John Dean calls Georgia case against Trump 'much bigger than Watergate,' predicts Meadows will flip

John Dean, White House counsel to former President Richard Nixon, told CNN's Kaitlan Collins on Monday night that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had not just charged former President Donald Trump with criminally conspiring to overthrow the 2020 election in her state, "she threw the book at him," and her indictment is "a very, very impressive document."

This case "is much bigger than Watergate, Kaitlan, it's of a whole different dimension," Dean said. "It goes to the very foundation of democracy. Nixon abused some powers, he exceeded his authority when he shouldn't, but he wasn't taking on the basics of the country, whereas Trump wanted to stay in office, he wanted to use Georgia and abuse Georgia as part of that plan, and so this is very different and much more serious and much more troubling."

But the Georgia indictment will be a complicating factor in special counsel Jack Smith's similar but narrower federal case, Dean added. "That's the sort of thing during Watergate that was worked out in advance." He said Willis and Smith are probably "in conversation right now, because they are stepping on each other's toes." As an example, he pointed to Mark Meadows, Trump's final White House chief of staff, who is one of the 19 defendants indicted in Georgia but barely mentioned in Smith's case.

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"It appears, in that indictment, that [Meadows is] a cooperating witness," Dean said. "If he's being charged in Georgia, that might cause some reluctance, or certainly taint his testimony as to what he'd be willing to testify to in the federal case." It's "very likely" some of Trump's codefendants in Georgia "will flip, and they just wanted to see the indictment, and they've seen it now, and it's not pretty," he added. Assuming Meadows is cooperating in Smith's case, "I think he'll probably find a solution to get out of the Georgia case, too."

If Meadows and other Trump codefendants reach plea deals with Willis, that would help solve a problem other CNN legal analysts pointed out Monday night. "You cannot try 19 defendants [together], and you're certainly not going to try them on this kind of indictment with these allegations in six months," as Willis proposed, former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said. "That's not going to happen."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.