House Judiciary Committee Republicans had a lot of say Monday about John Dean and whether he was the right person to be testifying about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Their tweaking of Dean — a Watergate cover-up participant who later turned on Richard Nixon — at times stole the spotlight from the obstruction-related conduct of President Trump himself, the ostensible topic of the committee hearing where Dean was testifying.
Democrats chose Dean as their star witness to put Mueller’s report in context — a choice that provided Republicans plenty of fodder to distract from what Mueller said in his report.
“This committee is now hearing from the ’70s and they want their star witness back,” the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), said in his opening remarks, setting the GOP tone for hearing.
But Dean was not the only off-topic subject GOPers brought up in the hearing. Here is what non-Mueller related lines of questions Republicans ran with on Monday:
The 1972 Watergate Break-In
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), living up to his brand, departed from the hearing subject at hand to grill Dean on whether he ordered the break-in of the the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate.
“No,” Dean said, and when he tried to elaborate, Gohmert cut him off.
Gohmert then used the line of questioning to claim that the real “Russia-gate” was alleged Justice Department misconduct that included using the Christopher Steele dossier “to commit a fraud” on the federal surveillance court.
John Dean’s Twitter Account
Alongside a lengthy wind-up that praised President Trump on everything from economic growth to his Israel policy to the release of hostages in North Korea, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) brought up tweets Dean wrote critical of Trump.
Dean fired back, prompting laughter in the hearing room
“Mr. Jordan, I think that under the parliamentary rules of the House, I am refrained from addressing a full answer to your question,” Dean said, referring to a House decorum rule Republicans highlighted last week that restricts certain language about the President.
“You weren’t refrained in your tweets and your comments and the things you wrote,” Jordan shot back.
“My tweets are not subject to the parliament,” Dean responded.
Jordan pivoted then to whether Dean gave advice to Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen’s lawyer, about withholding his testimony from Republicans as long as possible.
John Dean’s book deals and CNN contract
Accusing Dean of making a “cottage industry” of comparing presidents to Richard Nixon, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) demanded Dean tell him how much money he’s made selling books and appearing on television.
“How much money do you make from CNN? ” Gaetz asked.
Dean said he did not know exactly, and defended himself when Gaetz continued to attack him for “exploiting” accusations against Presidents for “economic benefit.”
“I appreciate you were not born at the time this all happened. It’s not by choice that I’ve done a lot of this. It’s that I’ve been dragged into it,” Dean said.
President Obama’s moves on immigration, Obamacare and appointments
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) took a brief break from beating up on Dean to harp on a comment another witness, former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade, had made about whether Trump had “faithfully executed” his duties as President.
Biggs called the comment “quaint” and went on a rant about some of the more controversial policy decisions made by the Obama administration. Biggs name-checked the administration’s delay of Obamacare’s implementation date; its easing of enforcement of marijuana laws; its shielding of certain immigrants from deportation and several the recess appointments made by President Obama.
“If your administration had lost more Supreme Court cases than any other modern president, one might question whether you were faithfully executing your duties because the United States Supreme Court repeatedly rejected what you were attempting to do,” Biggs said.