GOP 'Became the Authoritarian Party': Former Nixon White House Lawyer

John Dean, who served as White House counsel in the administration of President Richard Nixon, warned Friday that the Republican Party is becoming "the authoritarian party."

Dean's remarks came after a subcommittee of the Republican National Committee (RNC) on Thursday advanced a motion to censure GOP Representatives Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney because of their opposition to Donald Trump. The former White House lawyer, best known for his involvement in Nixon's Watergate scandal, has long been critical of Trump and the former president's faction of the GOP. Many analysts, like Dean, have repeatedly said the GOP appears to be increasingly moving in the direction of authoritarianism.

In an early-Friday morning tweet, Dean appeared to comment on the latest developments within the RNC by issuing a dire warning. "Social science will reveal that as the Republican Party became increasingly conservative, building a base with the religious right, it became the authoritarian party. That authoritarianism revealed itself to be undemocratic and un-American," he wrote.

The former Nixon administration official was involved in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the Republican president's resignation in 1974. Dean, who now identifies as an independent, pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in exchange for becoming a key cooperating witness for the prosecution in that investigation.

Meanwhile, other prominent conservatives condemned the RNC's efforts to censure Cheney and Kinzinger. The two GOP lawmakers have drawn Trump's and many Republicans' ire because of their vote to impeach the former president last year following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. They also are the two lone Republicans serving on the House select committee investigating that riot by pro-Trump supporters.

"As the former chairman of the Republican party, I cannot express enough my condemnation of this pathetic act of cowardice taken by its current leadership to censure ⁦@Liz_Cheney⁩ and ⁦@RepKinzinger⁩. You are wrong. I stand with Liz and Adam," Republican Michael Steele, who served as RNC chair from 2009 to 2011, tweeted on Thursday. Steele has been a consistent Trump critic since the former president's 2016 White House campaign.

"Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost," Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, tweeted Friday morning. Romney voted to convict Trump in both of his 2020 and 2021 impeachment trials.

Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election have raised alarms from Democrats as well as prominent Republicans and independent conservatives. Increasingly, the GOP has appeared to revolve around loyalty to Trump instead of adherence to traditional conservative principles.

Cheney and Kinzinger, as well as a number of other Republicans who backed Trump's impeachment, have faced substantial backlash. Trump has endorsed primary challengers to many GOP lawmakers that oppose him. While Cheney aims to maintain her congressional seat in Wyoming as she faces off against a Republican opponent, Illinois' Kinzinger has chosen not to seek reelection.

Meanwhile, Trump and his allies continue to promote the so-called Big Lie that the 2020 election was "rigged" or "stolen" in favor of President Joe Biden. Although they have not brought forward evidence substantiating the allegation, the false claims appear to have resonated with many GOP voters. Polls have consistently shown that a substantial majority of Republicans do not believe that the 2020 results were accurate or that Biden is the legitimately elected president.

Donald Trump
John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate scandal, warned Friday that the Republican Party is becoming "the authoritarian party." Above, former President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a "Save America" rally in Conroe, Texas, on January 29. MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images

Despite the popularity of that belief among GOP voters, audits and recounts across the country have consistently reaffirmed Biden's win. More than 60 lawsuits regarding the last presidential election results brought by Trump and his allies have failed in state and federal courts. Even judges appointed by Trump and other Republicans have dismissed the legal challenges.

Newsweek reached out to the RNC for comment but did not immediately receive a response.