Friday, March 8, 2013

March 7, 1973

Pat Gray's fourth day of testimony at the Justice Committee.

Nixon's morning meeting with John Dean has a much different tone than yesterday's. After a third day of terrible news stories from Gray's testimony, Nixon is fed up. He hits on a scheme. They'll feed a committee Republican questions guessed it: LBJ tapping Nixon's campaign plane in 1968. Then, when Gray denies that the FBI had anything to do with it, Nixon can reveal that he himself told Gray that Hoover had told Nixon about it, thus trapping Gray in a lie and forcing him to quit.

It's a nice fantasy, albeit silly (Nixon himself can kill the nomination whenever he wants!), and based on Nixon's continuing obsession with the 1968 alleged violation and the notion that somehow making it public would solve all their problems. It was a nutty idea when it was built around blackmailing LBJ; it's even less plausibly helpful with Johnson dead and with the various investigations of Watergate having plenty of their own momentum.

Nixon then asks why Attorney General Kleinsteinst isn't controlling Gray, and Dean says that they've tried to program Gray, but it just doesn't work.

The meeting ends with Nixon making it clear where the nomination stands with him:


President Nixon: Now listen. I want all communication with Gray cut off. that's the other thing. Give him the cold stuff for a while.

Dean: All right.

President Nixon: It doesn't do any good to talk to him...


Meanwhile, up on the Hill, more headlines. Today, Gray confirms something that's been reported earlier: that Nixon's personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, had funded Donald Segretti's dirty tricks operation -- and that Dwight Chapin had arranged all of that when he was on the White House staff as the president's appointments secretary. More Page 1 headlines.

And more floundering from Gray. I'll end with one long example:


Senator Byrd. Did you consider interviewing the White House personnel without Mr. Dean being present?

Mr. Gray. I don't think this thought entered our minds. It certainly didn't enter mine, and I am harkening back now to those early days, trying to recollect whether that thought entered my mind, whether I considered the possibility of being able to so conduct those interviews.

Senator Byrd. You said you were trymg to harken back?

Mr. Gray. I have no clear recollection as to whether or not — no, I don't remember whether or not I did.

Senator Byrd. So you apparently didn't object to various —  — -

Mr. Gray. No, I was not really in a position to object. I saw nothing wrong with it. If the counsel to the President of the United States tells me that he wants to attend interviews of individuals who are members of the President's staff — including some highly placed ones — and that he is charged with conducting an inquiry by the President to determine whether any of these fellows are involved, I am not going to question that, Senator.

Senator Byrd. What kind of answers to questions do you think you will get in that kind of situation?

Mr. Gray. I have no idea.

Senator Byrd. Do you not think the White House personnel are going to be intimidated by the presence of Mr. Dean?

Mr. Gray. If they had any involvement, I would say perhaps they would be intimidated. That really depends upon their involvement. It goes to the mens rea— of whether you have a guilty mind or something to hide.

Senator Byrd. This is what you are trying to get at, and with Mr. Dean present.

Mr. Gray. Sure, but we have lots of ways to get at it.

Senator Byrd. What ways did you use in this situation?

Mr. Gray. This was a pretty big investigation, you know. We pursued an awful lot of leads. When you do this sort of thing, you put together a broad mosaic and evidentiary pattern.

Senator Byrd. What other leads did you receive?

Mr. Gray. There were over 2,300 of them.

Senator Byrd. Specifically what other leads were pursued in trying to get the information from the White House personnel?

Mr. Gray. We interviewed the White House personnel. We took what they had to say and if there were any leads, we followed them out and we conducted our standard investigation and put together a total mosaic, a total evidentiary pattern.

Senator Byrd. But all of your interviews of White House personnel were in the presence of Mr. Dean?

Mr. Gray. Senator, you have asked me that question several times, and I have answered it and that is my testimony of record.

Senator Byrd. But you have indicated you have other ways of securing information. What other leads — you have indicated there were leads that were followed in making up this mosaic — what other leads were followed?

Mr. Gray. From every bit of evidence that we had and that we pursued. This put together the sum total investigative report, and I feel quite certain that if any of those individual members of the White House staff had asked for an interview with us, we would interview quietly and away from the White House.

Senator Byrd. So no one asked for such subsequent interviews?

Mr. Gray. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, no, sir.

Senator Byrd. But you indicated that — I take it that there were leads that developed as a result of the interviews which were conducted in the presence of Mr. Dean?

Mr. Gray. I was talking in the sum total of the investigation, the over 2,300 leads that enable you to put together a total pattern.

Senator Byrd. So there were no leads whatsoever


Senator Byrd. Several persons who were interviewed were employed at the Committee To Re-Elect the President and indicated that they would prefer to be interrogated subsequent thereto and outside the presence of an attorney. Do you believe there was any possibility that White House personnel might have had similar feelings about Mr. Dean's presence and might have felt constrained?

Mr. Gray. I can't speculate on that at all. That is a matter for conjecture. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, I have no memory of any such request coming to us. If it did, we would have interviewed them.


Senator Tunney. Mr. Gray, I would like to pursue a few questions with respect to Mr. Dean.

Mr. Dean was given the Dita Beard memo which ended up in the hands of the ITT. As I understand it, 3^ou did not pursue Mr. Dean's involvement in that particular case.

Mr. Dean was given the FBI file on the Segretti interview, and there were press reports — and we don't know whether this in fact happened — that Segretti was briefed for the grand jury inquiry prior to his appearance on the basis of his file. You did speak to Mr. Dean about his involvement in this, and he denied it. As I understand it, that is as far as you went.

