The Johns: Dean and Bolton

For those who don’t remember or weren’t born, John Dean was the White House lawyer who blew the Watergate hearings wide open, which led directly to the so-called Saturday Night Massacre (Nixon’s firing of special counsel Archibald Cox via the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, after the attorney general and his deputy refused to do so), which in turn led to Nixon’s resignation.

What did Dean say? He said the Senate should look for tapes. Of course, there were tapes, and they proved that the president was complicit in the Watergate break-in and its aftermath.

For the last few weeks, it actually looked like the Republicans might pull off a swift trial with absolute party loyalty, even if no one but Alan Dershowitz could explain why a president should be free to use the power of his office and the desperation of a foreign country solely for his personal partisan gain. Every constitutional law professor I know disagrees with him, but you don’t have to be a constitutional law professor to know that an abuse of power like this is far more serious than an inappropriate sexual relationship.

Nothing tops Ken Starr. Notwithstanding Starr’s making an absolute fool of himself, they thought a bored and divided nation wouldn’t pay attention if they could turn it into a partisan show — Nixon-like.

Enter the next John, former national security adviser John Bolton, who, unlike the man he served, seems to take his patriotic duty pretty seriously. He heard what he heard, and he has made clear that he is not going to lie about it. What he heard puts Ken Starr and his cronies to shame. Their argument falls apart.

Once John Dean started talking about tapes, there was no question that if they existed, they had to be heard. How can you turn your back on the most probative evidence you have?

Now John Bolton has made clear that the account offered by the president’s lawyers is, quite simply, wrong. Someone is lying, and it is not Bolton.

How can you not ask him questions? Republican senators who vote against questioning him will be haunted by that decision. Being a supporter of President Donald Trump will not go down in history as a wise choice.

And calling Hunter Biden as a witness?

Hunter Biden is not on trial. Donald Trump is. Had Trump had his way, he would have been persecuted — not prosecuted, because he didn’t do anything wrong — by a country desperate for foreign aid.

The leaders of Ukraine, notwithstanding the dangers facing their country, did not abuse their power by persecuting an innocent man. Unlike Trump, they actually believe in the rule of law. Not him. Not Rudy Giuliani. Bolton apparently has the goods on Rudy as well, and it does not square with what’s been said in the Senate. The defenders look not only like hypocrites but also like fools.

There is no law against companies placing the children of a president or a would-be president on their boards. If we want to talk about kids profiting from the presidency, the place to start would not be Hunter Biden but the superwealthy Trump tots. Does Trump really want to turn this into a fight about political children, which has absolutely nothing to do with his decision to withhold foreign aid for partisan purposes?

The Trump who won the election is disappearing before our very eyes. By the time John Bolton is done, even Trump’s allies will be searching for cover. Republican senators have every right to be furious with the president. The White House knew this was coming in December. But why tell his allies, including senators in tough races, and even his own lawyers? He has made them all look like fools.

Loyalty is a two-way street. And while I believe in sticking by friends when they face trouble, the Constitution trumps all that. The Senate trial may look like a television show, but the men and women in that room have a duty that trumps party loyalty, trumps ideological differences and trumps personal ambition. Those who fail in that duty will not be soon forgotten.