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Congress will have to 'start impeachment' process after Cohen filings, former Nixon counsel says

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 29, 2018. Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.

John Dean, a White House counsel under President Richard Nixon who received jail time for his role in the Watergate scandal, said Friday that allegations against President Donald Trump detailed in new court filings give Congress "little choice" other than to begin impeachment proceedings.

Dean's comments, made during CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" segment, follow the release of a legal memo from federal prosecutors in New York regarding Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Prosecutors wrote that Cohen had implicated Trump in the arrangement of hush-money payments to women during the 2016 election.

"I don't know that this will forever disappear into some dark hole of unprosecutable presidents," Dean said. "I think it will resurface in the Congress. I think what this totality of today's filings show that the House is going to have little choice, the way this is going, other than to start impeachment proceedings."

Dean, who served as Nixon's counsel from 1970 to 1973, was chosen by the president to lead a special investigation into the Watergate scandal. He would go on to accuse Nixon of having direct involvement in the coverup, even implicating himself while detailing the ways various White House officials attempted to block investigations into the incident. He was charged with obstruction of justice, eventually serving four months in prison.

The Cohen memo prosecutors released Friday lists three people at an August 2014 meeting: Cohen, "Individual-1" and "Chairman-1." Based on statements in the memo, it can be determined that Individual-1 is Trump, and people familiar with the case told The Washington Post's Matt Devin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky that Chairman-1 is David Pecker of the National Enquirer.

"In August 2014, Chairman-1 had met with Cohen and Individual-1, and had offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-1's relationships with women by identifying such stories so that they could be purchased and 'killed,' " the prosecutors' memorandum says.

Payments were made to two women who alleged they had sexual relationships with Trump before he ran for president: Playboy model Karen McDougal - who reached an agreement with the publishers of the National Enquirer that she wouldn't share her story of the relationship - and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 to remain silent about a liaison involving Trump.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law in making the arranged payments. He also pleaded guilty to other crimes including making a false statement to a bank and later to lying to Congress about a Trump-branded real estate project in Moscow.

Cohen, citing the fact he has cooperated with investigators, had requested a sentence of no prison time. However, in the nearly 40-page memo, New York prosecutors recommended Cohen receive a "substantial" sentence, possibly 3 1/2 years.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Friday that the Cohen filings "tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known."

Dean, who was a star witness of the 1973 congressional hearings on the Watergate scandal, has been critical of Trump in the past. In a November tweet, he compared Trump and Nixon, stating simply, "Trump=evil."

This article was written by Michael Brice-Saddler, a reporter for The Washington Post.