John Dean, the White House counsel to President Richard M. Nixon once dubbed the “master manipulator” of the Watergate scandal, said President Donald Trump had a rough day on Capitol Hill during the first public impeachment hearing.
“What struck me today in listening to these two witnesses is they already have more than they had against Richard Nixon to impeach him,” Dean said on CNN on Wednesday. “Just on all accounts because the evidence is there.”
Earlier in the day, two witnesses corroborated accounts that Trump withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure the country into investigating a political rival. Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, also provided bombshell new testimony about a phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union. Taylor said a staff member who was with Sondland witnessed the call and told him about it.
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor testified. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of [Joe] Biden, which [Trump attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for.”
Dean, who ultimately turned on Nixon and cooperated with prosecutors, said that’s the kind of evidence that didn’t come out until much later in the Watergate proceedings. Early on, he said, “it was my testimony, a few people that were lower in the pecking order than me, and it happened before the tapes.”
The infamous Watergate tapes weren’t released until more than a year after Dean’s June 1973 testimony. The “smoking gun” tape ― a 1972 conversation in which Nixon spoke with his chief of staff about trying to stop the FBI from investigating the Watergate break-in ― was made public on Aug. 5, 1974.
Nixon announced his resignation three days later as Republican lawmakers abandoned him in wake of the revelation.