John Dean
File:Dean 30-0124a.gif
John Dean, May 7, 1972
13th White House Counsel
In office
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by John Ehrlichman
Succeeded by Leonard Garment
Personal details
Born John Wesley Dean III
(1938-10-14) October 14, 1938 (age 82)
Akron, Ohio
Political party Independent
Alma mater Colgate University
The College of Wooster
Georgetown University Law Center
Profession Author

John Wesley Dean III (born October 14, 1938) served as White House Counsel to United States President Richard Nixon from July 1970 until April 1973. In this position, he became deeply involved in events leading up to the Watergate burglaries and the subsequent Watergate scandal cover-up. He was referred to as "master manipulator of the cover up" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[1] He pleaded guilty to a single felony count in exchange for becoming a key witness for the prosecution. This ultimately resulted in a reduced prison sentence, which was served at Fort Holabird outside Baltimore, Maryland.

Dean is currently an author, columnist, and commentator on contemporary politics, strongly critical of conservatism and the Republican Party, and a registered Independent who supported the impeachment of President George W. Bush.[2]

Early years and education[edit | edit source]

Dean was born in Akron, Ohio and lived in Marion, the hometown of former President Warren Harding. Thereafter, his family moved to Flossmoor, Illinois where he attended grade school through the eighth grade. For high school, he was sent off to Virginia's Staunton Military Academy. He initially attended Colgate University and then The College of Wooster in Ohio, where he obtained his B.A. in 1961. He received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1965.[3]

Washington lawyer[edit | edit source]

After graduation, he joined a law firm in Washington, D.C.. Having gone to prep school with the son of Barry Goldwater, he was a close friend of the senator and his family. Dean was subsequently (1966-67) employed as the chief minority counsel to the Republican members of the United States House Committee on the Judiciary. Dean then served as associate director of the National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws for approximately two years.

Joins Nixon campaign, administration[edit | edit source]

Dean volunteered to write position papers on crime for Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in 1968. The following year he became an associate deputy at the office of the Attorney General of the United States in the Nixon administration, serving under Attorney General John N. Mitchell, with whom he was on friendly terms.[4] In July 1970 he accepted an appointment to become counsel to the president, after the previous holder of this post, John Ehrlichman, became the president's chief domestic adviser.[4]

From "master manipulator" to star witness[edit | edit source]

The start of Watergate[edit | edit source]

Dean, then White House Counsel, met with Jeb Magruder (Deputy Director of Committee for the Re-Election of the President, or CRP) and John N. Mitchell (Attorney General of the United States, and soon-to-be Director of CRP) for a presentation by G. Gordon Liddy (counsel for CRP and a former FBI agent) on January 27, 1972, in Mitchell's office. At that time, Liddy presented a preliminary plan for intelligence gathering operations during the campaign year 1972. Reaction to Liddy's plan was highly unfavorable; Liddy was ordered to scale down his ideas, and he presented a revised plan to the same group on February 4, which was, however, left unapproved at that stage.[5] A scaled-down plan would be approved by Mitchell in late March of that year in Florida.

This scaled-down Liddy plan would lead eventually to attempts to eavesdrop on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C., and to the Watergate scandal. The burglar's first break-in attempt, in late May, 1972, had been successful, but several problems had arisen with poor-quality information from their bugs, and they wanted to photograph more documents. Specifically, the burglars were interested in information they thought was held by Lawrence F. O'Brien, head of the DNC. On their second attempt to break in, on the night of June 16-17, 1972, the burglars were discovered by hotel security. After the arrests of the burglars, Dean took custody of evidence and money from the White House safe of E. Howard Hunt, Jr., who had been supervising the Watergate burglaries, and later destroyed some of the evidence before it could be found by investigators.[6]

Linked to cover-up[edit | edit source]

On February 28, 1973, Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his nomination to replace J. Edgar Hoover as Director of the FBI. Armed with newspaper articles indicating the White House had possession of FBI Watergate files, the committee chairman, Sam Ervin, questioned Gray as to what he knew about the White House obtaining the files. Gray stated he had given FBI reports to Dean, and had discussed the FBI investigation with Dean on many occasions. It also came out that Gray had destroyed important evidence entrusted to him by Dean. Gray's nomination failed, and now Dean was directly linked to the Watergate cover-up.

