John Dean, with the President of the United States. Haldeman is there at the beginning, but leaves sometime after the first segment below. (Comments between segments in brackets are from me).
HALDEMAN: Why has there never been [unintelligible] come up and did it before?
PRESIDENT: Just wasn't enough stuff. They couldn't get anybody to pay any attention. For example,
the investigations were supposed to have been taken for the thirty-four million-oddcontributed to McGovern in small Oh Christ, there's a lot of hanky-panky in there, andthe records used on it are just too bad to find out anything.
DEAN: That's one of the problems that he has--
PRESIDENT: That's the problem, and can that be an issue?
DEAN: That will be an issue. That we have -There is a crew working that, also.
PRESIDENT: Do you need any IRS [unintelligible] stuff?
DEAN: Uh Not at the [...] Uh, there is no need at this hour for anything from IRS, and we have a couple of sources over there that I can go to. I don't have to fool around with Johnnie Walters or anybody, we can get
right in and get what we need.
PRESIDENT: Talk to Elliot Gompers [phonetic].
[On the Gray fiasco]
DEAN: There is also the question of Dean appearing, not appearing -Dean's role..There was more stories in the Post this morning that are absolutely inaccurate, Uh, about my turning information over to the Re-election Committee for uh, uh -some woman over there, Mrs. Hoback, signed an affidavit, gave it to Birch Bayh, said that I was, uh, brought into Mardian's, Bob Mardian's office within forty-eight hours after a private interview I had with the Bureau, and confronted with it.
[Nixon has a press conference scheduled]
PRESIDENT: Yeah. Well, now, with regard to the questions, and so forth, sure, uh, it would be my opinion, though, not to, not to dodge it just because there are going to be questions.
DEAN: Well, it's going to be -You're probably going to get more questions this week. And the tough questions. And some of them don't have easy answers. For example, did Haldeman know that, uh, there was a Don Segretti out there? That question is, is likely.
PRESIDENT: Did he? I don't know.
DEAN: He had, he had knowledge that there was somebody in the field doing prankster-type activities.
PRESIDENT: Uh huh.
DEAN: Uh --
PRESIDENT: So I don't know that. [Unintelligible]
PRESIDENT: [...] and, and talk on other issues because they're going to be, they're embarrassing. It's not going to get better. It's going to get worse. Do you agree?
DEAN: That's--I would agree. I think it's cyclic somewhat. I think after the Gray thing takes one course one way or the other, there'll be a dead period of news on Watergate until the Ervin hearings start again.
DEAN: Uh, this has obviously sparked the news again.
PRESIDENT: Well, let me just, just run over the questions again. Now, isn't it best, "What about Mr. Haldeman, Mr. Segretti, and so forth." "That's a matter which is being considered by a Senate committee; I'm not going to comment on it." That's true, isn't it?
DEAN: That's correct.
[Nixon loves the idea, and returns to it often, that they can "let it all hang out" -- disclose everything -- only to realize, every time, that it's not a realistic option]
PRESIDENT: See, that's what I do. My feeling, John, is that I better hit it now, frankly, as tough as it is, and, uh, rather than just let it build up to where we, we're afraid of these questions and everybody and so forth, and let Ziegler get out there and bob and weave around. I know the easier thing is just to bug out, but I'd rather hit it now.
DEAN: You're right. I was afraid for the sake of debate, 'cause I was having reservations. And, uh,
PRESIDENT: I think so.
DEAN: uh, it is a, it, it's a bullet-biter and you just got to do it, and, because they're not going to go away, the questions. Now the other thing that we talked about in the past, and I, I still have the same problem, is to have sort of a "Well, here it all is" approach. Uh, if we do that -
PRESIDENT: And let it all hang out.
DEAN: And let it all hang out, uh,
DEAN: uh, let's say with the Segretti situation -
PRESIDENT: I guess, I guess if we were going to do that, we have passed that point.
DEAN: We have passed that point plus the fact, they're not going to believe the truth. That's the incredible thing.
PRESIDENT: They won't believe the truth, they don't even believe when they convicted seven people.
DEAN: That's right. They will continually try to say that there is [unintelligible]
PRESIDENT: They'll say, "Haldeman did it." And then they'll say I did it.
DEAN: That's right.
