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

Columns by John Dean

Bridgegate: Thoughts on the Nature of Scandals

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Teaching Lawyers, And Others, To Be Leaders

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?

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.

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

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?

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

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

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.

Noriega v. The Huffington Post: The End of the Story

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the story of a young Panamanian attorney, Juan Carlos Noriega, whose good name someone stole and used to create a phony blog account at The Huffington Post, which posted a bogus article in his name, the content of which he disagreed with. In addition, The Huffington Post then initially refused to take down the bogus article, or even acknowledge Noriega’s attorney’s letter. The full story also involves the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) sec.230.

Why the Snowden Leak(s) Should Result in a Supreme Court Review of the FISA Court’s Verizon Order

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean calls on the Supreme Court to act now, after Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the top secret order signed by a Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) court Judge directing Verizon to turn over to the FBI and NSA all call detail records or telephony metadata created by Verizon for communications that occurred wholly within the United States, including even local telephone calls. Dean points out that Snowden’s information has energized those who are committed to protecting our privacy, and that they now are using this new information to head to various courts in order to try to place some controls, via a number of varied lawsuits, on what has been, Dean notes, a time of NSA surveillance gone wild.

Will Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Be Prosecuted for Lying to Congress Regarding the NSA’s Surveillance?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the testimony of DNI James Clapper regarding NSA data-gathering, testimony which appears to be false. Dean explains why, despite the apparent falsity of the testimony, it is highly unlikely that Clapper will be prosecuted. Some of the reasons why that is so, Dean notes, include the difficulty of successfully invoking laws that penalize lying to Congress. Dean describes the key three statutes that might be invoked, and explains why, over American history, there have been so few prosecutions for lying to Congress.

Dealing with National Security Leaks: Obama’s “Plumbers”: Part Two in a Two-Part Series of Columns

Continuing his two-part series of columns on Obama’s “Plumbers,” Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on how President Obama has approached national-security leaks. Strikingly, Dean deems Obama the most aggressive American president since Richard Nixon in dealing with national-security leaks and queries why this is so. Dean also suggests that the President’s approach might be a surprise to many of his enthusiastic supporters among the electorate. Another notable aspect of Obama’s approach to this area, Dean points out, is that it is not clear that a heavy-handed treatment of leakers, such as Obama has adopted, is actually an effective one.

Dealing With National Security Leaks: Obama’s “Plumbers”: Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on how certain presidents—specifically, Nixon, Bush, and Obama—have respectively chosen to deal with national security leaks. Most strikingly, Dean notes that President Obama still fully embraces an only slightly modified Bush/Cheney viewpoint on dealing with leaks of national security information. And that Obama position, Dean points out, is quite notable, since such thinking can be traced directly to Richard Nixon’s infamous “Plumbers.” In the column, Dean also tells the story of the original “Plumbers,” to illuminate the parallel. Dean will continue his series on this topic with Part Two on June 14, here on Justia’s Verdict.