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 www.WatergateCLE.com

Columns by John Dean

The New Republican Benghazi Inquiry Is All About Money

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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

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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

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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.

Impeachment Insanity Has Consequences

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean describes a recent trend of hard-right conservatives using the impeachment process as a weapon against government officials with whom they have mere political differences. Dean comments on the “Impeach Obama” movement and explains why it is unfounded and dangerous. He explains how the trend is now also starting to affect state officials, and he cautions that the impeachment movement could have serious consequences and cause significant problems that its advocates seem not to understand.

Internal Investigations Can Resolve Scandals

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean contends that internal investigations can be one effective way in which an institution's scandal might dissipate and the relevant institution may move on. Dean supports his provocative thesis with a number of intriguing examples.

Bridgegate: Thoughts on the Nature of Scandals

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the nature of scandals generally, and on Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal in particular—which arose from Christie’s and/or his aide’s decision to close a lane of the George Washington Bridge. Dean suggests that the Bridgegate scandal, rather than winding down, may well be just getting started.

The Implications of Suing the NFL’s Super Bowl Ticketing Scheme

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the story of Josh Finkelman, 28 years old, the president of a warehouse business, and a serious football fan, who went looking for Super Bowl XLVIII tickets and ended up taking on the entire National Football League’s (NFL) Super Bowl ticketing system. Dean predicts that Finkelman’s lawsuit, if it goes forward, could be a doozy, and explains the New Jersey law that may make a lawsuit possible.

In-flight Cell Phoning Is an Awful Idea

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean, a very frequent flyer himself, argues strongly against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s apparent plan to authorize cellphone calls to be permitted during domestic airline flights. The move was backed by the Telecommunication Industry Association, which would benefit from the change, but it triggered negative public feedback. Moreover, Dean notes, the Department of Transportation is likely to say no to the FCC’s plan. Ultimately, Dean notes, a split decision is likely, allowing texting, but not talking, on a plane.

“Bridgegate” Or “Bridgetgate”? And Other Unanswered Questions

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the serious and building scandal that New Jersey Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has on his hands, regarding allegations that he and/or his staff knowingly used their power for political reasons—specifically to allegedly close two toll booth lanes onto the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution.

The Legal Story of the Year, and Next Year Too: Edward Snowden

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the ongoing importance of Edward Snowden, whose spectacular leaking of National Security Agency (NSA) secrets continues to have profound implications, in a set of specific ways that Dean describes. Accordingly, Dean argues that Snowden’s should be deemed the key legal story of 2013 and very likely that of 2014, too. Dean also compares what Snowden should do now, with what Daniel Ellsberg did after revealing the Pentagon Papers.

I Don’t Want Michael Bromwich Messing With My Next iPhone

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the antitrust case against Apple, charging the company with conspiring to price fix e-books. Dean questions the judgment of the Southern District of New York judge, Denise Cote who was overseeing the case before it went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In particular, Dean questions the decisions of Apple's court-ordered external monitor, Michael Bromwich, for reasons that Dean details.

The GOP’s Nixonian Filibuster of Another Obama Judicial Nominee

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the Republicans’ filibusters of judges nominated for federal Circuit Court seats. He notes that this is a pure Nixonian technique, as well as a standard contemporary GOP procedure. Dean also comments on the first GOP filibuster, in 1968. Dean also comments on when Democrats will retaliate.

Teaching Lawyers, And Others, To Be Leaders

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean draws upon Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode’s book Lawyers as Leaders to comment upon, among other leadership topics, the remarkable failure that he argues that we are seeing in both contemporary Washington lawyers and also in our political leaders. Dean praises Rhode’s strongly documented book as far transcending the typical banal business book, and having a great deal to offer the reader.

Is Republican Obstructionism Criminal?

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on whether current Republican obstructionism could be charged as a federal crime. In particular, Dean questions whether Section 371 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the government of the United States, applies here. Dean concludes, however, for interesting reasons, that, even if Section 371 could apply, no criminal charges ought to be brought.

The Legality of Government by Extortion: “As We Say, Or We Shut It Down”

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean makes a forceful case against the Republicans’ decision to shut down the government, calling the move “government by extortion,” and explaining precisely why he believes that, for many reasons, the Republicans should have eschewed this gambit as completely out of bounds.

Are Internet Providers, in Fact, at Risk for Defamation Liability?

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the case of Sarah Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment, which he notes raises a fundamental question about the scope of immunity from defamation liability for Internet Service Providers under Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act (CDA). Dean predicts that the case will be watched closely, as an indication of whether the courts will, in fact, start policing the nearly unlimited immunity that has evolved under Section 230. There are good arguments on both sides of this case, Dean notes, making the case an especially interesting one.

Who Won, Vicki Iseman or The New York Times? And What About the Debate?

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on a 2008 New York Times story and its continuing fallout. The story insinuated that lobbyist Vicki Iseman had a romantic relationship with John McCain, who was then emerging as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. But even The Times’ own ombudsman noted the story’s lack of proof. While McCain had no real remedy based on the story, Iseman sued The Times for defamation. Dean comments on the Iseman lawsuit, on a defamation suit filed by Barry Goldwater, and on American defamation law more generally. Dean also warns readers that their social-media activities may make them vulnerable in defamation suits, and draws on relevant advice from defamation experts Coleman Allen and Rodney Smolla.

New Accusations by a Nixon Apologist Based on Recently Discovered Information Regarding the Watergate Cover-Up Trial

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on Watergate revisionism, and, in particular, Geoff Shepard’s recent piece in The Atlantic claiming that Nixon’s top advisers did not get justice when they were convicted for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Dean strongly differs with Shepard’s account, and explains precisely why. Among other points, Dean rebuts Shepard’s claim that former Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski and Judge Sirica held secret ex parte meetings which were unlawful.

Understanding This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking-in America’s Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments very favorably on the new book This Town (meaning Washington, DC and environs) by Mark Leibovich, the national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine. Along the way, Dean discusses some of his own interesting observations about the political culture of Washington, DC. At the end of the column, Dean also collects other reviews of the book, linking to them so that readers may sample an array of takes on This Town.