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Watergate star witness predicts criminal charges after latest Jan. 6 testimony: ‘Trump is in trouble’

Stephen Ayres and and Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes at a hearing of the January 6 committee on July 12, 2022.

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images/POOL

  • John Dean, a former White House counsel and a Watergate witness, weighed in on the Jan. 6 hearings.
  • Dean said evidence aired Tuesday could warrant charges against Trump and his circle.
  • He argued that, since many rioters saw themselves as doing Trump’s bidding, he could be held responsible.

John Dean, a key witness in the Watergate investigation, said that former President Donald Trump and others will likely face legal repercussions from evidence presented at Tuesday’s January 6 committee hearing. 

In an interview with CNN, Dean highlighted testimony by former members of extremist group the Oath Keepers, who were part of the mob that stormed the Capitol.

Dean described them as “really classic authoritarian followers, following the leader.”

“Trump really knows how to push the button of his base, and can really make them respond on command,” said Dean.

He argued that the testimony proves the extent to which the rioters believed they had been sent by Trump, which he said could be used by prosecutors were they to bring charges against the former president.

Dean, 83, was White House counsel for President Richard Nixon. He was also a witness to Congress as part of its inquiry into the Watergate scandal. In recent years he has been a vocal critic of Trump.

One witness, Stephen Ayres, told the committee that he had believed he was following Trump’s wishes in attacking the Capitol, and said that he left after Trump told them to do so in a tweet. 

John DeanFormer White House Counsel John Dean testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about Lessons from the Mueller Report – Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 10, 2019.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Commenting on that, Dean said: “I think a criminal case is going to come out of it. And I don’t see how the line prosecutors at the Department of Justice can’t take a lot of this evidence and use it.

“A lot of these people who are involved in this are going to be in front of a grand jury if they’re not already. And Trump is in trouble. Trump is in trouble.”

The Jan. 6 committee has sought to link Trump directly to the riot on the Capitol, portraying it as the culmination of the former president’s bid to overturn his loss in the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, the committee focused on links between people in Trump’s circle and extremist groups at the forefront of the violence on January 6. 

The committee could decide to make a criminal referral of Trump to the DOJ, which would then decide whether  to launch an unprecedented investigation into a former president.

Dean’s comments followed a report by The New York Times which said that testimony from earlier hearings had caught the attention of the DOJ, and prompted it to more seriously consider acting against Trump.

The department is conducting a separate investigation into the insurrection, and it is unclear if this touches on Trump and those in his circle.

It could independently launch a criminal inquiry into Trump on the basis of evidence presented in the hearings, a path Dean said was the most likely. 

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the riot. He said he sincerely believed the election-fraud claims that he pushed and which underpinned the riot, and said he did not condone the rioters’ actions.

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