Nixon returned to Key Biscayne.
Haldeman spoke with Nixon at least twice that day, with one call, according to Haldeman, certainly about Watergate at least in part. Nixon also spoke with Colson twice. But there's no tape on those phones, so we have unreliable reports about what was said. Whatever Nixon's involvement that day, Haldeman had switched into high gear: the cover-up was on, and he was coordinating it for the White House.
The big flap over the weekend has been news reported to me last night, then followed up with further information today, that a group of five people had been caught breaking into the Democratic headquarters. Actually to plant bugs and photograph material.
It turns out there was a direct connection and Ehrlichman was very concerned about the whole thing. I talked to Magruder this morning, at Ehrlichman's suggestion, because he was afraid the statement that Mitchell was about to release was not a good one from our viewpoint. Magruder said that we plan to release the statement as soon as the fact that the Committee is involved is uncovered, which it now has been. It says that we've just learned that someone identified as an employee of the Committee was one of those arrested. He runs a private security agency and was employed to install the system of security at the headquarters. He has a number of clients. He's not operating on our behalf or with our consent. We have our own security problems, not as dramatic as this but of a serious nature to us. We don't know if they're related but there's no place for this in a campaign. We would not permit or condone such a thing.
The real problem is whether anything is traceable to Gordon Liddy. He [Liddy] says no, but Magruder is not too confident of that. They were thinking of getting [campaign staffer, formerly at Justice with Mitchell, Robert] Mardian back to Washington (Mitchell, Mardian, Magruder, and [campaign staffer Fred] LaRue are out in California) to keep an eye on Liddy.
They think that McCord, our security guy, will be okay, but he's concerned about Liddy because of his lack of judgement and reliability. He's also concerned that two or three others are implicated. Apparently there's some cash and Magruder thought it was the DNC's, but it turns out it was ours.
I talked to Ehrlichman after that and he thinks the statement is okay and we should get it out. I talked to Colson to tell him to keep quiet. It turned out that one of the people was on our payroll until April 1. A guy named Howard Hunt, who was the guy Colson was using on some of his Pentagon Papers and other research type stuff. Colson agreed to stay out of it and I think maybe he really will. I don't think he is actually involved, so that helps. So far the P is not aware of all this, unless he read something in the paper, but he didn't mention it to me.
That last bit is odd, because Haldeman says in his (earlier) book that they did talk about Watergate.
Haldeman was not a lawyer. But most of the others involved here were, the president of course included. And, as would be the case I suppose long past the bitter end, they held information that the FBI did not know, and obviously the last thing to cross their mind was to do their professional duty and report what they knew.
And that's really the story of the first 48 hours -- cover-up was immediate, and immediately extended throughout the White House and the campaign.
The FBI, meanwhile, have discovered the Howard Johnson's connection, and that leads them right to Al Baldwin, thanks to call records from that room; Baldwin is in Connecticut, and the lawyer he finds is a Democrat who soon talks to -- of all people -- Larry O'Brien.
I didn't mention one other key player yet. White House Counsel John Dean, on Saturday the 17th, had actually been out of the country altogether. On the 18th, he returned from the Philippines to San Francisco, checked in with his deputy, and rushed back to Washington. Haldeman and Ehrlichman had agreed, by that point, to turn over the day-to-day management of the case to Dean.