A Conversation with John Dean on His Newest Best-Seller, “Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers”


Free Virtual Event On-Demand

Watch On-Demand 



Join CNN’s Michael Zeldin as he interviews John Dean on his recent psychological investigation into the psyche and personality of Donald J. Trump.  Dean, who is best known for his treatise on Richard M. Nixon–another president presumed to have authoritarian tendencies– now drills deep inside the mind of the current president to understand the deep-seated roots of his dictatorial dreams and how close we are to facing an “authoritarian nightmare” if he’s elected again. Trump’s reign in a second term will make Watergate look like child’s play. And of all the many ominous portrayals of Trump this election season, Dean’s book sounds the loudest warning against granting him a second term.

Suspecting the answer lay in understanding Trump’s base constituency, Dean has partnered with Bob Altemeyer, a professor of psychology whose expertise is the study of authoritarianism, to see why Trump’s base is so faithful to him, no matter what he does. Why do evangelical Christians support him, for example, despite his well-documented sexual predations? Why do so many working class Americans support him, despite the way he works against their interests? Why do facts and logic not change their minds?

This is the first book to take a deep dive into the psychology of Trump’s base: How do Trump’s communications campaigns continue to appeal to them, while taking actions so contrary to their economic, health and religious interests.  Why do his followers believe the flagrant lies about his record, despite so much proof to the contrary?  How do they continue to have faith in a man whose irrational words continue to contradict reality and who to this day warns them: “What you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”

Purchase “Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers”


John W. Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives, an associate director of a law reform commission, and an associate deputy attorney general at the US Department of Justice. His undergraduate studies were at Colgate University and the College of Wooster, with majors in English Literature and Political Science; then a graduate fellowship at American University to study government and the presidency before entering Georgetown University Law Center, where he received his JD with honors in 1965.

John recounted his days at the Nixon White House and Watergate in two books: Blind Ambition (1976) and Lost Honor (1982). After retiring from a business career as a private investment banker doing middle-market mergers and acquisitions, he returned to full-time writing and lecturing, including as a columnist for FindLaw’s Writ (from 2000 to 2010) and Justia’s Verdict (since 2010), and is currently working on his twelfth book about Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump’s election has resulted in renewed interest in (and sales of) John’s earlier New York Times best-sellers: Conservatives Without Conscience (2006), which explained the authoritarian direction of the conservative movement that resulted in Trump’s election a decade before it happened, and Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (2008), which addresses the consequences of GOP control of government. His most recent bestseller, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It is being developed by Amazon Studios into a feature film entitled “Watergate.”

John Dean held the Barry M. Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University (2015-16), and for the past decade and a half he has been a visiting scholar and lecturer at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications. John has been teaching a long-running continuing legal education (CLE) program series which examines the impact of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct on select historic events from Watergate with surprising results, along with the lasting impact of Watergate on the legal profession – The Watergate CLE. Since 2017 he has been a political/legal commentator for CNN, and currently is working on his twelfth book


Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin has served as a TV legal analyst since 1996, covering the OJ Simpson murder trial, Whitewater/Lewinsky investigation, Clinton impeachment proceedings, Gore v. Bush court challenges, and the Mueller Special Counsel investigation.

During his tenure in the U.S. Department of Justice, he held various senior positions, including:  Deputy Chief, Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section; Chief, Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Offices; and Special Counsel for Money Laundering Matters to Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller.

Mr. Zeldin served as the Deputy Independent/Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Mr. Zeldin also served as the Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, where he investigated the events surrounding the holding of the American hostages in Iran during the Carter presidency.

He has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.

He is an internationally recognized expert on money laundering, terrorist financing and economic sanctions.




Leave a Comment