Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8, 1971

We're in the Oval Office, and Nixon is meeting with John Ehrlichman. It's going to cover a lot of ground, with the Plumbers, the IRS, the Jews...all your favorite subjects.

The transcript here is partially provided by Kutler, and partially from the Miller Center (which also means that if you're curious you can click through and listen to the audio there). Ready?

Segment 1
President Nixon: Where does Krogh stand now? He's still in charge of the --
Ehrlichman: He's doing the (unintelligible) the narcotics thing. But he's also spending most of his time on the Ellsberg, declassifications, and the dirty tricks business on getting stuff out...

Segment 2
Echrlichman: We had one little operation. It's been aborted out in Los Angeles which, I think, is better that you don't know about. But we've got some dirty tricks underway. It may pay off...

Segment 3
President Nixon: John, but we have the power but are we using it to investigate contributors to Hubert Humphrey, contributors to Muskie, the Jews, you know, that are stealing every -- You know, they have really tried to crucify Ho[bart] Lewis, Rob[ert] Abplanalp, I mean, while we've been in office even.
Ehrlichman: I know.
President Nixon: And John Wayne...
President Nixon: You see, we have a new man over there. I know the other guy didn't do anything, but--
Ehrlichman: Oh, you mean at IRS?
President Nixon: Yeah!
Ehrlichman: Yeah.
President Nixon: Why are--are we going after their tax returns? I--you know what I mean? There's a lot of gold in them thar hills.
Ehrlichman: It worries people, [unclear]--
President Nixon: You remember in 1962, do you remember what they did to me in California? Now that was a crock. Those sons of bitches came out [unclear] and I find out they owe me more money, in fact, my returns had been so circumspect. I was furious. I don't know.
Ehrlichman: That's something I better talk to [John] Mitchell about. That fellow is Mitchell's guy.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Ehrlichman: And when I see Mitchell tomorrow or the next day, I'll take it up with him.
President Nixon: I can only hope that we are, frankly, doing a little persecuting. Right? We ought to persecute them [unclear] we can.
Ehrlichman: That's right.
President Nixon: And on the IRS, if you could—are we looking into [Senator Edmund] Muskie’s [D-Maine] returns? Does he have any? [Senator] Hubert's [Humphrey, D-Minnesota] been in a lot of funny deals.
Ehrlichman: Yes, he has.
President Nixon: [Senator Edward] Teddy [Kennedy]? Who knows about the Kennedys? Shouldn’t they be investigated?
Ehrlichman: [Unclear] personally. But IRS-wise, I don’t know the answer. Teddy, we are covering--
President Nixon: Are you?
Ehrlichman: --personally.
President Nixon: [Unclear.]
Ehrlichman: When he goes on holidays. When he stopped in Hawaii on his way back from Pakistan [unclear].
President Nixon: Did he do anything?
Ehrlichman: No. No, he’s very clean. Very clean.
President Nixon: He's being careful now.
Ehrlichman: Exactly. And he was in Hawaii on his own. He was staying at some guy’s villa. And we had a guy on him every night [unclear interjection by Nixon]. And he was just as nice as he could be the whole time.
President Nixon: The thing to do is just watch him, because what happens to fellows like that, who have that kind of problem, is that they go for quite a while and then they go [unclear].
Ehrlichman: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I’m hoping for.
President Nixon: I don’t think he would break really while he was, you know, trying for the big thing. Generally, they don’t. Although Jack [Kennedy] was damn careless.

A few things...Ehrlichman didn't, at this point, explain to Nixon what the aborted California operation had been and claimed that he had only told Nixon a year later. But Colson knew, and Emery believes that meant Nixon knew. As we shall see, Nixon didn't always let on that he already knew what his men did (or didn't tell him).

John Mitchell called all of this the "White House horrors" (or at least it's attributed to him). It's just worth stepping back and realizing, again, that this is the President of the United States along with (in this case) the second-ranking person on the White House staff...this is the guy in charge of domestic policy. At other times, it's the Chief of Staff or other senior White House officials. And, you know, this is what they're up to, right there in the Oval Office.

I'll also remind you that Nixon knows that the tapes are running, so make of that what you will (and recall that he repeatedly incriminated himself, so who knows if and to what extent he was careful about it), but the only other player in all of this who knows about the taping system was Haldeman.

And the final reminder: from this point on, Ehrlichman at least is certainly a felon (for authorizing the Fielding break-in), and there's every possibility that they all are already, here in September 1971.

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