DEAN JOINS CNBC TEAM…. If you happened to tune into CBNC this morning, you may have noticed an unexpected development: “Squawk Box” was co-hosted by none other than Howard Dean.

It was not, apparently, a one-time thing. Sources close to the former Vermont governor told Sam Stein that Dean will become a regular contributor to the business news network.

The move comes at a time when CNBC is under intense pressure to change its format and criticism for its failures to report or foresee much of today’s economic crisis. In this regard, Dean — who worked Wall Street after graduating college, has family ties to the financial sector, but was nevertheless been an early critic of the business practices that contributed to the current recession — should be a refreshing presence, particularly for progressive economists.

But the decision to bring the recently departed DNC Chair on board, the source says, was finalized well before the current wave of CNBC-angst. So while grassroots groups have sprouted up in recent weeks petitioning the network to make wholesale changes, Dean’s hiring can’t be viewed as a direct result of public pressure.

I don’t know if CNBC is just saying that or not. Either way, Dean is a welcome addition to the network.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.