The Real Lesson of Watergate Ignored in John Dean's Testimony and Media Commentary

With the return of John Dean to the witness’s chair in a congressional hearing room yesterday, false analogies between that incident and the current day Russia Hoax are everywhere in the mainstream media. But the one real lesson of that era is still valid today: Don’t trust the government’s Administrative State bureaucracy -- and in particular prosecutors, who are, too often, henchmen using their power and resources unethically, carelessly and ruthlessly.  Too often they do not deliver justice; they hunt and destroy and cheat when necessary.  (See here, here and here.)

John Dean testifies in Watergate hearings (photo credit: Tullio Saba)

Geoff Shepard, who was a Nixon Defense team member during Watergate events and who has spent 20 years researching original documents and memoranda as well as investigative materials and judicial transcripts on Watergate affairs and events, has found and documented prosecutorial and judicial abuses that tainted the Watergate trials and the Watergate hearings that resulted in Richard Nixon’s resignation.  

Mr. Shepard grew up in Southern California, graduating from Whittier College (1966) and Harvard Law (1969). Richard Nixon was Whittier (1934) and Duke Law (1937).  Shepard was awarded a Nixon White House Fellowship and moved from WH Fellow status after one year to be a member of the Domestic Policy staff headed by John Ehrlichman.  When the Watergate Prosecutions started and the Congress convened an investigative committee, Shepard asked for and was made a junior member of the defense team.  After the Nixon resignation, Shepard remained on in the Gerald Ford White House for six months, moving to Philadelphia to private professional life when Ford lost the election in 1976.

Subsequently Mr. Shepard had a career as a prominent executive and attorney in the insurance industry.  He became an organizer and promoter of Nixon Administration alumni meetings of the various policy sections, starting with Domestic Policy staff and then expanding to the other areas of activity to include Foreign Policy and National Security.  In retirement, Mr. Shepard continues to work with the United States National Archives on conferences and symposia related to Nixon administration activities and policy initiatives.  He also has organized Nixon administration reunion conferences.

Mr. Shepard is arguably the most knowledgeable, erudite, and scholarly expert on the Watergate matters -- no one else alive today knows more about all the players and the events as revealed in his writings and lectures.  He was an eyewitness, a deeply engaged participant, and in the past 20 years has done more in-depth research on Watergate than anyone else.  He makes the case that the Watergate matter was a bloodless coup accomplished by partisans.  

I confess I didn’t know who Geoff Shepard was until two months ago, when I read his first book on Watergate, The Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President (Sentinel, 2008); then I read his second book, The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down  ( Regnery, 2015) and looked at his speeches and essays at his web site with evidence and documentation of his ongoing investigations and examinations that included, for example, personal papers taken home by the two Watergate Special Prosecutors, Leon Jaworski documents archived at Baylor Law, the Archibald Cox/James Vorenberg documents ended up at Harvard Law.  What I found stunning was that in many cases the important figures in the matter actually wrote memoranda that document their misconduct. 

Shepard’s research of original documentation shows examples of the misconduct of the Watergate Prosecutor force and the judges involved.

1.     Multiple ex parte contacts between lawyers and Democrat players of the Watergate Congressional investigative committee and Judge Sirica.

2.     Ex parte meetings between Watergate prosecutor lawyers with John Sirica, the Chief Judge of the DC District Courts, and presiding judge on the Watergate trials.

3.     Ex parte meetings with multiple interested parties for the prosecution and the Democrat side of the Watergate investigative committee and Judge Sirica; one included Judge Gesell. 

4.     Ex parte meetings of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox with the Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Court, David Bazelon, to set up appellate panels for the appeals of Sirica court convictions to assure no reversals. 

5.     A series of ex parte meetings of journalist Clark Mellenhoff, an anti-Nixon partisan before and after Nixon brought him on as White House Ombudsman, with Sirica.

6.     Sirica imposing an unprecedented threat to convicted Watergate defendants that they would receive maximum sentences that could be reduced if they agree to testify for the congressional investigative committee.

7.     Prosecutors failed to provide exculpatory evidence of John Dean’s lies and changes in his story as he tried to get immunity or leniency.  The law requires that prosecutors provide exculpatory evidence for the defense (called Brady Material from the case Brady v. Maryland -- Supreme Court, 1963).  Prosecutors committed another ethical offense that compromised the defendants and prevented a fair trial for multiple defendants. 

Ex parte discussions in the Watergate matter were discussions between partisan prosecutors and even political figures and mostly John Sirica, but other judges too, who presided over cases in the Watergate matter. The results of such unethical activity are a miscarriage of justice and violation of the civil rights of the accused defendants and impacted the political actions and hearings in the Congress.  

The Shepard books go into great detail on the treacherous, deceitful and dissembling John Dean, who set up the criminal intelligence activities, then ran a botched coverup, and when in trouble for his perfidy, jumped ship and turned witness against his bosses, and therefore was portrayed by the Nixon haters as some kind of virtuous hero. Dean was horrified by the prospect of jail and became a liar and false accuser, never spending a day in jail.

Mr. Shepard exposes a dark side of Washington, DC that implicates partisan politicians, judges, prosecutors and media. Nixon and his top aides Ehrlichman and Haldeman were victims of a sordid political coup and Judge John Sirica, a hair-on-fire partisan was Chief Judge of the DC District, so he assigned the Watergate Cases to himself. Time Magazine selected him man of the year -- how apropos since he was the hit man for the Nixon haters.   

Mr. Shepard and I talked Watergate details, the players and the misconduct in a telephone interview, but he won’t comment on the question of the Trump coup since he has not done the deep level research he requires on the matters in dispute.   Mr. Shepard is disinclined to use the words “deep state,” since he points out, correctly I think, that the deep state of today is just the imbedded partisan and corrupt government bureaucracy of the past.  

Shepard shows in his work that judges and prosecutors in the Watergate matter were culpably unethical and allowed partisanship to corrupt justice.  Shepard’s books, articles and essay cite documentary evidence assiduously. Mr. Shepard has a compelling series of twelve lectures at Temple University, Philadelphia, on the Watergate COUP D’ ETAT.  It is impressive what one man has done to take apart Watergate to reveal and expose the sins of many major figures in the matter.

John Dale Dunn, MD JD, lives in Brownwood, Texas 

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