Monday, July 2, 2012

June 30, 1972

(Sorry to be a bit late on this one)

Press Secretary Ron Ziegler tells the president that there's a new story in the press: that a gun and a map of the Democratic headquarters were found in Hunt's White House desk.


Ziegler: "Now, I've talked with Dean. The FBI is going to make an official statement on this thing and Dean -
President Nixon: What is he going to say?
Ziegler: Told me that the story's inaccurate.


That's a conversation with the two of them, with a time stamp of 3:18 to 3:24 PM. At 3:28, the president meets with his chief of staff:


President Nixon: Well, they've reportedly found a gun in somebody's vault.
Haldeman: That's apparently leaked out of the Bureau, which we're --
President Nixon: Well, the Bureau says that's not true...
Haldeman: The only thing that's not true is that it wasn't made in Spain. They said it was a Spanish-made gun.


So: the FBI is leaking to the press, while at the same time playing along with the story that John Dean is co-ordinating. But they're leaking because they're not happy:


President Nixon: But I understood, thought, that on that Bureau thing, though, that they were to watch, they were to keep up with this guy, you know what I mean?
Haldeman: That's what they were told. They aren't.
President Nixon: Huh?
Haldeman: They aren't. We're having problems with the Bureau. That's what we were talking about with Dean and Mitchell before our meeting with you.
President Nixon: I see. You mean, despite what you've told -- despite [CIA deputy director Vernon] Walters going over there?
Haldeman: Gray doesn't know how to turn them off and neither does Felt. They're concerned about how to do it, get the record clear, and all this sort of stuff.
President Nixon: Well, incidentally, there's the -- 
Haldeman: Kleindienst hadn't turned off Justice, either, which is another problem.
President Nixon: Huh?
Haldeman: The U.S. Attorney and his criminal head [Henry Peterson] are both pushing forward, and we've got to -- we'll work it out. We've got to somehow get Kleindienst to tell them. 
President Nixon: Well, I'd have Walters go see them, too. 

Nixon and Haldeman then meet with Clark MacGregor, the outsider who is going to be the new chair of the Committee to Re-elect with John Mitchell resigning (with a statement going out that Mitchell was resigning for family reasons, which was in fact partially true). The meeting is a truly astonishing performance, with Nixon feigning ignorance of who Hunt is ("The White House thing, I mean, this fellow, what's his name, Hunt?"), Haldeman feeding MacGregor a fanciful line about what Hunt did at the White House ("the narcotics stuff...working with Krogh's office on the drug stuff"), and Haldeman bringing up Liddy with Nixon assuring MacGregor that they don't know whether Liddy was involved in Watergate. 

And then as soon as MacGregor leaves, they go back to plotting:


Haldeman: I told him about the Liddy thing because he's going to find out right away anyway [...] What we [presumably a reference to the Haldeman, Mitchell, Dean meeting he alluded to earlier] were talking about is trying to -- we're going to write a scenario -- in fact, we're going to have Liddy write it -- which brings all of the loose ends that might lead anywhere at all to him.


Haldeman then lays out the story that they're concocting that puts all the blame on Liddy. It's plausible enough (but of course both men know it's untrue) that Liddy might have acted without authorization. The problem has been how Liddy had all of that Committee money if it wasn't authorized, and the story has an explanation for that: that Liddy was supposed to be returning the key check but had instead diverted it to himself for the operation. 

The president asks of Liddy: "What does he get out of it?" Haldeman replies: "Not too much. They don't think it will be any big problem. Whatever it is, we'll take care of him." And then later in the conversation:


Haldeman: If he [Liddy] gets hung on it, we'll wait a discreet interval and pardon him.
President Nixon: You don't want to pardon him now.
Haldeman: After the election.
President Nixon: Sure. Let me tell you something interesting [which leads him  to a story about Bobby Baker and LBJ]


There's a lot more that is happening, but I'll leave it inside the Oval Office for now. Just one more thing; all of the above is from the Kutler edition of the tapes, but Emery has one other quote that doesn't show up for some reason in the Kutler transcript; when they're talking about the failure to "turn off" the investigation, Nixon says: "I'm not at all sure if Mitchell shouldn't call Kleindienst and Gray and halt investigation."

Remember, Nixon for many months later would deny he had anything to do with or any knowledge of the cover-up, and only with the release of the smoking gun tape in August 1974 was that clearly proven to be a lie. The tapes quoted above, along with almost everything except the smoking gun tape from post-June 17, were not released until 1993. 

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