John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives, and an associate deputy attorney general at the US Department of Justice. His undergraduate studies were at Colgate University and the College of Wooster, with majors in English Literature and Political Science; then a graduate fellowship at American University to study government and the presidency before entering Georgetown University Law Center, where he received his JD with honors in 1965.

John recounted his days at the Nixon White House and Watergate in two books: Blind Ambition (1976) and Lost Honor (1982). After retiring from a business career as a private investment banker doing middle-market mergers and acquisitions, he returned to full-time writing and lecturing, including as a columnist for FindLaw's Writ (from 2000 to 2010) and Justia’s Verdict (since 2010). Donald Trump’s election and presidency have created renewed interest in (and sales of) John’s earlier New York Times best-sellers: Conservatives Without Conscience (2006), which explains the authoritarian direction of the conservative movement that resulted in Trump’s election a decade before it happened, and Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (2008), which addresses the consequences of GOP control of government. His most recent bestseller, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It (2014), is currently being developed by Entertainment One and ABC Television into an eight or ten-hour miniseries entitled “Watergate.”

John held the Barry M. Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University (academic years 2015-16), and for the past decade and a half he has been a visiting scholar and lecturer at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications. Currently, Dean is working on his twelfth book about Donald Trump’s presidency, while providing commentary and analysis on the Trump presidency as a CNN News contributor and analyst, and teaching continuing legal education (CLE) programs that examine the impact of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct on select historic events from Watergate (and the Trump presidency) with surprising results – see

Columns by John Dean

The New Torture Report: Expect Little Other Than Talk


Former counsel to the president John W. Dean discusses the recent report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence describing the CIA’s use of torture to interrogate suspected terrorists. Dean predicts that the report will not likely lead to any prosecutions or policy changes, but instead might only result in the more frequent torture of Americans captured around the world.

Ben Bradlee, R.I.P.


In light of the recent passing of Ben Bradlee, former counsel to the president John W. Dean recounts his last visit with Bradlee, who was a top editor at The Washington Post during the Nixon Administration and handled the Post’s coverage of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

Getting Away With Literary Fraud


John Dean, former counsel to the president, comments on a recent Newsweek story by David Cay Johnston highlighting the noted and untruthful biographer C. David Heymann. Dean explains how the dysfunctional body of First Amendment law has allowed Heymann to get away with publishing many lies and false information about a handful of public figures.

Who Is Abusing Power: Rick Perry or Michael McCrum, His Special Prosecutor?


John Dean, former counsel to the president, comments on the recent indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Dean cautions against falling for Perry’s and even some Democrats’ quick dismissal of the indictment as politically motivated and lacking sufficient basis. Dean argues that only Perry, not his special prosecutor, may have abused his power.

Thoughts On Nixon’s Resignation


For the fortieth anniversary of former President Richard Nixon’s resignation, John Dean, a Justia columnist and former counsel to the president, offers some thoughts and a preview of his newly released book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. As Dean explains in this adapted preface to the book, the narrative is based on actual White House recordings of Watergate-related activities, which Dean himself listened to and transcribed.

Grounding the No-Fly List: Part One of a Three-Part Series of Columns


In this first of a three-part series of columns, former counsel to the president John W. Dean discusses government watch lists in the post-9/11 era—specifically No-Fly Lists. He explains the questionable means by which these No-Fly Lists are created and maintained, and he calls attention to the absence of any way for people erroneously listed to seek any legal recourse.

Was It Really a Tea Party Election Upset of House GOP Leader Eric Cantor?


Former counsel to the president John W. Dean comments on the recent surprise defeat of House GOP Leader Eric Cantor in his reelection bid for his Virginia congressional seat. Despite some preliminary claims that the election signifies a resurgence of Tea Party activism, Dean suggests taking a hard look at Cantor’s defeat to better and fully understand why he lost. Other factors such as Democrats’ cross-over voting, Dean argues, could have played a role in Cantor’s defeat.

Secret Endless Editing of Published Supreme Court Opinions


Former counsel to the president John Dean comments on a recent public revelation that the U.S. Supreme Court quietly revises its decisions years after they were issued. Drawing upon a forthcoming article by Harvard Law professor Richard Lazarus, Dean describes the process by which the Court releases its rulings to the public. He predicts that it will not be the errors and mistakes that will place the Court’s institutional integrity at risk in the future, but the secretive and dubious means they now use to change their written and published opinions.

The New Republican Benghazi Inquiry Is All About Money


Former counsel to the president John Dean critiques the most recent Benghazi inquiry led by Speaker of the House John Boehner as merely a thinly veiled fundraising tactic. Dean points out that the findings from seven prior Benghazi investigations are being ignored and that the only possible purpose of another one is to raise money.

Stop Eviscerating Campaign Rules


Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean implores the Supreme Court to end its rampage against election laws, beginning with ruling properly in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. In that case, in which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week, two political action committees are challenging an Ohio law that criminalizes false statements in a political contest. Dean compares the state law to defamation law, which he argues is similarly impotent yet faces no such legal challenge, and he calls for an end to the recent trend of Supreme Court decisions effectively dismantling American election laws.

A Federal Court Looks at Wisconsin’s Political War


Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on a federal lawsuit that seeks to halt Wisconsin’s inquiry into potential abuses or misuses of that state’s campaign finance laws. Dean describes Wisconsin’s “John Doe” investigations and explains the significance of a federal district judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss a case challenging one such proceeding that relates to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.