I'll start with the biggest development of the day, although it won't be visible until the end of the week. On March 20, James McCord -- convicted, but still awaiting sentencing -- leaves a letter for Judge John Sirica. Sirica, after getting witnesses in case it's a bribe, opens and reads the letter and reseals it, telling his clerk: "This is going to break the case wide open."
Meanwhile, Dean is busy with the lose end that they're all more worried about: Howard Hunt. Deciding to try to meet Hunt's new demands, he checks with Erlichman and calls Mitchell. Erlichman, meanwhile, talks to plumber Egil Krogh about Hunt's threats to talk. Krogh moves on to Dean, who tells him that the Plumbers' actions could well surface soon -- while Krogh tells Dean that the Fielding break-in "came right out of the Oval Office." (All this from Emery, who as usual notes that the stories between the conspirators are not always consistent).
Patrick Gray is also back in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for his fourth day of testimony. Here's the very start of the hearing:
The Chairman. The committee will come to order. Mr. Gray, do you have today any knowledge about Mrs. Judy Hoback ?
Mr. Gray. Yes, sir, I have.
The Chairman. Could you comment on it ?
Mr. Gray. Well, Mr. Chairman, I can comment procedurally, certainly, under the new instructions that I have.
The Chairman. You mean from the President ?
Mr. Gray. From the Attorney General yesterday. Attorney General Kleindienst.
That's right; Gray returns, but now he won't talk about Watergate any more, citing instructions from Kleindienst. Well, sort of; he does wind up talking about a fair amount, but cuts off some lines of inquiry, and it's enough to get the headlines the next day, which certainly doesn't help the argument that the White House is being open and cooperative.
The president, meanwhile, has several Watergate-related meetings and phone calls over the course of the day, mostly still focused no establishing a story that will allow them to come clean...without actually incriminating various players. As Nixon says to Haldeman in the evening, "Trouble is...you can't find any
way to have any kind of a statement made (unintelligible) that they [Dean and Moore] think doesn't open up too many other problems." Or, as Haldeman says, "That's the thing, there's just so goddamned
many factors and (unintelligible) people." Both men clearly know many of the dangers to them and others:
PRESIDENT: You don't there's a thing that I'm frankly concerned about more than I am about what they
might reveal in this version. I don't want (unintelligible) get up there in front of that goddamned committee and gear their question on the log out of somewhere they know something.
HALDEMAN: Well, see the thing is...
PRESIDENT: the perjury bit.
HALDEMAN: I know, yeah, but see, they re protecting the wrong people.
HALDEMAN: ...'cause think people who are gonna go for perjury already have and will do it again and
are going to be up there anyway.
PRESIDENT: You mean like Magruder?
They talk about Haldeman's assistant, Gordon Srachan:
HALDEMAN: Not that he had no authority no, no – uh...
HALDEMAN: participation. He was an observer. (Pause) The danger you got there is that he probably, and I possibly, got reports on some of that stuff.
PRESIDENT: Sure. I`m aware of that.
HALDEMAN: And if I did, I didn`t know it. But Strachan did know because he gave me, you know, stuff
that thick and I never looked at it. On all campaigns, budgets, personnel things and everything else.
As the conversation continues, they cover tons of ground -- Mitchell's criminal liability, Ehrlichman's "knowledge" of the Ellsberg stuff, the fictional Dean report, Haldeman's control of secret campaign funds. More. And always, circling around for some way to appear to be cooperating and to get ahead of the Watergate Committee...but eventually, circling back around to the hope that they can limit the Watergate portion of the scandal to Hunt, Liddy, and the five others. I won't pull out any other excerpts, but the whole thing is worth looking at.
With that meeting over, Nixon gets on the phone with John Dean. They cover Gray's day at the Senate and the overall situation with the nomination, and more on Nixon's attempt to get Dean to craft some sort of statement in some format that would say that the White House wasn't involved.
What's new is this:
DEAN: Same stuff. Uh, I. I had a conversation with, uh, John Ehrlichman this afternoon before he came down to visit you, and, I, I think that one thing we have to continually do and particularly right now, is examine the broadest, broadest implications of this whole thing, and I, you know, maybe 30 minutes, of just my recitation to you of...
PRESIDENT: Um hmm.
DEAN: ...the facts so that you operate from the same facts that everybody else has.
DEAN: And I don't think--we've, we've never really done that. It's been sort of bits and pieces. Just paint the whole picture for you, the soft spots, the, the, uh, potential problem areas
PRESIDENT: Um hmm.
DEAN: a like. So that, uh, when you, when you, make judgments you'll...
DEAN: ...have all that (unintelligible).
PRESIDENT: Would you like to do that, uh--when?
DEAN: Uh, I would think, uh, uh, if its not inconvenient for you, sir, I would I would like to sort of draw all my thoughts together and have a, you know, just make a couple notes to myself so I didn't...
PRESIDENT: Well, could you do it, could you do it, could you do it, tomorrow?
DEAN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT: Um hmm. then we could probably do it, say, around ten o'clock.
DEAN: That would be fine, sir.
PRESIDENT: How about--you just want to do it alone? Want anybody else there?
DEAN: I think, I think just uh,...
PRESIDENT: It is better with nobody else there, isn't it?
DEAN: Absolutely, I think that's a good way.
PRESIDENT: Anybody, anybody else you--they're all parties in interest, virtually.
DEAN: That’s right.
And so they say good night, with plans to meet tomorrow.