The P had his press conference this morning, and over half of it was devoted to Watergate questions. He got into quite a discussion with me this afternoon about that, and his concern, which he's expressed continually, although tries to stay away from it with me, that we're in a bad position on Watergate. He keeps working with Dean every day on trying to develop ways of finding some statement that we can put out that shows that we're not just covering it up.
First question of the press conference:
Q. Mr. President, do you plan to stick by your decision not to allow Mr. Dean to testify before the Congress, even if it means the defeat of Mr. Gray's nomination?
THE PRESIDENT. I have noted some speculation to the effect that the Senate might hold Mr. Gray as hostage to a decision on Mr. Dean. I cannot believe that such responsible Members of the United States Senate would do that, because as far as I am concerned, my decision has been made.
I answered that question rather abruptly, you recall, the last time it was asked by one of the ladies of the press here. I did not mean to be abrupt, I simply meant to be firm.
Mr. Dean is Counsel to the White House. He is also one who was counsel to a number of people on the White House Staff. He has, in effect, what I would call a double privilege, the lawyer-client relationship, as well as the Presidential privilege.
And in terms of privilege, I think we could put it another way. I consider it my constitutional responsibility to defend the principle of separation of powers. I recognize that many Members of the Congress disagree with my interpretation of that responsibility.
But while we are talking on that subject-and I will go on at some length here because it may anticipate some of your other questions--I am very proud of the fact that in this Administration we have been more forthcoming in terms of the relationship between the executive, the White House, and the Congress, than any administration in my memory. We have not drawn a curtain down and said that there could be no information furnished by members of the White House Staff because of their special relationship to the President.
All we have said is that it must be under certain circumstances, certain guidelines, that do not infringe upon or impair the separation of powers that are so essential to the survival of our system. [...]
And the other Watergate questions...
Q. Mr. President, would you then be willing to have Mr. Dean sit down informally and let some of the Senators question him, as they have with Dr. Kissinger?
Q. Mr. President, are you concerned, sir, that any of the confidential FBI interviews that were conducted in their Watergate investigation were in any way compromised by Pat Gray's having given information to John Dean or talked with John Ehrlichman or others?
Q. Mr. President, one of the revelations made by Mr. Gray during the course of the hearings has been that Mr. [Herbert W.] Kalmbach was involved with Mr. [Dwight L.] Chapin in the hiring of Mr. [Donald H.] Segretti for amounts up to $40,000. Can you tell us, sir, did you know of that relationship, and did you know of that transaction, and if not, can you tell us your opinion of it now that it has been revealed by Mr Gray?
Q. Mr. President, does your offer to cooperate with the Ervin committee include the possibility that you would allow your aides to testify before his committee? And if it does not, would you be willing to comply with a court order, if Ervin went to court to get one, that required some testimony from White House aides?
Q. Mr. President, isn't there an essential difference really between your investigation of the Hiss case and the request of this subcommittee to Mr. Dean to appear? In the former, foreign affairs was involved and possibly security matters, where here they only wish to question Mr. Dean about the breaking into the Watergate?
Q. Mr. President, you have talked about the responsibility within the White House and the responsibility between Congress and the White House. Where do you feel your responsibility for the Committee to Re-Elect the President begins and ends, Mr. Mitchell or any other people who were working for them?
There's not much in the answers, just the same points he's already made about privilege. He mainly won't answer things that are before the Ervin Committee or the courts...there aren't a lot of specifics in his answers. Mostly, the press conference is a good indication that for the press corps, at least, Watergate is now a major story. And one, as Nixon tells Haldeman, that they're in a "bad position" on.