White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman claimed that Dean was appointed by Nixon to take the lead role in coordinating the Watergate cover-up from an early stage, and that this cover-up was working very well for many months. Certain aspects of the scandal had come to light before the 1972 elections, but the election still resulted in Nixon being returned for a second presidential term by a dominant margin.[7]

Cooperates with prosecutors[edit | edit source]

On March 23, 1973, the five Watergate burglars, along with G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, were sentenced with stiff fines and prison time. Dean hired an attorney and began his cooperation with Watergate investigators on April 6, while continuing to work as Nixon's Chief White House Counsel, not disclosing this obvious conflict to President Nixon until some time later. Dean was also receiving advice from the attorney he hired, Charles Shaffer, on matters involving vulnerabilites of other White House staff with the cover-up. On March 22, Nixon had requested that Dean put together a report with everything he knew about the Watergate matter, and even invited him to take a retreat to Camp David to do so. Dean did go to Camp David and performed some work on this report, but since he was one of the cover-up's chief participants, this report-writing task placed him in the difficult position of relating his own involvement, as well as that of others, and he concluded he was being fitted for the role of scapegoat in the cover-up by those higher up. Dean did not complete the report.[8]

He continued to provide information to the prosecutors, who were able to make enormous progress on the cover-up case, which up until then they had virtually ignored, having concentrated on the actual burglary and events preceding it. Dean also appeared before the Watergate Grand Jury, where he took the Fifth Amendment numerous times, to avoid incriminating himself, in order to save his testimony for the Senate Watergate hearings.[9]

Fired by Nixon[edit | edit source]

Coupled with his sense of distance from Nixon's inner circle, "The Berlin Wall" of advisors H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Dean sensed he was going to become the Watergate scapegoat and despite going to Camp David, he returned to Washington without having completed his report. Nixon fired Dean on April 30, the same date he also announced the resignations of Haldeman and Ehrlichman.

Dean had earlier asked Nixon for formal immunity from prosecution for any crimes he may have committed while serving as White House counsel; Nixon refused to grant this and this refusal led Dean to cooperate with the prosecutors very soon afterwards. Upon going to the prosecutors, Dean also requested immunity, which was not granted despite his many revelations.[7]

Testifies at Senate Committee[edit | edit source]

On June 25, 1973, Dean began his testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee, in which he implicated administration officials, including Nixon fundraiser and former Attorney General John Mitchell, Nixon and himself. Dean's testimony attracted very high television ratings, since he was breaking new ground in the investigation, and media attention grew apace, with more detailed newspaper coverage. Dean was the first administration official to accuse Nixon of direct involvement with Watergate and the resulting cover-up in press interviews. Such testimony against Nixon, while damaging to the president's credibility, had little impact legally, as it was merely his word against Nixon's. Nixon vigorously denied all accusations against him that he had authorized a cover-up, and Dean had no proof beyond various notes he had taken in his meetings with the president. It was not until information about secret White House tape recordings having been made by President Nixon (disclosed in testimony by Alexander Butterfield, in July 1973), the tapes subpoenaed, and analyzed, that Dean's accusations were substantiated. Dean had earlier had suspicions that Nixon was taping conversations, but had not known this for sure, and he tipped prosecutors to ask witnesses questions along this line, leading to Butterfield's revelations.

Watergate trial[edit | edit source]

Dean pled guilty to obstruction of justice before Watergate trial judge John Sirica on October 19, 1973. He admitted supervising payments of "hush money" to the Watergate burglars, notably E. Howard Hunt, and revealed the existence of Nixon's enemies list. Archibald Cox, Watergate Special Prosecutor, was interested in meeting with Dean, and planned to do so a few days later, but Cox was himself fired by Nixon the very next day, and it was not until some time later that Cox was replaced by Leon Jaworski. On August 2, 1974, Sirica handed down a sentence to Dean, of one to four years in a minimum-security prison. However, when Dean surrendered himself as scheduled on September 3, he was diverted to the custody of U.S. Marshals, and kept instead at Fort Holabird (near Baltimore, Maryland) in a special "safe house" holding facility primarily used for witnesses against the Mafia. He spent his days in the offices of the Watergate Special Prosecutor Jaworski, and testifying in the trial of Watergate conspirators Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Robert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson, which concluded on January 1, 1975. All except Parkinson were convicted, largely based upon Dean's evidence. Dean's lawyer moved to have his sentence reduced, and on January 8, Sirica granted the motion, adjusting Dean's sentence to time served, which wound up being four months. With his conviction for felony offenses, Dean was disbarred as a lawyer, so could no longer practice law.[10]

Life after Watergate[edit | edit source]



Shortly after Watergate, Dean became an investment banker, author, and lecturer.

