Friday, April 19, 2013

April 16, 1973

As Haldeman says, "Another all-Watergate day, as they generally tend to be now."

Two things are going on, really. First is that the collapse of the cover-up is continuing. Haldeman and Ehrlichman are each still trying to save themselves, and Nixon too is still hoping that somehow the CRP backup coverup can be saved, presumably be keeping Dean and Magruder from reaching final deals with Justice. But at the same time, the president is putting together a new cover-up -- the cover-up of the cover-up. For that, Nixon is willing to sacrifice everyone in order to save himself and his presidency. Or, if one looks at it more generously, it's too late to save any of the people involved except for himself, and that's what he's going to turn to.

First, in the morning, Nixon meets with Haldeman and Ehrlichman. The cover-up of the cover-up proceeds:


PRESIDENT:  [...] I would like also a scenario evolved with regard to, uh, the President's role, in other w words, when the President began to find out about this, what he did, I think it's a pretty good role John, I'm, I'm not sure of it. It's as good as I can guess because remember I got Dean in, first I said I wanted him to report, sent him to Camp David. He came back and said he couldn't and I want to ask him about that today, and then you, and I'd like you to give Steve your report and everything you did -- see what I mean. Also, then, third, there is the PR thing, as to, when we, when we disclosed that and how.

EHRLICHMAN: [Press Secretary Ron] Ziegler has just left my office. He feels we have no more than twelve hours.


EHRLICHMAN: Uh, he, he's got some, uh, input from the Post and uh, it's his estimate that unless we take the initiative by nine o'clock tonight,

PRESIDENT: Uh hum. ~

EHRLICHMAN: uh, it will be too late. Now, for that reason, I would suggest that Ziegler sit in a meeting with Petersen and that you and Ziegler persuade Petersen that the announcement has to come from the White House.

PRESIDENT: I'll tell him.

EHRLICHMAN: Uh, otherwise the Justice Department will, of course, try and

EHRLICHMAN pre-empt this while thing.


EHRLICHMAN: But I think it would be a good idea for you to spend, uh,...

PRESIDENT: I don't -- I think, I think I've got to get Petersen in alone first.

EHRLICHMAN: Sure, sure, I understand.

HALDEMAN: (Unintelligible)

PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible) then I'll pull Ziegler in



PRESIDENT: That's a very good point.

EHRLICHMAN: Now, you may want to listen to Ron for some time ahead of time. He's got this well thought through and, and well laid out, and I think he's quite dispassionate about it, quite, quite, uh...

HALDEMAN: Well, we'11 go over that with him.

EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, we'll do that now while you're gone.


PRESIDENT: How's Ron think it ought to be done? I should do it.

EHRLICHMAN: Uh, Ron thinks that it ought to be done from here, uh, that uh... well, he hasn't said whether you should do it. Uh, I mentioned it to him the other day that you thought you should do it here in the Press room, if you did it at all.

PRESIDENT: I could do it right here in the Oval Office.

EHRLICHMAN: Yes, uh, but he, he wants to get out the fact that uh, Dean disserved you, that the Dean report was inadequate, it didn't go far enough, that, uh, several weeks ago, uh, you reinstituted uh, uh, an examination of the...

PRESIDENT: I began my personal investigation of the case.

EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, and that this culminated in a whole series of actions


EHRLICHMAN: over the weekend.

PRESIDENT: Personal investigation of the case in that I spent the weekend working on it. I think that's what we've got to say. The Dean rep, report, did not, did not, uh...

HALDEMAN: That this is the week of Mitchell being here Saturday is very important to the circumstances.

PRESIDENT: That's right. But uh, the President asked Ehrlichman to conduct his own investigation.

EHRLICHMAN: Well, now, if I'm going to be, if I'm going to be splashed on this thing, you're better off not having another discredited Dean.

PRESIDENT: Yeah, well, somebody's got to do it.

EHRLICHMAN: Well, you can downplay who did it.

HALDEMAN: You can say you did it yourself by talking to all the people...


HALDEMAN: ...concerned.


HALDEMAN: You talked to me and Ehrlichman and everybody else...

SEVERAL VOICES: (Unintelligible)

PRESIDENT: I, I made my own investigation of the matter.

EHRLICHMAN: I think that's that's the way.

PRESIDENT: My own investigation of the matter. But I didn't talk to Mitchell, see.

EHRLICHMAN: Well, they say who did and you delegated me to do that. I mean that's, that's -- but, uh, ...

PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible) Ehrlichman (unintelligible)-- look you're splash though is only on this one God damn thing.

EHRLICHMAN: Well, I think there's a, there's a judgment call here, ...


EHRLICHMAN: to whether you want the quote Ehrlichman report unquote...


EHRLICHMAN: ...out in the, in the media.


HALDEMAN: (unintelligible) because they'll make a big thing about the Dean report...