[They consider the Watergate Committee hearings]
DEAN: [Herb Kalmbach] He'll be good. He's going over every -Herb is the kind of guy who will check, not once, not twice, on his story, not three times, but probably fifty to a hundred times. Literally. He will go over it. He will know it. There won't be a hole in it. He'll have thought it he, he'll do his own Q. and A. He'll be have people cross-examine him from ten ways.
DEAN: He will be ready, as John Mitchell will be ready, as Maury Stans will be ready.
DEAN: Uh, it's uh --
PRESIDENT: Mitchell is now studying, is he?
DEAN: He is studying., Sloan will be the.worst witness. I think Magruder will be a good witness. This fellow, Bart Porter, will be a good witness. They've already been through it, they've been through Grand Jury. They have been through trial. Uh, they did well. [Coughs] And then, of course, people around here
PRESIDENT: I [unintelligible]
DEAN: won't be witnesses.
PRESIDENT: They won't be witnesses.
DEAN: Won't be witnesses.
PRESIDENT: Hell, no. They will make statements. That's -That'll be the line which I think we've got to get across to Ziegler, in all of his briefings where he is constantly saying we will furnish information. That is not the question. It is how it's to be furnished, and we will not furnish it in a formal session. That would be to break down the privilege. Period. Do you agree with that?
DEAN: I agree. I agree.
[They turn to the trial]
PRESIDENT: [...] Well, what about.the sentencing. When the hell is he going to sentence?
DEAN: We thought he was going to sentence last Friday. Uh,
PRESIDENT: I know; you've said that.
DEAN: no one knows what in the world Sirica is doing. It's getting to be a long time now. It frankly is.
DEAN: And no one really has a good estimation of how he will sentence. There's some feeling that he will sentence Liddy the heaviest. Liddy's already in jail; he's in Danbury. He wants, he wanted to start serving so he can get good time going. Uh, but Hunt, he'll probably be very fair with.
PRESIDENT: Why? Why Hunt?
DEAN: He likes Hunt. He liked Hunt. He thought Hunt was being open with him and candid, and Hunt gave a statement in open court that he didn't know of any higher-ups involved and, and, uh, Hunt didn't put him through the rigors of trial, And Hunt was a beaten man, the loss of his wife, uh, was ill, they tried to move
and have a, him severed from the trial. And Hunt didn't cause a lot of problems.Bittman was cooperative, uh. Whereas Liddy played the, played the heavy in the trial. His lawyer raised all the objections and the like, and embarrassed, uh, the judge for some in-chambers things he'd said, and --
PRESIDENT: But Liddy's going to appeal the sentence?
DEAN: Liddy is going to appeal the decision,uh, the trial. He will appeal, appeal that.
PRESIDENT: He will appeal the trial?
DEAN: Trial -And there's --
PRESIDENT: He was convicted.
DEAN: There is an outside chance that this man has gone, this judge has gone so far in his zeal to be a special prosecutor --
PRESIDENT: Well, some of those statements from the bench --
DEAN: Incredible statements.
PRESIDENT: To me, to me, incredible.
DEAN: Commenting on witnesses' testimony before the jury, was just incredible. Incredible. So he may have, there may be a mistrial. I don't There may be reversible error, even. I don't know.
PRESIDENT: What about the Cubans?
DEAN: The Cubans will probably be thought of as hired hands, and nowhere near the sentences of Liddy, I would think. Uh, not all of them. Barker, uh, the lead Cuban, may get more than the others. It's hard to say. I, you know, I just don't have any idea. Sirica's a strange man. He is known as a hanging judge. Uh --
PRESIDENT: That's the kind that I want.
DEAN: That's right. [Laughs]
[And now a very long segment, which starts with the Ervin Committee, but gets into the key questions of responsibility for and prior knowledge of the break-in]
DEAN: Well, I think it'll -I, I, you know, I think after the Ervin hearings, they are going to find so much there will be some new revelations. Uh, I don't think that, uh, the thing will get out of hand. I have no reason to believe it will.
PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, there'll be the revelations in, in Watergate. They, they [unintelligible]? That's the point.
DEAN: Well, they want to, they want to find out who --
PRESIDENT: who -is there a higher-up?
DEAN: Is there a higher up?
PRESIDENT: They're really, let's face it, after, I think they are really after, uh, Haldeman.
DEAN: Haldeman and Mitchell.
