President Donald Trump, whose actions during the Russia investigation have prompted comparisons to the Watergate scandal, drew a distinction between himself and President Richard Nixon on Monday: “He left. I don’t leave. A big difference.”
He made the comment on the same day that John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which outlined possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Dean testified that he saw “remarkable parallels” between Nixon’s actions and Trump’s.
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The president spoke to reporters a short while later from the South Lawn of the White House and answered questions about the possibility of impeachment.
“We have no collusion, no obstruction, no anything,” Trump said during an event honoring this year’s Indianapolis 500 champion, Simon Pagenaud, and Team Penske. “When you look at past impeachments, whether it was President Clinton or – I guess President Nixon never got there. He left. I don’t leave. A big difference. I don’t leave.”
Even before Dean appeared, the president wrote on Twitter that he was a “disgraced Nixon White House Counsel who is a paid CNN contributor” and that “Democrats just want a do-over which they’ll never get!”
Dean testified to the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973. Having coordinated the cover-up of the Watergate burglary, the former Nixon aide was instrumental in providing evidence that led to Nixon’s resigning before he could be impeached. Dean pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, was disbarred as a lawyer and served four months in the custody of U.S. Marshals.
On Monday, he told Congress that the Mueller report was a “road map” for the impeachment of Trump, and focused on actions by the president that he said constituted obstruction of justice. Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia leading up to the 2016 election, but it also did not clear the president of possible obstruction.
Republicans lawmakers accused Dean of being inherently partisan. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) grilled him about what he said was pattern of criticizing presidents through the lens of the Watergate scandal. Dean wrote a book about President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney titled “Worse than Watergate.”
“How much money do you make from CNN?” Gaetz asked at one point.
Dean did not answer, and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, objected to the line of questioning.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated where John Dean served his sentence for his role in Watergate.
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