Saturday, March 2, 2013

March 1, 1973

Patrick Gray has another long day before the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the bulk of the questions pressing him on Watergate and other Nixon Administration scandals. The bit that made headlines was about Martha Mitchell:


Senator Bayh. I have heard some things floating around and I would just as soon put this to rest, did you ever interview Mrs. Mitchell?

Mr. Gray. We endeavored to interview Mrs. Mitchell, but Mr. Mitchell said that Mrs. Mitchell's stories and the things that were in the press were not so and we were not going to interview Mrs. Mitchell. There was no need to interview Mrs. Mitchell and that was that.

Senator Bayh. Is it standard operating procedure — let's fii'st say that I am amused by some of the things that ]\Irs. Mitchell says and I think that she is quite a lady, and I do not ask this to embarrass her or anybody else — but is it customary in the process of the investigation of a matter involving a \dolation of the criminal law for a husband to be able to say that the FBI cannot inter\dew his wife? 

Mr. Gray. I do not know if that would be customary, but one of the things I have found in the FBI, Senator, is that the men and women of the FBI have an innate sense of courtesy, decency, and dignity, and I think that under those cu'cumstances this \yas appropriate. This man was a former Attorney General of the United States and I think we would have accorded that courtesy to any officer of the Government regardless of administration. It was just a matter of courtesy and I do not think, I cannot classify it as a normal procedure 
except for individuals of that type. But generally, we advise Senators and Members of Congress when we are going into any area where they are going to have a particular interest, so it is partly that innate sense of dignity, decency, and courtesy. 

Senator Bayh. Let me say that is a sort of double standard. I think you are sort of asking for trouble. If I may make an observation — well, I will not proceed with it. 


In the White House that morning, Nixon meets with John Dean about Gray's offer from the previous day to allow Congressional access to FBI Watergate files. Dean has spoken to Attorney General Kleindienst about it, and Kleindienst has told Gray to back up on that offer, and to say in the future that he'll check with the Attorney General. After which Nixon, to make a point about how presidents handle investigations, literally reads to Dean from Nixon's book, Six Crises, about the Hiss case.

Nixon then gets on the phone with the Attorney General, who reports that "everything is going fine" with Gray's testimony, except that "Pat might have gone a little bit farther than I would like to have him go with respect to the availability of FBI records to the Senate..." Nixon then brings up, yes, the Hiss case again, and Kleindienst proceeds to make clear his familiarity with the case and how impressed he was at Nixon's handling of it. 

Meanwhile, back at the hearing:


Senator Tunney. Mr. Gray, I have no reason in any way to doubt your integrity. I think that you have handled yourself here as a person who is speaking the truth. 

But one of the reasons that I feel strongly that we ought to have Mr. Dean come down and testify to the committee, and perhaps Mr. Colson, is that I am shocked, quite frankly, at the possibility that something that you, as Director of the FBI, send to the White House could be used by White House counselors to disseminate to a man like Segretti, or possibly to someone like Dita Beard or to the ITT. It seems to me that in any procedures in which these classified documents in the FBI are sent to a White House staffer for the purposes of briefing the President, they should remain completely confidential, and the situation in which there is a possibilitv that thev are disseminated wideh^ within the White House staff or dissemmated to third parties outside the White House is terrible. 


Nixon had known that he would have to fight with the Watergate Committee over whether the White House staff would have to testify. Now, suddenly, the fight is coming at an unexpected time and venue, and with (among other things) the fate of his FBI nominee possibly hanging in the balance.


  1. Oops -- didn't mean that as a response to our Anonymous friend.

    1. (Jeff's original comment):

      How times change. Imagine if it were Clinton or Obama people getting FBI files on a political scandal, then nominating the guy who gives them out to direct the agency, then having him admit to GOP legislators that he excused the administration's friends and family from FBI interviews out of "dignity." Articles of impeachment would already have been voted by now, and the trial would be starting Monday.

    2. Sorry about that...the system deletes responses to spam if I get rid of the spam.

      As to the substance:

      Part of how times change, of course, is that we now have the example of an impeachment-type scandal resulting in the removal of a president. They didn't!

      So, yes, true enough, but they did know it was a big deal, even if they didn't know right away how big a deal. On the evidence, it was possible that Gray was just a screw-up; they don't yet know the scale and the extent of the cover-up (and in fact, Gray and the FBI don't know, either). Dean, at this point, is still the guy who Nixon asked to investigate the case for him to make sure no WH people were involved -- no one knows that Dean himself attended meetings about authorizing Gemstone, or that Dean's actual job is not investigating but coordinating the cover-up.

    3. Thanks for reposting. I foresaw the spam / deletion problem and would have moved the thing myself, but the function that allows you to delete your own posts doesn't seem to be here anymore.

      Completely off-the-wall further thought, but your point about Dean's role makes me think that maybe Clinton should have explained to Dan Burton and those guys that he'd already had his White House counsel, Vince Foster, look into the Vince Foster suicide just to make sure there was nothing suspicious there. Wouldn't have shut them up, but then neither did anything else Clinton did.

  2. [A different Anonymous]

    Is it sad that I look forward to these Watergate posts more than the weekend?

    1. No. Although I suppose it depends on what your alternatives are for the weekend. Do you have obnoxious relatives visiting, or does your National Guard unit go on maneuvers or something? Then, definitely no. ;-)


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