Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18, 1972

The California trip is over, and they're flying home. First, a little non-Watergate fun from Haldeman's Diary:


The P[resident] had Colson up for part of the flight and got into the [George] Wallace question with him [which is whether Wallace might still run as a third party candidate, and if not who if anyone he would endorse]. Colson's got a lot of input which indicates that some of Wallace's key people want $750,000 to keep their staff on through the election. That if we'll do that, they'll come out for Nixon. Wallace won't, but some of his people will, and the whole organization will work for us. So now we've got to figure out whose deal is for real and how to handle it.


Yeah, that's your President of the United States.

But as they arrive in Washington, it's Watergate:


John Dean called while we were en route home and said he had to meet with Ehrlichman and me immediately, so we waited on the plane and met with him for about an hour at the airport. He had been keeping us posted on his very real problems in the Watergate caper business. Flew out to California one day and met with the two of us. The problem now is that there is no way we can turn off the investigation and it's leading into the channels that we don't want it in. There's no way to avoid that. As of now, Dean feels that they are going to move on Magruder and that the only thing we can do is to have him take the rap that they'll hit him with [...] This is a real powder keg, I guess, and John's sitting on top of it. John Dean is trying to keep the lid on, but is not at all sanguine as to his ability to continue to do so.


Since things are starting up again, perhaps a bit of a review is in order. There are actually three cover-ups. The first one is a story that the five arrested men in the Watergate were acting totally on their own, with no connection to anyone. That, as we've seen, was a non-starter thanks to the monumental bungling for Liddy, Hunt, and the rest: using James McCord to begin with brings it right to the campaign, and then there's all the evidence that was picked up on the men and from the hotel rooms, especially the cash which clinched the connection.

Cover up number two are the efforts to "turn off" the investigation. That's (among other things) Liddy's plea to the Attorney General, the White House's plea to the acting direct of the FBI, and Haldeman and Ehrlichman's attempt (at Nixon's direction) to get the CIA to call off the FBI.

July is spent having that one fall apart in pieces, and the construction of the third cover-up -- the one that would eventually work until after the election. The problem was always the same: who was senior enough that it would be plausible that he (or they) could have done it, but without making it seem also likely that the White House senior staff and/or John Mitchell were involved. Partially because they themselves didn't want to go to jail; partially because implicating any of them might cost the election even if that was the end of it; and partially because if they were involved, then people would believe that the president was involved. And at the same time, they also have to manage to keep any of the White House horrors from being revealed, which is going to be tricky with Hunt and Liddy being investigated and prosecuted.

So: as of July 18, they're still playing with the idea of having Jeb Magruder, the deputy campaign director, take the fall.

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