HALDEMAN: ...found out that Dean was guilty and the Ehrlichman report found out that Ehrlichman...

PRESIDENT: Right. No, no.


The also get into what Dean has on Nixon; Nixon focuses on the March 21 discussion of money for Hunt as the key thing that Dean could use. And then they shift to ways they can blame Dean for the cover-up in the first place. Nixon brings them back to "his" investigation:


PRESIDENT: [...] Well, anyway, uh we'll get there (unintelligible) Henry Petersen (unintelligible) This scenario (unintelligible) got to be so (unintelligible)

SEVERAL VOICES: (Unintelligible)


HALDEMAN: You bet.

PRESIDENT: And, ah...

EHRLICHMAN: Ron's got to have that information.

PRESIDENT: Well, I may have to just say it myself.


PRESIDENT: I conducted this


PRESIDENT: ...investigation and so forth.

EHRLICHMAN (Unintelligible) Petersen standing there right by (unintelligible)

PRESIDENT: Right, I can say that the Watergate case has been broken.


At that point, they break, because John Dean has been summoned to see the president. Nixon wants to get him to sign a letter of resignation, but Dean won't do it unless Haldeman and Ehrlichman do too. More importantly, though, Nixon tries to clear himself, knowing the tape is running:


PRESIDENT:  [...] Let me, let me, let me summarize this specific point again, because I need to, uh, you know, they, we know there was no--on the Dean report. Ziegler has always said it was oral.

DEAN: That's right.

PRESIDENT: Right. But you remember when you came in, I asked You the specific question: "Is anybody
on the White House Staff involved?" You told me "No".

DEAN: That's right. And I have no knowledge...

PRESIDENT: You still believe that?

DEAN: Yes, sir, I do.

PRESIDENT: Yeah. But you did tell me that in the aftermath there were serious problems.

DEAN: That's right.

PRESIDENT: Right. And, I said, "Well, let's see what they are." Right?

DEAN: And now you're beginning to see what they are. They're potential, technical, obstruction of justice problems.

PRESIDENT: Sure. But not necessarily.

DEAN: (Unintelligible)

PRESIDENT: Well, I talked to Petersen last night and he made exactly the same point. He says the obstruction was morally wrong. No, not morally. He said, it may not have been morally wrong, and it may not be legally wrong, but he said from the standpoint of the Presidency, you can't have it. That's what his point was. So he, he seems to think that this, uh, that the obstruction of justice thing is a God-damn hard thing to prove

DEAN: That's right.

PRESIDENT: prove in court, which I, I think should be some comfort to you.

DEAN: Well, my lawyer tells me that, you know, "Legally, you're in, you're in damn good shape."

PRESIDENT: Is that right?

DEAN: That's right.

PRESIDENT: Because, uh, you're not...

DEAN: That's right. It's, it's a
PRESIDENT: You were simply helping the defendants get their fees and their...

DEAN: Well...

PRESIDENT: Huh? What does he say?

DEAN: In that, in that position. I'm merely a conduit. Uh, it's very technical, very technical. I am a conduit to other people. That is the problem.

PRESIDENT: Uh huh. What was the situation, John? This--The only time I ever heard any
discussion of, uh, this supporting of the defendants--and I must say I, I guess I should have assumed somebody was helping them, I must have assumed it, but, uh, and, and I must say people were good in a way, I, I was busy--as when you mentioned to me some, something, about the, I mean. I think the last time we talked about Hal, uh, Hunt having a problem.

DEAN: Well...

PRESIDENT': Put that and that was, then we, but that was handled at, by Mitchell. Was that true or what the hell happened?


[Dean talks about how he learned of the hush money, but Nixon wants to prove that March 21 was innocent and drags him back there]

PRESIDENT: Let me tell you. What did you report to me on it, though? I--It was rather fragmentary, as I recall it . You said,

DEAN: Right.

PRESIDENT: "Hunt had a problem,” and, uh...

DEAN: Very fragmentary . I was, I...

PRESIDENT: Yeah, but that's not the thing. I, I said, "What, what--John, what's it going to cost to do this?" Uh, that's when I sent you to Camp--and said, "Well, for God's sake, let's see where this thing comes out.”

DEAN: That's right.

PRESIDENT: And you said it'd cost a million dollars.

DEAN: I said, "It," you know, it conceivably could, and the way this," I said, "If we don't cut this thing..."


DEAN: Uh, anyway...

PRESIDENT: But that's the only conversation we had. Where--How was that handled? Who the hell
handled that, that money?

DEAN: Uh, well, let me tell you the rest--what, what Hunt said. He said, "You tell Dean that I need seventy-two thousand dollars for my personal expenses, fifty thousand dollars for my legal fees."


DEAN: "If I don't get it, I'm going to have some things to say about the seamy things I did at the White House for John Ehrlichman."


