Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 16, 1973

Still in limbo waiting for sentencing, Howard Hunt now arranges a meeting with Paul O'Brien, a CRP lawyer. Emery explains what happens next:

Hunt was brusque. The "commitments" were not being met. Before he went to jail, Hunted wanted his legal fees of $60,000 settled, plus two years' salary, a further $70,000 -- $130,000 in all, according to O'Brien. (Apparently, Hunt was anticipating clemency after two years in jail). Hunt told O'Brien to pass the demand to Dean with the message that unless the funds were supplied by close of business on March 21, he might have to review his options. Hunt mentioned Ehrlichman in saying there were some "seamy" things he had done for the White House.
Hunt also passes along his threat to Colson through Colson's law firm. When Dean gets the message, he's furious, and his first reaction is tell O'Brien that "Hunt can shove it up his ass!" And at any rate, Dean says, it's Mitchell's problem to deal with.

Before Dean gets involved in that, however, he's still meeting most days with the president.*

Early in the conversation we get an explicit statement that "there was no" Dean report:


Nixon: Oh, incidentally, you raised the question yesterday, that [unclear] and Moore [unclear] to do. You said, “suppose they follow it up and say ‘would you give us a copy of the Dean report?’” There was no—

Dean: There was no report. They’re all—

Nixon: I would say “it was purely an oral thing. There is no written report. He’ll be glad to give you a summary of his findings.” See my point?



They then cover the Watergate Committee, where they're concerned that Howard Baker is "off the reservation" -- that is, he's going to be independent and not a White House lackey. They're also concerned that majority counsel Sam Dash "runs circles around" Fred Thompson, the minority counsel. Next, they're still plotting to get the Ervin Committee to get into alleged Democratic campaign misdeeds during the 1960s, a pipe dream that Nixon also keeps pushing, at least in code, in his public statements (including that press conference yesterday).

Then on to general strategy. I'm not sure I've seen before quite as explicit a separate from Nixon between himself and his staff, if I'm interpreting this correctly:


Nixon: But you see my point. But let me say we’ve got to forget some of the problems it may raise for other people. But you’ve got always to think in terms of the presidency and the President should not appear to be hiding and not be forthcoming. Do you know what I mean?

Dean: Right.

Nixon: That’s why I want to emphasize the fact that, in our refusal to let you and others testify, I am not refusing to furnish information. That should be the line. You see, that should be the line, we really furnish
information. Right? On the proper term. Do you agree?

Dean: Hmm.

Nixon: The problem is the cover-up, not the facts. The facts are not that bad.

Dean: It ought to be limited to Watergate, and Segretti, which are the two things in their mandate.

Nixon: That’s right.


Dean brings up an idea he's had to give a more complete statement to the press or the Ervin Committee in order to fight charges of cover-up, and Nixon offers Camp David to him if he wants some time to work on it.

Later, they speak on the phone, with Dean telling the president he's just heard that Sirica has now scheduled sentencing for March 23. Dean is also a lot cooler on the idea of writing a statement:

I had a—I had a long conversation with Dick Moore just this evening. I just arrived home and Dick and I really have been talking all this time about—

Nixon: Sure.

Dean: —this whole thing, and there is a degree of impossibility in writing a sort of let’s-hang-it-all-out report without creating problems that would open up a new grand jury—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Dean: —without creating problems that would cause difficulty for some who’ve already testified.

Nixon: Um-hmm.


That's the old problem that there's just no way for them to move responsibility beyond Hunt and Liddy without cascading the whole thing, and it's even worse now because of perjury and obstruction of justice to hold it at that level. As they continue to discuss some sort of public statement meant to show they're not covering up, Dean is also moving towards the famous March 21 conversation.


Nixon: But, simply saying, “Well, the President has finally said, ‘Now, that it’s over this is it.’ And the—after this is over we can now say that this person—these people were not involved, and et cetera; these were, and—And, I don’t know. But at least think, think in those terms to see if something could be worked out. In very general terms, I realize the problems of getting too specific, because then—then you do open up the
possibility of, oh, ‘Why didn't you say that? Why didn't you say that?’ But you just put it [a report] in very general terms, you see?

Dean: Um-hmm.

Nixon: I don’t know. Do you think that's possible?

Dean: It’s going to be tough, but I think—I think it’s a good exercise and a drill that is absolutely essential we do, uh, to go through—

Nixon: Yeah, that’s the point. The exercise is important.

Dean: It, it sharpens thinking and it, as I, as—

Nixon: Find out what our vulnerabilities are and where we are and so forth and so on.

Dean: Right. I would there’s [chuckles]—maybe there will be some time when, when I should possibly report a little fuller than1 really have, so you really can appreciate in full some of the vulnerable points and where they, they lead to.

Nixon: That’s right.

Dean: I don’t think that should be a written document right now.

Nixon: Oh, by no means. No, by—I don’t want any damn written document about any of that.

Dean: No.

Nixon: I’m just speaking of a document that is put out.

Dean: A public document.

Nixon: Yeah.

Dean: Right.


Dean leaves by saying "we will win."

Haldeman isn't in either of these meetings, but he did talk to Nixon that day about Watergate as well, as his his diary says:


He got into quite a thing on Watergate today, and the strategies. Concerned about the appearance of the P covering up and feels that we've got to try to work out of that position by releasing the Segretti data, or something.


So the plan for the president to deal directly with Dean seems to be resulting in the president dealing directly with Dean and still rehashing it with Haldeman (and perhaps others, too). So the president's attention is split, but not as badly as Dean's. Just this day, he had to deal with Hunt, meet with Nixon once and talk on the phone once, deal with the continuing negotiations over the FBI raw files and the Gray nomination, deal with the Ervin Committee over executive privilege and the effort to find a way to avoid having White House staff, Dean has to worry about his own obstruction of justice, his own prior knowledge of Gemstone, and the possibility (as we saw) that Nixon may be trying to find a way to sever himself from the staff's criminal actions.

*Okay, there's some controversy about the transcript here. There are two versions, in fact. One is from Kutler (which is from 1997); the other, a later and more complete version, by from Luke Nichter, a Texas A & M historian. This is beyond my level of expertise, unfortunately. I looked around a bit and couldn't discover any obvious reason not to trust Nichter, and I'm using his for one good reason: it's available for cutting and pasting instead of typing it in myself. Nichter explains his view of it here.

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