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Trump Axes Officials Who Gave Damaging Testimony In Impeachment Inquiry


Riveting accusations against the man in the White House - a finding of not guilty in the U.S. Senate, anger from the White House and then dismissals. Is all of that retribution? I'm going to ask John Dean, who cooperated with Watergate investigators and provided testimony damaging to then-President Richard Nixon. John Dean joins us on the line.

Mr. Dean, thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN DEAN: My pleasure.

SIMON: How do you assess the dismissals from the National Security Council of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother?

DEAN: Since Mr. Trump is going nowhere in the immediate future, I think this relates to his craving need for loyalty. He is now, with some revenge, going after people he perceives as disloyal. And obviously, Vindman and Sondland would fit in that category because they testified truthfully before the House and that their testimony was relied on in the Senate trial, which he did get through.

SIMON: But in a practical world, it would have been awkward for the Vindman brothers to continue, too, in some ways, wouldn't it?

DEAN: Well, the Vindmans, as I understand it, had already put in for a change of venue, so to speak.

SIMON: Yeah.

DEAN: They were requesting to go back from the National Security Council to the Pentagon. This is not unlike what he did with McCabe, who - on his last day at the FBI, he fired him so he couldn't get his 20-year pension or whatever number it was; purely a vindictive act.

This, to me, is a sign of a weakness in a leader who demands loyalty. I can't imagine, for example, an Eisenhower or a Truman, say, firing people because they were disloyal. They get their following because they're strong leaders. A weak leader like Trump has to demand and command loyalty. He did it with Comey when he was, really, being interviewed to stay on the job, and Comey said, I can't do that. So Comey was removed. This has just been a constant pattern throughout the Trump presidency.

SIMON: Mr. Dean, you testified during the impeachment process this year. It's over now. How - did the process work, do you think?

DEAN: I think the process worked, but it showed what's happened when one party of the Senate is in the same party as the president. We're in a time, a highly partisan time, where it is difficult for the process to work. But also, even in their rationalized votes against Trump or for Trump, I should say, to stay in office, they've said this is something the voters should decide. So what they've done is they've put all this impeachment - all the charges against Trump on him to carry into the election. And I think he's going to have to bear that burden, as are a lot of senators who voted that he should get a pass at this time.

SIMON: But surely the impeachment provision wasn't put into work only when the president and the Congress or the Senate are from opposite parties, was it?

DEAN: Well, it was put in at a time when the Senate was not to be selected by a popular vote but rather by the state legislatures of the various states, and that was further insulation. But not unlike the Electoral College, modern times have made the machinery of the 18th century a little bit creaky.

SIMON: Half a minute left. Mr. Dean, do you see both Republicans and Democrats trying to use this as an election issue?

DEAN: Yes, I do. I don't think - I think the Republicans will have to defend against it. Some Republicans who are challenging incumbents are certainly going to use it against the incumbent. But no question that Trump is going to have to carry and explain this throughout the election.

SIMON: John Dean, thank you so much for being with us, sir.

DEAN: Pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
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