‘Bigger and More Significant Than Any Litigation We’ve Ever Had’: Nixon Counsel Tells CNN Third Trump Indictment Will Test Constitution


Former President Donald Trump was expected to report to a federal courthouse in Washington D.C. for his third arraignment on Thursday, and CNN featured several guests to fill the time until he arrived.

One of those guests was former White House Counsel John Dean, who served under former President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. He provided some historical context to this third criminal indictment of a former president by telling CNN’s Erin Burnett there is no context for this because “it is bigger and more significant than any litigation, any criminal proceeding we’ve ever had in this country.”

The conversation with Dean took place after a montage of Trump taking the presidential oath in 2017, promising to uphold the Constitution, and then questioning the legitimacy of the democratic system in 2020 the year he was up for re-election. The montage ended with him speaking on January 6, 2021 to what would become the mob that attacked the Capitol.

Dean, who had firsthand experience with another presidential crisis, offered the following stark picture of what these charges against Trump mean for the United States and its institutions:

Democracy itself is really at issue in this trial. If Trump could get away with what he’s done, what he’s charged with here, and which I think most people and observers know, he undertook these activities, then we don’t have the democracy we believe we had, and we’re in a lot of trouble, a heap of trouble. So the criminal justice system is being tested. The Constitution is being tested. All the players are going to be tested because this is a really big deal, Erin.

When Burnett brought up the CNN poll showing how so many Americans, mostly Republicans but also a sizeable portion of Republican-leaning independents, still support Trump and/or believe the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate, Dean said it also took a long time for the American public to turn on Nixon:

The public was slow to turn on Nixon and it took an educational process to have that happen. The Senate Watergate hearings, the House impeachment inquiry. These influenced the public perception of Nixon and his presidency while democracy was not at issue itself. Abuse of presidential power was front and center. And the issue “How much could a president do if a president did it? Was it legal just because he did it?” as Nixon later would say. So it was a different time, yes. But it also… the public was very slow. Now, that hasn’t happened here because there’s been very little public exposure, particularly to people in Trump’s base as to what he actually did. Now, some of them will tolerate it. Not all of them are going to tolerate it. So, you know, it’s unfortunate that we’re starting with a trial to educate them.

Watch the video above via CNN.

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