John Dean

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

Q & A with the Author: Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide

John W. Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon, engages in a question-and-answer session with Jonathan Weiler, who, along with Marc Hetherington, authored Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide. Responding to Dean’s insightful questions, Weiler explains some of the book’s themes, particularly the authors’ choice to use the terms “fixed,” “fluid,” and “mixed” to describe political views that have traditionally been described in terms of “authoritarianism.” Dean praises the work as a fascinating read and a well-written book.

Kavanaugh Must Consider Withdrawing: No More Liars on the High Court, Please!

John W. Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, shares the statement he made to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 7, 2018, during the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Dean also argues that Judge Kavanaugh’s denials of lying under oath in his earlier 2004 and 2006 confirmation proceedings, and the fact that he must now lie under oath again to get confirmed to the Supreme Court, have disqualified him for the job.

R.I.P. Ron Rotunda—A Man Responsible for Watergate’s Most Lasting Positive Impact

Former White House counsel John W. Dean describes the incredible legacy of fellow Verdict columnist, Professor Ronald D. Rotunda, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this week. Dean explains how he came to know Rotunda—through the Watergate hearings—and Rotunda’s critical role in developing the modern-day ethics rules that govern lawyers (“post-Watergate morality”). A prolific writer, Rotunda is perhaps best known for co-authoring the revered Legal Ethics: The Lawyer’s Deskbook on Professional Responsibility, as well as a highly regarded treatise on constitutional law.

Trump’s Base: They Are Authoritarians

John W. Dean, former White House counsel under President Richard Nixon, continues his series of columns analyzing Donald Trump's "base." In this column, Dean explores the observation that the core supporters of Trump's presidency are best described by social scientists as "authoritarians."

Trump’s Base: Broadly Speaking, Who Are They?

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, continues his series of columns discussing Donald Trump's base-the persistent 24 percent of people who voted for him or who have spoken approvingly of him to pollsters. Though Dean awaits the results of one of the major studies of Trump's base, he notes that the 2016 exit poll demographics suggest that given Trump's 12-point margin over Clinton with men, his base is predominately male.

Trump’s Base

In this first of a two-part series of columns, John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, considers who it is that comprises Donald Trump’s “base.” Dean describes the ways in which polls have correctly and incorrectly described Trump’s supporters and comments on the steady few who seem to support him no matter what.

Manafort’s Civil Action Attacking Special Counsel Mueller—A Publicity Ploy

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s civil action attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Dean agrees with many other legal commentators that Manafort’s lawsuit is a publicity stunt and posits that, further, it gives Manafort’s lawyers a way to talk about his prosecution by the special counsel without violating the gag order imposed in the criminal case.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, praises Senator Al Franken’s newest book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. Without giving spoilers, Dean shares a few reasons he recommends the book, in which Franken provides unique insight into our political system and demonstrates his capacity for doing the serious work of the US Senate and occasionally injecting it with appropriate touches of comedy.

Trump’s Mueller Scheming Will Fail

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on President Trump’s expressed displeasure with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and his apparent concern about the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Dean answers several questions raised by these and related stories.

Altemeyer on Trump’s Supporters

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, relates the research and words of psychology professor Bob Altemeyer as the latter explains how difficult it would be to change the minds of supporters of Donald Trump. Based on Altemeyer’s observations, Dean proposes the only way for Democrats to succeed in 2018 and 2020 is to focus on getting sympathetic non-voters—who outnumber right-wing authoritarians in the general population—to the polls.

Donald Trump: The Art of the Fight

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, describes President Trump’s lifelong history of being in fights—with wives, business partners, vendors, tenants, the news media, and countless others. Dean argues that Trump’s fight tactics include lying, cheating, and seeking to intimidate—skills he likely learned from New York City attorney Roy Cohn.

Predicting Donald Trump’s Presidency

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, explains the type-analysis developed by political scientist and presidential scholar James David Barber, and applies it to President Trump. Dean observes that Trump fits the Active/Negative type—a type also exhibited by John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush. Dean argues that presidents of this type have had what he describes as “failed presidencies.”

One Good Thing Donald Trump’s Presidency Has Done: Improved Journalism

Former counsel to president Richard Nixon John W. Dean explains how the flurry of news surrounding President Trump has, if nothing else, improved the quality of journalism. Dean points out that the critical thinking and work of journalists is at least as strong right now as it was during the Watergate scandal and they are admirably digging for truth rather than taking statements at face value.

Trump Wants Immunity

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on attempts by President Trump’s lawyers to defer civil lawsuits against him until after his presidency ends. Dean compares the lawsuit to similar ones filed against former Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

Trump’s Divided White House—Bannonites vs. Priebusites: Will It Work?

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, explains why President Trump’s strategy of pitting his advisors against each other is likely to result in more chaos than good policy. Building upon the thesis of Chris Whipple’s upcoming book, The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, Dean discusses the importance of the role of chief of staff and describes what happens when this position is empty or filled with someone not up to the job.

President Trump’s Tools to Prosecute Leakers

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, discusses President Trump’s recent comments regarding information leaks, one of which led to the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. While Dean explains that there is no official law in the United States that makes it a crime to leak information to the news media or others, many former U.S. presidents have made attempts to prosecute those who leaked information during their presidencies, with varying degrees of success. This, Dean notes, may lend credence to President Trump's threat of legal consequences, should the individuals responsible for these most recent leaks be identified.