PRESIDENT: Mitchell -I mean, Colson is not a big enough name for them. He really isn't. You know, he is a thorn in their side, but Colson's name bothers them none. So they get Colson. They're after Haldeman and after Mitchell. Don't you think so?
DEAN: That's right. Or I bet they'd take Ehrlichman if they could drag him in but they've been unable to drag him in in any way.
PRESIDENT: Ultimately, uh, Haldeman, uh, Haldeman"s problem is Chapin, isn't it?
DEAN: Bob's problem is, is circumstantial.
PRESIDENT: What I meant is, looking at the circumstantial, I don't know that [unintelligible]. On top of that, Bob had nothing,-didn’t know any of those people, like the Hunts and all that bunch. Colson did. But, uh, Bob, Bob did know Chapin.
DEAN: That's right.
PRESIDENT: Now, what -Now however the hell much Chapin knew I'll be God damned, I don't know.
DEAN: Well, Chapin didn't-know anything about the Watergate, and -
PRESIDENT: You don't think so?
DEAN: No. Absolutely not.
PRESIDENT: Did Strachan?
PRESIDENT: He knew?
PRESIDENT: About the Watergate?
PRESIDENT: Well, then, Bob knew. He probably told Bob, then. He may not have. He may not have.
DEAN: He was, he was judicious in what he, in what he relayed, and, uh, but Strachan is as tough as nails. I --
PRESIDENT: What'll he say? Just go in and say he didn't know?
DEAN: He'll go in and stonewall it and say, "I don't know anything about what you are talking about." He has already done it twice, as you know, in interviews.
PRESIDENT: Yeah. I guess he should, shouldn't he, in the interests of -Why? I suppose we can’t call that justice, can we? We can't call it [unintelligible]
DEAN: Well, it, it
PRESIDENT: The point is, how do you justify that?
DEAN: It’s a, it's a personal loyalty with him. He doesn't want it any other way. He didn't have to be told. He didn't have to be asked. It just is something that he found is the way he wanted to handle the situation.
PRESIDENT: But he knew? He knew about Watergate? Strachan did?
DEAN: Uh huh.
PRESIDENT: I’ll be damned. Well, that’s the problem in Bob's case, isn't it. It's not Chapin then, but Strachan. ‘Cause Strachan worked for him.
DEAN: Uh huh. They would have one hell of a time proving that Strachan had knowledge of it, though.
PRESIDENT: Who knew better? Magruder?
DEAN: Well, Magruder and Liddy.
PRESIDENT: Ah -I see. The other weak link for Bob is Magruder, too. He having hired him and so forth.
DEAN: That's applies to Mitchell, too.
PRESIDENT: Mitchell--Magruder. Now, where do you see Colson coming into it? Do you think he knew,
knew quite a bit, I can't I can!t -yet he could know a great deal about a lot of other things and not a hell of a lot about this, but I don't know.
DEAN: Well, I've never --
PRESIDENT: He sure as hell knows Hunt. That we know. And was very close to him.
DEAN: Chuck has told me that he had no knowledge, uh, specific knowledge, of the Watergate incident before it occurred. Uh, there have been tidbits, that I have raised with Chuck, I have not played any games with him, I said, "Chuck, I have indications -"
PRESIDENT: Don't play games.
DEAN: I don't. --I --
PRESIDENT: You’ve got to be -the lawyer has got to know everything,
DEAN: That's right. And I said, "Chuck, people have said that you were involved in this, involved in that, involved in this." And he said, "I -that's not true," and so on and so forth. Uh, I don't, I think that Chuck had
knowledge that something was going on over there. A lot of people around here had knowledge that something was going on over there They didn't have any knowledge of the details of the specifics of, of the
PRESIDENT: You know, that must, must be an indication, though, of the fact that, that they had God
damn poor pickings. Because naturally anybody, either Chuck or Bob, uh, was always reporting to me about what was going on. If they ever got any information they would certainly have told me that we got some
information, but they never had a God damn [laughs] thing to report. What was the matter? Did they never get anything out of the damn thing?
DEAN: No. I don't think they ever got anything.
PRESIDENT: It was a dry hole, huh?
DEAN: That's right.
PRESIDENT: Jesus Christ.
DEAN: Well, they were just really getting started.
PRESIDENT: Yeah. Yeah. But, uh, Bob one time said something about the fact we got some information about this or that or the other, but, I, I think it was about the Convention, what they were planning, I said
[unintelligible]. So I assume that must have been MacGregor, I mean not MacGregor, but Segretti.
