John Dean

From Academic Kids

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John Dean, May 7, 1972.

John Wesley Dean III (born October 14, 1938 in Akron, Ohio, USA) was White House Counsel to U.S. President Richard Nixon from July 1970 to April, 1973. As such he became deeply involved in the Watergate scandal cover up, even referred to as "master manipulator of the cover up" by the FBI.1, and went on to become the star witness of the Watergate prosecution.

Before becoming presidential counsel, Dean served as Chief Minority Counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, the Associate Director of a law reform commission, and Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States.


"Master Manipulator" to Star Witness

On February 28, 1973 Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his nomination to replace J. Edgar Hoover as Director of the FBI. Armed with newspaper articles indicating the White House had possession of FBI Watergate files the committee chairman, Sam Ervin, questioned Gray as to what he knew about the White House obtaining the files. With almost no provocation, and in a hearing not even related to Watergate, Gray stated he had given reports to Dean and had discussed the FBI investigation with Dean on many occasions. Gray's nomination failed and now Dean was directly linked to the Watergate cover up.

On March 23 the Watergate burglars were sentenced with stiff fines and jail time, Dean hired an attorney and began his cooperation with Watergate investigators on April 6.

On April 22 Nixon requested Dean put together a report with everything he knew about the Watergate matter and even invited him to take a retreat to Camp David to do so. Coupled with his sense of distance from Nixon's inner circle, "The Berlin Wall" of advisors H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Dean sensed he was going to become the Watergate scapegoat and refused. Nixon fired Dean on April 30, the same date he also announced the resignations of Haldeman and Ehrlichman.

On June 25 Dean began his testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee in which he implicated many administration officials, including himself, Nixon fundraiser and former Attorney General John Mitchell, and Nixon himself. He was the first administration official to accuse Nixon of direct involvement with Watergate and the resulting cover up in press interviews as well as his testimony. Such testimony against Nixon, while damaging to the president's credibility, had little impact legally, as it was merely his word against Nixon's. Nixon vigorously denied all accusations against him that he authorized a cover up, and Dean had no proof beyond various notes he had taken in his meetings with the president. It was not until the existence of secret White House tape recordings was made public and those tapes could be analyzed that Dean's accusations were proved.

Watergate Trial

Dean pled guilty to obstruction of justice before Watergate trial judge John Sirica on October 19, 1973. He admitted supervising payments of "hush money" to the Watergate burglars, notably E. Howard Hunt, and revealed the existence of Nixon's enemies list. On August 2, 1974, Sirica handed down a sentence of one to four years in a minimum-security prison. However, when Dean surrendered himself as scheduled on September 3, he was diverted to the custody of U.S. Marshals and kept instead at Fort Holabird (near Baltimore, Maryland) in a special "safe house" holding facility primarily used for witnesses against the Mafia. He spent his days in the offices of the Watergate Special Prosecutor and testifying in the trial of Watergate conspirators Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Robert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson, which concluded on January 1, 1975. Dean's lawyer moved to have his sentence reduced, and on January 8, Sirica granted the motion, adjusting Dean's sentence to time served.

Life After Watergate

Dean chronicled his White House experiences, with a focus on Watergate, in the memoirs Blind Ambition and Lost Honor. In 1995 he admitted Blind Ambition was ghostwritten by Taylor Branch, that he never reviewed the book "cover to cover" and that portions of the book were fabricated "out of whole cloth" by Branch.2 Branch has denied claims of fabrication.3

In 1992 he brought the first in a series of defamation suits against G. Gordon Liddy for claims in his book Will and St. Martin's Press for its publication of the book Silent Coup by Len Colodny. Silent Coup alleged Dean was the mastermind of the Watergate burglaries and the true target of the burglaries was to seize information implicating Dean and his wife in a prostitution ring. After hearing of Colodny's work Liddy issued a revised paperback version of Will supporting Colodny's theory4. This theory was subsequently the subject of an A&E Network Investigative Reports series program entitled The Key to Watergate in 1992. The suit was dismissed although Dean has threatened to renew it given Liddy's victory in another defamation case.5

In 2001, Dean published The Rehnquist Choice, an exposé of the White House's selection process for a new Supreme Court justice in 1971, which led to the accession of William Rehnquist to the United States' highest court. Three years later, Dean authored a book heavily critical of the administration of George W. Bush, entitled Worse than Watergate, a polemic which calls for the impeachment of Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney for lying to the Congress.

Dean is now an investment banker in Beverly Hills, California as well as an author and lecturer.



  • Note 1: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of Planning and Evaluation. FBI Watergate Invesgiation: OPE Analysis. July 5, 1974. File Number 139-4089. p.11 [1] (
  • Note 2: John W. Dean deposition on September 12, 1995 in Maureen K. Dean and John W. Dean v. St. Martin's Press et al United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Case No. 92 1807 (HHG)
  • Note 3: Template:Citenewsauthor
  • Note 4: Ibid. (
  • Note 5: Ibid. (


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