Monday, January 14, 2013

January 13, 1973

Dean is keeping Haldeman up to date, as usual. They've been continuing to go back and forth on the plan to somehow use the (alleged) bugging of Nixon's campaign plane in 1968 to somehow derail the trial and the Senate investigation, which is now in the works; that's been taking up the last few days. Today, however, Dean's report to Haldeman is about something else. From Haldeman's diary:

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I had a report this afternoon from Dean on the Watergate. [...] McCord is off the reservation now, he had a meeting last night, he thinks he can get him back on, but he has a plan regarding calls he made in September and October. He thinks he can get a tainted evidence thing on it, because the calls were bugged by the government. He's playing a blackmail game where if I (McCord) fall, all, fall, but he has no hard evidence. That won't be settled for a while, but Dean thinks he can settle it. Apparently McCord was distressed at the judge's severity.

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Judge Sirica was known to give long sentences -- thus his nickname, "Maximum John." But as we have seen, McCord didn't want any jail time at all, and was also upset about efforts to blame the CIA for any of it. Again, the Nixon team puts a tremendous amount of stock in the idea that McCord's knowledge is second-hand. Is it because they just think that he won't be able to testify in court about it (overlooking the other damage he might do)? Is it because Watergate per se still doesn't really scare them as much -- and whatever McCord knows or suspects is limited, after all, to Watergate?

Oh, I suppose I should really explain about McCord's scheme. See, he figured that the government might be tapping his phone after the break-ins -- but he also figured that the government was tapping the embassies of Israel and Chile. So: in fall 1972 he called both embassies, from his home phone, saying that he was involved in Watergate and asking about visas. The idea was that during the trial he would demand that the government produce any wiretapped phone conversations, and that they would have to drop the charges against him in order to avoid admitting that they were bugging the embassies. As far as I can tell, nothing ever came of it, but it's a wonderful scheme.

But meanwhile, McCord is "off the reservation." Again, the big White House worries continue to be Hunt and Liddy (whose guilty knowledge, of course, goes way beyond the break-ins). And for now, with Hunt and Liddy accounted for, no one is panicking. Yet.

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