Dean chronicled his White House experiences, with a focus on Watergate, in the memoirs Blind Ambition (1976) and Lost Honor (1982). Blind Ambition would become the point of controversy for many years after its publication.

In 1992, he hired famed attorney Neil Papiano and brought the first in a series of defamation suits against G. Gordon Liddy for claims in Liddy's book Will, and St. Martin's Press for its publication of the book Silent Coup by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin. Silent Coup alleged that Dean was the mastermind of the Watergate burglaries and the Watergate coverup, and the true target of the burglaries was to seize information implicating Dean and the former Maureen Elizabeth Kane Owen "Mo" Biner (his then-fiancée) in a prostitution ring. After hearing of Colodny's work, Liddy issued a revised paperback version of Will supporting Colodny's theory.[11] This theory was subsequently the subject of an A&E Network Investigative Reports series program entitled The Key to Watergate in 1992.[12] In the preface to his 2006 book, Conservatives Without Conscience, Dean strongly denied Colodny's theory, pointing out that Colodny's chief source (Phillip Mackin Bailley) had been in and out of mental institutions. Dean settled the defamation suit against Colodny and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, on terms which Dean stated in the book's preface he could not divulge under the terms of the settlement, other than stating that "the Deans were satisfied." In the footnote to this portion of the preface, Dean stated that the federal judge handling the case forced a settlement with Liddy.[13]

Dean retired from investment banking in 2000 while continuing to work as an author and lecturer, becoming a columnist for FindLaw's Writ online magazine. He currently resides in Beverly Hills, California.

In 2001, Dean published The Rehnquist Choice, an exposé of the White House's selection process for a new Supreme Court justice in 1971, which led to the accession of William Rehnquist to the United States' highest court. Three years later, Dean authored a book heavily critical of the administration of George W. Bush, entitled Worse than Watergate, which called for the impeachment of Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney for allegedly lying to the Congress.

His subsequent book, released in summer 2006, is titled Conservatives without Conscience, a play on Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative. In it, he asserts that post-Barry Goldwater conservatism has been co-opted by people with authoritarian personalities and policies (citing data from Bob Altemeyer). According to Dean, modern conservatism, specifically in the Christian Right, embraces obedience, inequality, intolerance, and strong intrusive government, in stark contrast to Goldwater's philosophies and policies. Using Altemeyer's scholarly work, he contends that there is a tendency toward ethically questionable political practices when authoritarians are placed in positions of power, and that the current political situation is dangerously unsound because of it. Dean cites the behavior of key members of the Republican leadership — including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich and Bill Frist — as clear evidence of a relationship between modern right-wing conservativism and this authoritarian approach to governance. He places particular emphasis on the abdication of checks and balances by the Republican Congress, and of the dishonesty of the conservative intellectual class in support of the GOP, as a result of the obedience and arrogance innate to the authoritarian mentality.

After it became known that George W. Bush authorized NSA wiretaps without warrants, Dean asserted that Bush is "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense".[14] On March 31, 2006, Dean testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during hearings on censuring the president over the issue. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who sponsored the censure resolution, introduced Dean as a "patriot" who put "rule of law above the interests of the president." In his testimony, Dean asserted that Richard Nixon covered up Watergate because he believed it was in the interest of national security. This sparked a sharp debate with Republican South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, who repeatedly asserted that Nixon authorized the break-in at Democratic headquarters. Dean finally replied, "You're showing you don't know that subject very well." Spectators laughed, and soon the senator was sputtering mad.[15]

Dean's 2007 book Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches is, as he wrote in its introduction, the third volume of an unplanned trilogy. In this latest book, Dean, who has repeatedly described himself as a Goldwater conservative, built on Worse Than Watergate and Conservatives Without Conscience to argue that the Republican Party has gravely damaged all three of the branches of the federal government in the service of ideological rigidity and with no attention to the public interest or the general good. Dean concludes that conservatism must regenerate itself to remain true to its core ideals of limited government and the rule of law.