DEAN: All right. I took that to Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman said, uh, "Have you talked to Mitchell about it?" I said, "No, I have not." Uh, he said, "Well, will you talk to Mitchell?" I said, "Yes, I will." I talked to Mitchell. I just passed it along to him. And then there was a meeting dozen here a few days later in, in Bob's office with Bob and Ehrlichman and Mitchell and myself. And, uh, Ehrlichman said at that time. He said, "Well is that problem with Hunt straightened out?" He said it to me and I said, "Well, ask the man who may know:
Mitchell." And Mitchell said, "I think that problem is solved."


DEAN: [...] But the, the one report where I finally--I called Bob...

PRESIDENT: (unintelligible) this office, Good.

DEAN: Yeah. I called Bob and I said. I said, "Bob", I said. "I don't think the President has all the facts.”

PRESIDENT: That's right. And then you came and sat in this chair and that's the first time that I realized the thing.

DEAN: That's right.

PRESIDENT: And what--And nor the question is: "Well, Mr. Dean, why didn't you tell the President before?" And your answer there is

DEAN: I didn't know. That is absolutely correct.


Dean leaves, and Nixon reports to Haldeman and Ehrlichman what he learned. They return to the "scenario."


PRESIDENT: Good, good. (Unintelligible) how does the scenario work out may I ask? Is there something that you...

HALDEMAN: Well, it works out very good. We had that, that, uh, you became aware sometime ago that
this thing did, did not parse out the way it was supposed to and that there were some discrepancies between what you had been told by Dean in the report that there was nobody in the White House involved, which may still be true.

PRESIDENT: Let me say that, I don't want to...I don't think it, it is gaining us anything by pissing on the Dean Report as such.


PRESIDENT: What I mean is I would say that I was not satisfied that the Dean Report was, was complete, uh, and I also, I felt that I ought to, I ought to go--it was my obligation to go beyond that to people other
than the White House.

EHRLICHMAN: Well, Ron has an interesting point. Remember you had John Dean go to Camp David...

PRESIDENT: I know...

EHRLICHMAN: ...and write it up, and he came down and said, "I can't."


EHRLICHMAN: That's the tip off and right then you started to move.

PRESIDENT: That's right. He said he could not, could not write it.

HALDEMAN: Then you realized there was, there was more to this...


HALDEMAN: ...then you had been led to believe. (Unintelligible)

PRESIDENT: Then how do I get credit for getting Magruder to the stand?

EHRLICHMAN: Well, I, uh, it is very simple. You took Dean off the case right then--two weeks ago...

PRESIDENT: That's right.

EHRLICHMAN: ...the end of March. (Unintelligible)

EHRLICHMAN: The end of March. Remember that letter you signed to me?


EHRLICHMAN: 30th of March.

PRESIDENT: I signed it to you? Yes.

EHRLICHMAN: Yes sir, and it says, "Dean's off of it. I want you to get into it. Find out what the facts are. Be prepared to--"

PRESIDENT: Why did I take Dean off? Because he...

EHRLICHMAN: Because he was involved.

PRESIDENT: ...he became involved: I did it, really, because he was involved with Gray.

EHRLICHMAN: Well there was a lot of stuff breaking in the papers, but at the same time...

HALDEMAN: The scenario is that he told you he couldn't write a report so obviously you had to take him off.

PRESIDENT: Right, right.

EHRLICHMAN: ...and so then we started digging into it and we went to San Clemente. While I was out there I talked to a lot of people on the phone, I talked to several witnesses in person, kept feeding  information to you...


EHRLICHMAN: ...and as soon, and as you saw that the, that the dimensions of this thing from the reports you were getting from the staff--who were digging into it--Moore, me, Garment and others.

HALDEMAN: You brought Len Garment in?

PRESIDENT: Len Garment, yeah.

EHRLICHMAN: You began to move.


EHRLICHMAN: You began to move.

PRESIDENT: I want the dates of all those...

EHRLICHMAN: I've, I've got those.

PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible) Go ahead, right, and then--

EHRLICHMAN: And then, uh, uh, it, it culminated last week...


EHRLICHMAN: your decision that Mitchell should be brought down here; Magruder should be brought in; Strachan should be brought in.

PRESIDENT: Shall I say that we brought them all in? [missing text?] can.

HALDEMAN: I wouldn't name them by name. Just say I brought a group of people in.

EHRLICHMAN: ...have witnesses personally come to the White House. I don't want to prejudice
their rights before the, before the, uh, (unintelligible).

EHRLICHMAN: Exactly. But I heard enough that, that I was satisified that it was, it was time to
precipitously move. I called the Attorney General over, in turn, uh, Petersen..."

PRESIDENT: Well, uh, the Attorney General, actually, you made the call to him on Saturday.