We know that Dean sat in on the interviews of White House personnel at his oa\ti [?] request, and we know that Mr. Dean was sent the interviews of 82 people, including those people interviewed, the CRP people, who did not want counsel present.

As I understand it, Mr. Dean directed the confiscation of the material in Mr. Hunt's safe and that he kept the contents for approximately 1 week and then turned the material over to the FBI on June 26.

As I see it, Mr. Dean was omnipresent in this total investigation. I would like to ask you how many of the White House witnesses that the FBI talked to had already been talked to by Mr. Dean?

Mr. Gray. That I don't know, sir.

Senator Tunney. Wouldn't that be an appropriate line of inquiry in such an investigation, considering the fact that. No. 1, here was a situation where Mr. Dean had directed the confiscation of Mr. Hunt's safe?

I would like to pursue that. Is that appropriate in this type of situation, where the FBI has gotten into an investigation, starting on the 17th of June, to have someone at the Wliite House confiscate a safe that was directly relevant to the investigation, particularly inasmuch as the White House knew, as I understand it, on June 17 that Mr. Hunt was probably involved?

Mr. Gray. Well, certainly late in the evening of the 17th, Mr. Butterfield was talked to, and we told him we thought Mr. Hunt was involved in this. But as that week passed, we did not have, as I testified this morning — and I asked all these questions — we did not have sufficient information to request a search warrant with the specificity and particularity required in order to get a search warrant for the White House. That thought did not enter the minds of the case agents working the case. It did not come up. It did come up at a later date, and these documents were delivered to us by Mr. Dean.

Senator Tunney. Were you surprised that the safe had been opened up and that the safe had not been turned over to the FBI?

Mr. Gray. No, I would have been surprised had it not been, because I didn't know what kind of papers were in there. In fact, I was surprised to find out what kind of things were turned over to us.

Senator Tunney. Wouldn't it have been appropriate under such circumstances, where on June 17 the White House was notified that Mr. Hunt was under investigation, that a safe in his office would be
turned over to the FBI which had an ongoing investigation

Mr. Gray. I think probably the first consideration would be the President's counsel, and the President's counsel has said himself he would like to determine what might be there. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. That is the White House, and that is the attorney-client privilege that exists there, and that is the man who is charged with an investigation for the President.

Senator Tunney. Was Mr. Dean Mr. Hunt's counsel, too?

Mr. Gray. No, he wasn't Mr. Hunt's counsel that I know of. Now, I don't know. I don't think he was.

Senator Tunney. The attorney-client relationship didn't run between Mr. Dean and Mr. Hunt?

Mr. Gray. No, between Mr. Dean and the President. Hunt allegedly had an office there at the White House. The White House records actually showed, as we checked them, I believe, that this man's last day of work there was the 29th of March 1972.

Senator Tunney. So it is perfectly appropriate, then, when you have an ongoing FBI investigation, for a man who serves in an attorney-client relationship with the boss of the man who is being investigated, to go through the files of that man being investigated and hold the material for 1 week prior to the time it is turned over?


And one more:


Senator Tunney. What I am trying to find out is why was it a White House counsel seemed to be so heavily involved in a FBI investigation, to the point that at times it seems that he knew almost as much about what was going on as you did, at least in the case of Hunt he knew before you did, and he sat in all of these interviews. He received 82 interviews from you, including apparently the interviews of people who had asked specifically not to have counsel present from the Reelection of the President Committee, and despite the fact
that they didn't want counsel present, still this material was also turned over to Mr. Dean.


Mr. Gray. I would like to go back to the beginning of your statement, if I may. We must \nit [?] this in the proper time frame so the record shows what happened, because Mr. Dean had zero information at the beginning. He was starting from ground zero. He sat in on only the White House interviews. He didn't get any information until the 21st of July. We had completed the bulk of the real tough interviews by that time and, Senator, it just isn't correct to state he had as much information as the FBI.


Of course, John Dean had far more information about all of it on July 21st than Pat Gray seems to have now, on March 7 of the next year, after the initial trial was already over of the seven men the FBI and Justice thought were fully responsible for Watergate.

As the Senators are beginning to strongly suspect.


  1. Remind me again, how did Gray know about the Halmbach, Segretti and Chapin connection? Did it come up in the FBI investigation and he told the Senate inadvertantly, because I'm sure he didn't have first hand knowledge of the scheme. Or was that through the files that Dean gave him from Hunt's safe?

    1. Ah, I should have explained that -- FBI investigation. Not sure how the FBI had it, though, and I also don't know whether the press story that it confirmed was a Woodward/Bernstein from a Mark Felt leak.

    2. Thanks, I thought as much. I'm pretty sure the story originated from Woodward/Bernstein, but not sure if they got it from a Mark Felt leak. Although I think by then other news organisations had started reporting on the Halmbach connection as well.

  2. Which Byrd is doing the questioning in your excerpt? Would I be correct in guessing Robert, rather than Harry Jr.?

    1. Yup, it's Robert. If you click through to the transcript, the list of Senators on the committee is near the top.

      I have to say that TV (that is, CSPAN and, in a high-profile one like this, perhaps the cable networks) hasn't helped confirmation hearings, BTW. Two big differences: one is that there were no opening statements by the committee members, and the other is that only a handful of committee members, presumably the interested ones, showed up and asked questions. And most of the questions are really questions, not speeches.

      No real surprise, but Kennedy was very good.

    2. Are the opening statements ever worthwhile? They just seem like an invitation for pure grandstanding.


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