In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Monday, former Richard Nixon counsel John Dean slammed attempts by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to paint investigations of his opponent’s private email server as a bigger disgrace than Watergate.
The Watergate investigation implicated President Richard Nixon and several others for involvement in a 1972 break-in and robbery at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex, and its subsequent cover-up. The political scandal ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation and the imprisonment of dozens of Nixon insiders, including Dean.
Trump’s ongoing efforts to equate Watergate with Clinton’s use of a private email server ― as he did at a rally on Friday when FBI Director James B. Comey announced that new emails had been found ― are “nonsense” and something that “only someone who knows nothing about the law” would put forth, Dean wrote in The Times.
“Whatever mistakes Mrs. Clinton made, her actions bear no similarities whatsoever to Nixon’s criminalization of his presidency, and his efforts to corrupt much of the executive branch,” Dean said.
The federal investigation of Clinton’s emails found that she, like many other politicians, did not fully grasp the security risks of using her old email account when she entered the executive branch ― but also found no criminal intent in her actions. The Watergate investigation, Dean wrote, revealed that Nixon had a hand in “other illegal break-ins and burglaries; illegal electronic surveillance; misuses of agencies of government like the I.R.S., C.I.A. and F.B.I.; the practice of making political opponents into enemies and using the instruments of government to attack them; and then employing perjury and obstruction of justice to cover it all up.”
“None of this is to say that Mrs. Clinton did not make mistakes with her email server,” Dean continued. “But to compare them to Watergate is more than historical ignorance. It distorts our understanding of what actually constitutes an abuse of power, and raises the risks that we will someday install another leader who is all too happy to misuse historical memory to indulge a dark and nasty nature.”
Dean is only the latest figure associated with the Nixon scandal to disparage Trump’s comparisons. Carl Bernstein, one of the journalists who helped expose Watergate, tweeted and went on CNN on Friday to shoot down Trump’s claims.
“Watergate was about a criminal president of the United States who presided over a criminal administration from the day he took office to the day he left,” he said.