P had his press conference today. Went very well. He had 15 questions, 8 of them were political, 4 on Vietnam, 2 a sort of a combination Vietnam/political. One on foreign policy and none on domestic policy.
Yes, Nixon faced the press. And here's what happened (see here for the full transcript; there's a bit more about Watergate, but this is the main one):
[2.] Q. Mr. President, wouldn't it be a good idea for a special prosecutor, even from your standpoint, to be appointed to investigate the contribution situation and also the Watergate case?
THE PRESIDENT. With regard to who is investigating it now, I think it would be well to notice that the FBI is conducting a full field investigation. The Department of Justice, of course, is in charge of the prosecution and presenting the matter to the grand jury. The Senate Banking and Currency Committee is conducting an investigation. The Government Accounting Office, an independent agency, is conducting an investigation of those aspects which involve the campaign spending law. Now, with all of these investigations that are being conducted, I don't believe that adding another special prosecutor would serve any useful purpose.
The other point that I should make is that these investigations, the investigation by the GAG, the investigation by the FBI, by the Department of Justice, have, at my direction, had the total cooperation of the--not only the White House--but also of all agencies of the Government. In addition to that, within our own staff, under my direction, Counsel to the President, Mr. Dean, has conducted a complete investigation of all leads which might involve any present members of the White House Staff or anybody in the Government. I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one in the White House Staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.
At the same time, the committee itself is conducting its own investigation, independent of the rest, because the committee desires to clear the air and to be sure that as far as any people who have responsibility for this campaign are concerned, that there is nothing that hangs over them. Before Mr. Mitchell left as campaign chairman he had employed a very good law firm with investigatory experience to look into the matter. Mr. MacGregor has continued that investigation and is continuing it now. I will say in that respect that anyone on the campaign committee, Mr. MacGregor has assured me, who does not cooperate with the investigation or anyone against whom charges are leveled where there is a prima facie case that those charges might indicate involvement will be discharged immediately. That, of course, will be true also of anybody in the Government. I think under these circumstances we are doing everything we can to take this incident and to investigate it and not to cover it up. What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up. I would say that here we are, with control of the agencies of the Government and presumably with control of the investigatory agencies of the Government, with the exception of the GAG which is independent. We have cooperated completely. We have indicated that we want all the facts brought out and that as far as any people who are guilty are concerned, they should be prosecuted.
This kind of activity, as I have often indicated, has no place whatever in our political process. We want the air cleared. We want it cleared as soon as possible.
Of course, this is a pack of lies. It is certainly not true that the various investigations have the "full cooperation" of the White House. It is certainly not true that Nixon has tried to make sure that " as far as any people who are guilty are concerned, they should be prosecuted" -- he certainly believes that Jeb Magruder is guilty, almost certainly believes that John Mitchell is guilty, probably knows that John Dean is guilty, and may believe that Haldeman and perhaps Colson are guilty of specifically Watergate crimes, as well as Colson and Ehrlichman for related crimes. Oh, and perhaps himself, too, although we don't know that part. That's of the crimes; he certainly knows there's a cover-up, that John Dean is running it and reporting to Bob Haldeman, who reports regularly to Nixon about the perjury, the hush money, and more.
But none of that is especially new, or particularly noteworthy, other than having Nixon on record about it. What is new and extremely noteworthy was that part about Dean. "In addition to that, within our own staff, under my direction, Counsel to the President, Mr. Dean, has conducted a complete investigation of all leads which might involve any present members of the White House Staff or anybody in the Government. I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one in the White House Staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident."
That was a complete fiction, and a fiction that would contribute to trapping them all, down the line. For now, just note it. Dean "has conducted" -- past tense -- and investigation. Where does that put John Dean -- who, Emery tells us, nearly fell off the bed when he heard it. Nor would it be the last time he would hear about the Dean Report; Nixon now started periodically pushing for a (backdated, obviously) report which would "prove" that the White House had done a thorough investigation. Certainly it wasn't something that Dean wanted to put his own name on. And yet, the whole world, or at least the White House press corps, "knew" that there was a Dean Report.
Meanwhile, back to Haldeman's diary to finish off the day:
We also settled on a basic strategy for the time being on the release of the investigation internally of the Watergate caper.
The Gallup poll is out today, with Nixon up 64/30, the highest we've ever been.
So re-election couldn't be safer. But it's far, far too late for them to extricate themselves from Watergate in the long run, even as the pre-election threat continues to fade.