Watergate figure John Dean described the Trump DOJ’s surveillance of House Democrats as ‘Nixon on stilts and steroids’

john dean
John Dean is seen testifying before the House Judiciary Committee hearing about Lessons from the Mueller Report on June 10, 2019.

  • John Dean described the Trump DOJ’s surveillance of Democrats as “Nixon on stilts and steroids.”
  • Dean criticized Bill Barr, alleging that the former attorney general was committed to serving Trump.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff of California has called for “a full accounting of the Trump DOJ’s abuse of power.”
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John Dean, the former White House counsel under the late President Richard Nixon, on Friday described the Justice Department seizing the smartphone data of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as “Nixon on stilts and steroids.”

The comments came after The New York Times reported that former Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr subpoenaed Apple to gain access to the records of members of the committee, after they were informed of leaks in the Trump administration.

During an appearance on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront, Dean, who helped bring down Nixon over the Watergate scandal, said the actions of former President Donald Trump’s DOJ went further than that of his former boss.

“Nixon didn’t have that kind of Department of Justice,” he said.

Dean then remarked on how the Nixon administration handled the 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, the classified documents that detailed the history of the US military and political involvement in Vietnam.

“I got a call from the Oval Office the day after he learned that, and could the Department of Justice bring a criminal action for this? Called over, found out the short answer was they could, but they won’t,” Dean said. “So Nixon couldn’t use the department as he wanted to.”

Burnett asked Dean if the actions of Trump’s DOJ went “beyond what Nixon did.”

“It is beyond Nixon, yes,” Dean said. “It’s Nixon on stilts and steroids.”

Read more: The Justice Department is scrutinizing Arizona’s pro-Trump vote audit as threats of violence and political fallout loom

Dean then laced into Barr, alleging that the former attorney general was long committed to serving Trump.

“The memo he wrote to get the job says ‘I’m ready to execute your presidency like a unitary executive presidency should be,’ which means no bars hold,” he told Burnett. “And he did that. It’s quite clear he didn’t have to be told on many things.”

He added: “We now know there are countless examples of norms he was willing to break.”

The DOJ’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, said in a statement Friday that his office would investigate the incident, after receiving queries from Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

“The review will examine the Department’s compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations,” the statement read. “If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider other issues that may arise during the review.”

Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, a longtime political adversary of Trump who was one of the subpoena targets, on Friday called for a thorough review of the matter.

“We need a full accounting of the Trump DOJ’s abuse of power targeting Congress and the press,” he tweeted. “An IG investigation is just the start. The full range of the misconduct must be examined, including Barr’s efforts to protect those who lied to cover up, and go after Trump’s enemies.”

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Rep. Adam Schiff says it is ‘critical’ for US to finish probe of COVID-19 origins to avoid ‘any premature or politically-motivated conclusions’

adam schiff House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff holds a press conference after the House passed Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 18, 2019. - The US House of Representatives voted 229-198 on Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for obstruction of Congress. The House impeached Trump for abuse of power by a 230-197 vote. The 45th US president is just the third occupant of the White House in US history to be impeached. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Rep. Adam Schiff chairs the House intelligence committee.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff said it is “critical” to allow the IC to complete its probe of COVID-19 origins.
  • President Biden said Wednesday he gave the intelligence community 90 days to further probe COVID-19’s origins.
  • Schiff said the IC continues to investigate the “two most likely scenarios” – animal to human transmission or a possible lab leak.
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Rep. Adam Schiff said Wednesday it is “critical” for the US to finish its investigation into the origins of COVID-19 to “avoid any premature or politically-motivated conclusions.”

Schiff’s remarks came in response to President Joe Biden announcing a 90-day deadline for the intelligence community to further probe the veracity of the coronavirus originating from a possible lab leak.

Schiff, who serves as House Intelligence Committee Chair, said in a statement that the Committee was tasked with taking a “deep dive” into what the intelligence community has collected thus far about the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on “the emergence and spread of COVID-19 from China.”

He said the intelligence community continues to investigate the “two most likely scenarios” for the origins of COVID-19 – natural transmission of the virus from animal to human or a possible lab accident – but the IC “has not reached a community consensus.”

“Beijing’s continued obstruction of a transparent, comprehensive examination of the relevant facts and about the source of the coronavirus can only delay the vital work necessary to help the world better prepare itself before the next potential pandemic,” Schiff said in the statement, adding that the intelligence community will provide relevant updates per Biden’s 90-day deadline.

“It is critical that we allow the IC, and other scientific and medical experts, to objectively weigh and assess all available facts, and to avoid any premature or politically-motivated conclusions,” he continued.

In a press conference Wednesday, Biden revealed he had asked the intelligence community to probe the origins of COVID-19 in March, but the results of the investigation were not extensive enough to conclude either scenario “more likely than the other.”

The investigation launched by the Biden administration came around the same time Biden’s team terminated a Trump-era probe to prove COVID-19 originated in a lab, per a CNN report published Wednesday. A source familiar with the move to shut down the probe, which was started late into Trump’s presidency, told CNN that questions were raised on the legitimacy of the investigation, citing concerns about the quality of its work.

A team of investigators from the World Health Organization said it was “most likely” that the virus emerged from animal to human transmission following a month-long investigation in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus likely originated. But the team could not definitely rule out the possibility of a lab leak, and WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also said in March he does “not believe that this assessment was extensive enough.”

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