely to ask Dean to compare the obstruction he witnessed and participated in with the actions of Trump and his associates as described in the second volume of Mueller’s report.

“Not only can he provide some historical context; I think he is very immersed in what the actual procedures and laws are regarding issues of executive privilege, executive power versus congressional subpoenas,” said Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuCities are the future: We need to coordinate their international diplomacy George Conway opposes #unfollowTrump movement Puerto Rico resignations spur constitutional crisis MORE (D-Calif.), a House Judiciary Committee member. “He’s also intimately familiar with obstruction of justice as well as abuse of power.”

Democrats argue Mueller found substantial evidence that Trump obstructed justice and have taken his first public statements on May 29 as a green light to further investigate the president’s conduct.

A growing number of Democrats, including several on the House Judiciary panel, have also encouraged the committee to open an impeachment inquiry since the release of Mueller’s report; however, Nadler has not publicly backed impeachment, and House leaders remain opposed to such a move.

Trump and his allies have accused Democrats of trying to defame him ahead of the 2020 reelection, and the White House has fought the onslaught of Democrat-led investigations in the House.

Many Republicans see the hearing with Dean as little more than political theater.

They also argue it’s time to move on following Mueller’s investigation, describing his conclusions as vindicating the president.

In a letter to Nadler on Friday, Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Democratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal Activist groups push House Judiciary leaders to end mass phone data collection MORE (R-Ga.), the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, suggested Democrats were in danger of violating House rules that require members to engage in “civil debate” and that bar them from engaging in “personalities” with other members of Congress or the president.

“This appears to be part of a strategy to turn the Committee’s oversight hearings into a mock-impeachment inquiry rather than a legitimate exercise in congressional oversight,” Collins wrote. “Conducting such hearings inevitably sets this Committee on a collision course with the longstanding Rules of the House.”

“Should you choose to forego your obligation to enforce the Rules and ensure the Committee conducts itself in a dignified manner, please know those transgressions will not go unnoticed or unremarked upon by Republican Members,” Collins further wrote.

Monday’s hearing comes as committee Democrats are still trying to wrangle Mueller to deliver public testimony.

In his public remarks, Mueller made clear he does not want to answer questions from Congress publicly and emphasized that any such testimony would not go beyond the details in his report.

Nadler on Wednesday indicated the negotiations with Mueller are ongoing. He expressed confidence that Mueller would appear before the committee and noted that the panel would subpoena him if necessary.

Dean’s testimony is no substitute for Mueller and other witnesses who can provide firsthand accounts of the events laid out in the report.

One such witness is former White House counsel Don McGahn, who, according to the report, refused Trump’s direction to have Mueller removed because he feared it would trigger another “Saturday Night Massacre” — a reference to events that played out during Watergate when Nixon fired Justice Department officials who refused to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed McGahn for public testimony, but the former official has thus far refused on orders from Trump, who cited a Justice Department legal opinion arguing that McGahn is immune from compelled congressional testimony in instructing him not to evade the appearance last month.

The House plans to vote Tuesday to hold both McGahn and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrUS attorney blames Philadelphia DA for 'culture of disrespect' that led to police shootings GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony MORE in civil contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas, allowing Nadler to go to court to enforce them.