Nixon’s ex-White House counsel sums up magnitude of Trump’s Georgia indictment with five words

John Dean thinks it’s ‘very likely’ that one or more of Mr Trump’s co-defendants in the case will flip on the former president – something that he did during the Watergate scandal

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 15 August 2023 07:28 EDT
Former Nixon aide says Trump's Georgia indictment 'much bigger than Watergate'

Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel John Dean has summed up the magnitude of Donald Trump’s latest criminal indictment with five words.

“It’s much bigger than Watergate,” he said.

The former president and 18 of his allies were hit with a total of 41-count indictment under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute on Monday, for allegedly running a widespread criminal enterprise to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.

Dean, who was famously convicted over the Watergate scandal, appeared on CNN after the indictment was handed down where he said that Mr Trump’s alleged crimes go to a “whole different dimension” beyond the scandal which plagued Mr Nixon.

“It’s of a whole different dimension. It goes to the very foundation of democracy,” he said of the case against Mr Trump.

“Nixon abused some powers, he exceeded his authority when he shouldn’t but he wasn’t taking on the basics of the country.

“Trump wanted to stay in office. He wanted to use Georgia and abuse Georgia as part of that plan so this is very different and much more serious and much more troubling.”

Dean added that he thought it was “very likely” that one or more of Mr Trump’s co-defendants in the case would flip on the former president – something that he did during the Watergate scandal.

The former White House counsel to Mr Nixon ended up taking a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and admitting that he supervised the hush money payments made to the Watergate burglars who broke into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters to plant listening devices and photograph secret documents.

John Dean says Trump indictment ‘bigger than Watergate'

In the sweeping 98-page indictment against Mr Trump, returned by the state grand jury late on Monday, the former president is one of 19 defendants charged, including former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The other co-defendants are: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “Kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell, attorneys John Eastman, Kenneth Cheseboro, Jenna Ellis, Ray Smith III, and Robert Cheeley, former US Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, former Trump campaign official Michael Roman, former state senator and the former chair of the Georgia Republican Party David Schafer, Georgia state senator Shawn Still, Lutheran pastor Stephen Lee, mixed martial artist Harrison Floyd, Kanye West’s former PR Trevian Kutti, former head of the Republican Party in Coffee County Cathleen Latham, Atlanta-area bail bondsman Scott Hall, and former election supervisor of Coffee County Misty Hampton.

Mr Trump was charged with 13 criminal counts of: violating RICO’s statute, conspiracy to impersonate a public officer, two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery, two counts of conspiracy to make false statements under oath, two counts of conspiracy to file false documents, two counts of solicitation of a public officer, filing false documents, conspiracy to solicit false statements, and making false statements.

According to the indictment, “Trump and the other defendants charged in this indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump”.

DA Willis announced the charges and arrest warrants for the defendants at a late-night press conference outside the courthouse on Monday, where she ordered each of the 19 defendants to surrender to Georgia authorities by 12pm ET on Friday 25 August.

“Specifically, the participants ... took various actions in Georgia and elsewhere to block the counting of the votes of the presidential electors who were certified as the winners of Georgia’s 2020 general election,” she said.

“As you examine the indictment, you will see acts that are identified as overt acts and those that are identified as predicate acts, sometimes called acts of racketeering activity. overt acts are not necessarily crimes under Georgia law in isolation, but are alleged to be acts taken in furtherance of the conspiracy.

“Many occurred in Georgia, and some occurred in other jurisdictions and are included, because the grand jury believes they were part of the illegal effort to overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.”

She added: “The indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result.”

All of the 19 defendants were charged with violating the state’s RICO statute – a Nixon-era federal law originally passed to prosecute organised crime groups and Mafia crime syndicates.

The indictment accuses Mr Trump and his allies of orchestrating and running a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia, and elsewhere, to “accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office, beginning on January 20, 2021”.

Mr Trump railed against “out of control” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis – and spelled “indicted” wrong – in a Truth Social rant over the indictment in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday.

“So, the Witch Hunt continues! 19 people Indicated tonight, including the former President of the United States, me, by an out of control and very corrupt District Attorney who campaigned and raised money on, ‘I will get Trump’,” he fumed.

“And what about those Indictment Documents put out today, long before the Grand Jury even voted, and then quickly withdrawn? Sounds Rigged to me!

“Why didn’t they Indict 2.5 years ago? Because they wanted to do it right in the middle of my political campaign. Witch Hunt!”

In an appearance on Fox News Digital on Monday night, he called the indictment “politically-inspired” and said that DA Willis “should focus on the people that rigged the 2020 presidential election, not those who demand an answer as to what happened”.

DA Fani Willis announces charges against Trump and 18 allies

“Nineteen people were indicted, and the whole world is laughing at the United States as they see how corrupt and horrible a place it has turned out to be under the leadership of Crooked Joe Biden,” he claimed.

Mr Trump continued: “This politically-inspired indictment, which could have been brought close to three years ago, was tailored for placement right smack in the middle of my political campaign.

“Just like she has allowed Atlanta to go to hell with all of its crime and violence, so too has Joe Biden allowed the United States of America to go to the same place with millions of people invading our country, inflation, bad economy, no energy, and lack of respect all over the world.”

The DA has spent more than two years investigating efforts by Mr Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election result in the crucial swing state.

The investigation came following the release of a 2 January 2021 phone call Mr Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where he told him to “find” enough votes to change the outcome of the election in the state.

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Mr Trump is heard saying in the leaked phone call. “Because we won the state.”

Mr Biden won the state by less than 12,000 votes.

The investigation then expanded from that phone call to include a scheme whereby a group of fake Republican electors planned to falsely certify the results in Mr Trump’s favour instead of Mr Biden’s. The plot failed and the fake electors have since reached immunity deals with DA Willis’ office.

Ms Willis said she would like to try the defendants altogether and within the next six months.

In total, the former president is now facing 91 charges from four separate criminal cases.

On 1 August, he was hit with a federal indictment over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events leading up to the January 6 Capitol riot, following an investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith’s office.

Mr Trump was hit with four federal charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.

In that case, the Justice Department alleged that Mr Trump and his circle of co-conspirators – who did not face charges – knew that he had lost the election but launched a multi-prong conspiracy to do everything they could to enable him to cling to power.

This included spreading “knowingly false claims of election fraud to get state legislators and election officials to subvert the legitimate election results and change electoral votes for the Defendant’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., to electoral votes for the Defendant”, the indictment states.

Trump and Rudy Giuliani appear together in August 2020

Mr Trump and his allies also allegedly plotted to send slates of fake electors to seven “targeted states” of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin which President Joe Biden had won – to get them to falsely certify the election for Mr Trump.

The indictment also alleges Mr Trump tried to use the DOJ to “conduct sham election crime investigations”, sending letters to the seven states claiming that “significant concerns” had been found in the elections in those states.

As well as the false claims about the election being stolen from Mr Trump, the scheme also involved pushing false claims that Vice President Mike Pence had the power to alter the results – and pushing Mr Pence to “fraudulently alter the election results”.

When Mr Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol in a violent attack that ended with five deaths, Mr Trump and his co-conspirators “exploited” the incident by “redoubling efforts to levy false claims of election fraud and convince Members of Congress to further delay the certification based on those claims,” the indictment claims.

This came after Mr Smith’s office charged Mr Trump for the first time over his alleged mishandling of classified documents on leaving office.

Back in April, Mr Trump was charged for the first time with New York state charges following an investigation into hush money payments made prior to the 2016 election.

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