PRESIDENT: ...after you. But this was after you heard about the Magruder strategy.

EHRLICHMAN: No, before.


EHRLICHMAN: We didn't hear about that until about three o'clock that afternoon.

PRESIDENT: Why didn't you do it before? This is very good now, how does that happen?


PRESIDENT: How do you n- Why wasn't he called in then? John, you had made a report.


SEVERAL VOICES: (Unintelligible)

HALDEMAN: John's report came out of the same place the Mitchell, the Magruder report did--

PRESIDENT: No, my point is...(unintelligible)

EHRLICHMAN: I called him to tell him that I had this information.

PRESIDENT: Good. But, why was that? That was because we had heard Magruder was gonna talk?

EHRLICHMAN: No. We did it...Oh, I will have to check, I'll have to check my notes again.

HALDEMAN: We didn't know whether Magruder was going to talk.

EHRLICHMAN: That's right.

HALDEMAN: Magruder was still agonizing on what he was going to do.

PRESIDENT: Well on Dean--but you remember you came in and said you've got to tell him about it

EHRLICHMAN: Well, now let's see.

PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible)

HALDEMAN: I'll tell you the reason for the hurry up in the timing was that we learned that Hunt was gonna testify on Monday afternoon.


SEVERAL VOICES: (Unintelligible)

EHRLICHMAN: All right, the President's, the President's right. The President is right. I didn't talk to Kleindienst. Remember, I couldn't get him.


EHRLICHMAN: I didn't talk to him until he got home from Burning Tree, which was the end of the day,
and I had already talked to Magruder.

PRESIDENT: Right. But my point is when did we decide to talk to Kleindienst? Before Magruder?

EHRLICHMAN: Oh, yes. Remember, early in the morning I said, "I'll see these two fellows but I've got to turn this over to the Attorney General."

PRESIDENT: Who, who--which two fellows were you going to see?

EHRLICHMAN: Mitchell and Magruder.

PRESIDENT: Because your conclusions are--yeah.

EHRLICHMAN: I mean because, uh, I had this report and I tried all day long to get the Attorney General who was at the golf course and got him as soon as he got home for...


HALDEMAN: And then Magruder came over. Well, you don't want to put that out. You don't want to, to specify who came, but th-, then you called in the other, other individuals. Then the President met with the Attorney General and the, and the Prosecutor and, uh, got the head of the Criminal Division on Sunday. You met with him twice actually, didn't you?

PRESIDENT: No, I met, uh, yeah (unintelligible) on Sunday, Sunday at one o'clock, and then at four o'clock and I also talked to...twice on the phone to, uh...I met with Dean...

HALDEMAN: You met with Ehrlichman and me.

PRESIDENT: ...I met with Dean, Ehrlichman, you, and I also talk, talked, talked to the, uh, to the, uh, Henry Petersen on three different occasions, three different occasions, that night on the phone.




That's the end of that tape. Just to clarify: what they're doing here, explicitly, is rescripting the last two plus weeks into a fictional story of a Nixon investigation to get to the bottom of Watergate and the cover-up.

Nixon then met with Haldeman again. Haldeman had consulted with Garment, the incoming White House Counsel (once Dean could finally be removed), and Garment's advice, which Haldeman passes along, is a thorough wipe: "that the P has to make a massive move and cut the whole thing out in one blow, which means getting rid of Ehrlichman, me, and Dean, and anybody else that may be at all involved." The other thing Garment wanted to tell the president? "[T]hat it is clear to him you are in possession of knowledge that you cannot be in possession of without action on."

Of course, that is precisely what no one had really talked about during the long months from June through April, and which they still didn't seem to have managed to work out in their heads. Or maybe they did, and it was just far too late to do anything about it.

After that, it was a two-hour meeting between Nixon and Petersen; he also spoke to Petersen by phone later in the day. Petersen told Nixon that Fred LaRue had told the grand jury about the cover-up, implicating Mitchell, and that Dean now said he would implicate Haldeman and Ehrlichman in the cover-up in exchange for immunity. But that's not the worst of it. If Dean doesn't get immunity...[Transcript from Emery]


Petersen: His [Dean's] counsel says he wants a deal. This man was an agent. This man didn't do anything but what Hald --

Nixon: Haldeman and Ehrlichman told him to do.

Petersen: -- and Mitchell, and if you insist on trying him, we, in defense, are going to try Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Nixon, and this administration. That's going to be our defense.

Nixon: He'd try it. The president too?

Petersen: It's a goddamned poker game. Yessir.


As Haldeman notes in his diary, Magruder is still trying to get full immunity too, and so he's not testifying yet either.

So now they have a plan of sorts: the cover-up of the cover-up, with Nixon only recently learning that the "Dean Report" was a fraud, and taking matters into his own hands, breaking the case himself. Or something like that. Will it work? They're about to launch it and find out.

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