Former President Donald Trump was indicted for the fourth time this year Monday on 13 counts related to an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Charges were brought Monday night against Trump and 18 others who are being accused by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis of conspiring against the electoral process. Among those charged are Trump’s former lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as well as former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
John Dean, White House counsel for President Richard Nixon, said on Monday night that Trump’s indictment in Georgia is “much bigger than Watergate.”
“Nixon abused some powers. He exceeded his authority when he shouldn’t, but he wasn’t taking on the basics of the country; whereas Trump wanted to stay in office, he wanted to use Georgia and abuse Georgia as part of that plan, and so this is very different: much more serious and much more troubling,” said Dean.
Dean gained notoriety in the early 1970s as a key witness in the Watergate scandal that ended Nixon’s presidency. He pleaded guilty to a felony related to the case and testified before the Senate Watergate Committee in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Dean, who is now 84 and has become a renowned political commentator, said that Trump’s actions related to Georgia are “of a whole different dimension.”
“It goes to the very foundation of democracy,” Dean said in a live interview with CNN.
The Watergate scandal came to light after Washington, D.C. police found burglars who were breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Complex in June 1972.
It later became known the burglars were working on behalf of a complex scheme devised by the Committee For The Re-Election Of The President to tap into the communications of the Democratic Party and ensure that Nixon would win reelection.
Recordings of Oval Office activity made it known that Nixon was aware of the break-in and actively worked to cover it up. The release of those recordings resulted in Nixon’s resignation from public office.
In a 2014 book, Dean referred to the Watergate scandal as “the worst political scandal of the 20th century.” The Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up attempts resulted in the indictment of 69 government officials, 49 of whom were found guilty. Nixon himself was pardoned by his vice president and successor President Gerald Ford, immunizing him from prosecution.
What Trump’s Prosecutors Could Learn From Watergate
Dean said that his first reaction when reading Willis’ indictment report was that “she didn’t just charge [Trump], she threw the book at him.”
Yet the political analyst said he found trouble in the fact that Willis’ charges in Georgia overlap with those presented in the federal indictment by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who also charges Trump of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
During Watergate, state and federal investigations coordinated in advance, and a lack of coordination could hurt the prosecution’s case, said Dean.
Meadows, who was Trump’s chief of staff and appeared as a cooperative witness in the federal indictment, was indicted in the Georgia case, which in Dean’s view could affect his willingness to cooperate with the federal investigation.
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