Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 18, 1973

"The P had me in at 8:00 this morning. Said that if this thing goes the way it might, and I have to leave, he wants me to take all the office material from his -- ah -- machinery there and hold it for the library."

That's Haldeman's diary, from April 18. The cover-up of the cover-up is fully underway here, and one of the first things to do is to secure the evidence. And as Nixon knows, the White House tapes are evidence that will convict all of them, himself certainly included.

Henry Petersen was busy that day. Dean had mentioned the Fielding break-in a few days ago, and by now it's worked its way up to Petersen. Is it true? Daniel Ellsberg is still on trial in Los Angeles, and Petersen, following procedure, checks with the prosecutors there whether they know anything about it. Then a check through the FBI files, and then, finally, they figure it out -- the photos of Liddy and Hunt, in disguise, outside Fielding's office, the photos that Richard Helms had sent to Justice when he left the CIA.

At the White House, the day was spent, basically, fencing with Dean (who was upset about things in the newspapers he thought the White House had planted to hit him, which sent Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Nixon scrambling to have Ron Ziegler deflate that particular flare-up).

Nixon then had Haldeman and Ehrlichman up to Camp David for the night. While there, they learn that the Washington Post is running a big Woodward and Bernstein story the next day detailing Magruder's story. And then Petersen reports to Nixon that Dean has told them about the Fielding break-in. Here's (via Emery) Petersen's version of the call:

"[...] I dropped the next bombshell. It was that Dean had informed Silbert that Liddy and Hunt and company had burglarized Dr. Fielding's office, who was Ellsberg's psychiatrist. The president said, 'I know about that. That's a national security matter. Your mandate is Watergate. You stay out of that.'"

Ehrlichman reports the Nixon's comments after he gets off the phone: "That should keep them out of it. There is no reason for them to get into it. What those fellows did was no crime; they ought to get a medal for going after Ellsberg."

All very well, but it's going to take more than some presidential anger to hold the line on just Watergate. Especially since it is a bit difficult to see exactly how harassing Ellsberg is heroic, whatever once thinks of his actions in (illegally) leaking the Pentagon Papers.

Over dinner at Camp David, Nixon turns the conversation, again, to whether Haldeman and Ehrlichman should leave the White House. Back to Haldeman's diary to end the day:

--

The P keeps saying during this that he hasn't decided. But he went through quite a thing in an emotional way about how Ehrlichman and I would always have the use of Camp David regardless of what happens, for the next three and a half years, and that he wasn't emotional, but he really is and that this was a terribly painful thing and so on and so on. I think it really was, and it is, hard for him, but it's also conterproductive for us. I mean the time going around and around on the same ground with him, when we should be developing our own case for our interest and his. It was clear, though, that his feeling was that there was no real way out, except for us to pull out and fight rather than trying to stay.

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