Friday, August 17, 2012

August 16, 1972

One by one, the Committee to Re-elect staff has been visiting the Grand Jury; they also interviewed some White House staff, but not the top people. Haldeman's diary:


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Had a report from John Dean on the Watergate business, says that things went okay with Magruder, at an informal thing last night and then with the grand jury today. He was about two and half hours, came off okay with no surprise questions or any new evidence. They focused on me, apparently, in trying to get Jeb to tie me into the case somehow today, although last night they focused on Colson. John thinks that things are under reasonably good control there.

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Of course things are under reasonably good control. Dean is still being informed of exactly what the prosecutors are thinking, and every witness reports to him after leaving the grand jury. Before they go in, Dean prepares them, drilling them on the cover story that they need to stick to. Which, again, is that Liddy and Hunt were acting on their own; that they diverted moneys that they were supposed to use for legitimate purposes into the break-in.

I don't think I've ever told the story of Herbert Porter, have I? He worked for CRP, in the finance department, where he had been in charge of giving money to Liddy when Liddy needed it. Here's some of what he told the Senate Select Committee the following year:

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Q: Following the break-in at the Watergate, did you have a conversation with Mr. Jeb Magruder concerning any statements you might make to the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

A: I am not sure of the exact date, whether it was June 28 or the 29th. Mr. Magruder asked me to come into his office [...]

He said, "Now, Gordon [Liddy] was authorized money for some dirty tricks, nothing illegal," he said, but nonetheless, "things that could be very embarrassing to the President of the United States and to Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Haldeman and others. Now, your name was brought up as someone who we can count on to help in this situation." And I asked what is it you are asking me to do, and he said, "Would you corroborate a story that the money was authorized for something a little bit more legitimate-sounding than dirty tricks. Even though the dirty tricks were legal, it still would be very embarrassing."
[...]
...So I said, well, be specific, and he said, well, you were in charge of the surrogate campaign, you were very concerned about radical elements disrupting rallies and so forth, and I said yes, and he said suppose that we had authorized Liddy, instead of the dirty tricks, we had authorized him to infiltrate some of those radical groups.
[...]
He said, would you be willing, if I made that statement to the FBI, would you be willing to coorborate that when I came to you in December and asked you how much [such a surrogate operation] would costthat that is what you said? [...]

Q: Later, did you tell the FBI what Mr. Magruder asked you to tell them?

A: Yes, sir, I did.

Q: What did you tell the Federal grand jury?

A: The same thing.

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That was a key part of what Magruder now told the grand jury: that the campaign had authorized Liddy to spend money, but not on any of the Gemstone activities, but for a fictional security operation for Nixon surrogate events. That story, concocted soon after the arrests, accounted for Liddy's position at the Committee, for the money they spent on the operation, and for all the cash they were found with, all while keeping everyone about Liddy and Hunt in the clear.

All they needed was for everyone to perjure themselves, and for the testimony to be consistent, which is what John Dean spent much of the summer of 1972 coordinating. And by mid-August, it's all getting them exactly what they want.

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