PRESIDENT: Bob must have known about Segretti.
DEAN: Well, I -Segretti.really wasn't involved in the intelligence-gathering to speak of at all.
PRESIDENT: Oh, he wasn't?
DEAN: No, he wasn't, he was out just, he was out--
PRESIDENT: Who the hell was gathering intelligence?
DEAN: That was Liddy and his, his outfit.
PRESIDENT: I see. Apart from Watergate?
DEAN: That's, well, that's right. That was part of their whole -Watergate was part of intelligence-gathering, and this
PRESIDENT: Well, that's a perfectly legitimate thing. I guess that's what it was.
DEAN: What happened is they --
PRESIDENT: What a stupid thing. Pointless. That was the stupid thing.
DEAN: That was incredible. That's right. That's right.
PRESIDENT: [Unintelligible] to think that Mitchell and Bob would allow, would have allowed this
kind of operation to be in the Committee.
DEAN: I don’t think he knew it was there.
PRESIDENT: You kidding?
DEAN: I don't --
PRESIDENT: You don't think Mitchell knew about this thing?
DEAN: Oh, no, no, no. Don't mis-I don't think he knew that people -I think he knew that Liddy
was out intelligence gathering.
DEAN: I don't think he knew that Liddy would use a fellow like McCord, for God's sake, who worked for the Committee. I canit believe that. Uh, you know, that --
PRESIDENT: Hunt? Did Mitchell know Hunt?
DEAN: I don't think Mitchell knew about Hunt either.
PRESIDENT: So Mitchell's thing is [unintelligible] said, "Gee, and I hired this fellow and I told him to gather intelligence, but I –“Maybe [unintelligible).
DEAN: That's right.
PRESIDENT: Magruder says the same thing?
DEAN: Magruder says that -as he did in the trial -he said, it was, uh, --"Well, of course, my name has been dragged in as the guy who sent Liddy over there," which is an interesting thing.
[That is, Dean is the one who sent Liddy over to the committee]
PRESIDENT: Uh, is it too late to, to, frankly, go the hang-out road? Yes, it is.
DEAN: I think it is. I think -Here's the -The hang-out road --
PRESIDENT: The hang-out road's going to have to be rejected. I, some, I understand it was rejected.
DEAN: It was kicked around. Bob and I and, and, and --
PRESIDENT: I know Ehrlichman always felt that it should be hang-out. [Unintelligible]
DEAN: Well, I think I convinced him why that he wouldn't want to hang-out either. There is a certain domino situation here. If some things start going, a lot of other things are going to start going, and there are
going to be a lot of problems if everything starts falling. So there are dangers, Mr. President. I'd be less than candid if I didn't tell you the -there are. There's a reason for us not -not everyone going up and testifying.
PRESIDENT: I see. Oh no, no, no, no, no. I didn't mean go up and have them testifying. I meant --
DEAN: Well I mean just, they're just starting to hang-out and say here's our, here's our story --
PRESIDENT: I mean putting the story out to PR buddies somewhere. Here's the story, the true story
about Watergate. [Unintelligible)
DEAN: They would never believe it.
[And one more reminder that it's not just Watergate they need to worry about]
DEAN: Well, now, let me.tell you something that's -lurks at the bottom of this whole thing.
DEAN: If, in going after Segretti, I -Segretti, right -they go after Ka1mbach's bank records, you'll recall that sometime back -maybe you, you perhaps didn't know about this, it's very possible -that right after
Chappaquiddick somebody was put up there to start observing. Within six hours.
PRESIDENT: Did we?
DEAN: That's right
PRESIDENT: I didn't know that.
DEAN: That man watched that -he was there for every second of Chappaquiddick, uh, for a year, and almost two years he worked for, uh, he worked for Jack Caulfield, who was originally on John --
PRESIDENT: Oh, I heard of Caulfield, yeah.
There's a ton here, obviously, and I'm not going to comment on it, other than one important reminder: Nixon frequently feigned ignorance of things his staff were telling him; that's certainly the case with the "news" that Haldeman's aide Gordan Strachan was getting information from the taps at the Watergate (although that turns out to be complicated; there was other information coming in from other sources which the White House incorrectly believed, before and after the arrests, was from the DNC taps).