In 2008, Dean co-edited Pure Goldwater, a collection of writings by the 1964 Republican presidential nominee and former U.S. Senator from Arizona Barry Goldwater, in part as an act of fealty to the man who defined his political ideals. His co-editor was Goldwater's son Barry Goldwater, Jr..

In the 1979 TV mini-series, Blind Ambition, Dean was played by Martin Sheen. In the 1995 film, Nixon, directed by Oliver Stone, Dean was played by David Hyde Pierce. In the 1999 film Dick, Dean was played by Jim Breuer.

Dean frequently serves as a guest on the former MSNBC and Current TV news program, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and The Randi Rhodes Show on Premiere Radio Networks.

In January 2009, a new controversy arose about Dean. Historian Stanley Kutler was accused of editing the Nixon tapes to make Dean appear in a more favorable light.[16]

On September 17, 2009, Dean appeared on Countdown, with new allegations about Watergate in hand. He stated that he had found information via the Nixon tapes, that showed what the burglars were after: information on a kickback scheme involving the Democratic National Convention in Miami, Florida. Dean also asserts that Nixon did not directly order the break in, but that it was ordered by Ehrlichman on behalf of Nixon.[17]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Dean, John W. (1976). Blind Ambition: The White House Years. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-22438-7. 
  • Dean, John W. (1982). Lost Honor. Los Angeles: Stratford Press. ISBN 0-936906-15-4. 
  • Dean, John W. (2001). The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-2607-0. 
  • Dean, John W. (2002). Unmasking Deep Throat. [S.l.]: Salon Media. ISBN 0-9721874-1-3. 
  • Dean, John W. (2004). Warren G. Harding (The American Presidents). New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8050-6956-9. 
  • Dean, John W. (2004). Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-00023-X. 
  • Dean, John W. (2006). Conservatives without Conscience. New York: Viking Adult. ISBN 0-670-03774-5. 
  • Dean, John W. (2007). Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches. New York: Viking Adult. ISBN 0-670-01820-1. 
  • Dean, John W.; Barry M. Goldwater, Jr. (2008). Pure Goldwater. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-7741-0. 
  • Dean, John W. (2009). Blind Ambition: The Updated Edition: The End of the Story. New York: Polimedia. ISBN 0-976-86175-5. 

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Office of Planning and Evaluation (5 July 1974) (PDF). FBI Watergate Investigation: OPE Analysis. Federal Bureau of Investigation. p. 11. File Number 139-4089. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  2. Matthew Rothschild (20 May 2006). "An Interview with John Dean". The Progressive. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  3. "John Wesley Dean III". Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Blind Ambition, by John Dean, Simon & Schuster 1976
  5. Magruder, Jeb Stuart (1974). An American Life: One Man's Road to Watergate. New York: Atheneum. pp. 192–197. ISBN 0-689-10603-3. 
  6. Blind Ambition, by John Dean, Simon & Schuster 1976; Watergate, by Fred Emery, Touchstone Publishers 1994
  7. 7.0 7.1 Haldeman, H.R.; Joseph DiMona (1978). The Ends of Power. New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-0724-8. 
  8. Blind Ambition: The White House Years, by John Dean, New York 1976, Simon & Schuster, pp. 196-274
  9. Blind Ambition: The White House Years, by John Dean, Simon & Schuster, New York 1976, pp. 196-274
  10. Blind Ambition: The White House Years, by John Dean, New York 1976, Simon & Schuster, pp. 274-390
  11. Stephen Bates (Monday, 5 February 2001). "Flipping His Liddy". Slate. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  12. Dean, John Doing Legal, Political, and Historical Research on the Internet: Using Blog Forums, Open Source Dictionaries, and More, Findlaw, September 9, 2005. Taylor Branch states: "Blind Ambition (ghostwriter for John Dean) (Simon & Schuster: 1979)" under the heading "Past Writing".
  13. Dean, John: Conservatives Without Conscience, Viking, 2006.
  14. Jackson, David (28 December 2005). "War-powers debate on front burner". USA Today. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  15. Milbank, Dana (Saturday, 1 April 2006). "Watergate Remembered, After a Fashion". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  16. Patricia Cohen ([dead link]Saturday, 31 January 2009). "John Dean’s Role at Issue in Nixon Tapes Feud". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  17. MSNBC transcript

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

de:John Dean fr:John Dean nl:John Dean ja:ジョン・ディーン sv:John Dean

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.