Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 29, 1973

The newspapers are demanding resignations; Haldeman, when he reads them, realizes that the fight for leaves is probably over. And in fact, Nixon calls from Camp David to summon him and Ehrlichman for early afternoon meetings, with Ziegler calling back to let Haldeman know that the decision has been made: both of them would resign, and Dean would be fired. On top of that, Nixon is having Attorney General Kleindienst resign, and replacing him with Secretary of Defense Elliot Richardson.

Meanwhile, Nixon is busy that morning. Kissinger calls him, and Nixon moves the subject to the "Kissinger taps" -- wiretaps of journalists and government officials designed to find leaks during the early part of the administration.


President Nioxn: [...] Now, there's one area, of course, where you and I have to be concerned about it and where we've got to stand firm as hell. As you know, Henry, we do do -- we did do some surveillance with the FBI on these leaks, you remember?

Kissinger: Oh, yes.

President Nixon: And they were approved, approved by the Attorney General and so forth. When they come out, we've just got to say. Of course, you remember the whole business. People have forgotten.
Kissinger: The '69 ones I knew about...

President Nixon: But they were done, and I've got to defend those as national security leaks and we've got to do it in the future, you know. By golly, when we've got leaks I'm going to order bugging. Don't you agree?

Kissinger: Well, if it's a question of national security, approved by the Attorney General, I don't see what anyone can say about it.

President Nixon: That's correct, correct. The problem we've got with some of this in the Ellsberg stuff, you see, Edgar Hoover wouldn't do the job because [Patricia] Marks, his closest friend's daughter, was married to Ellsberg and wouldn't do it, and that's why some of that crap was done in the White House. But that's too bad. That's just one of those things.[...]


Pretty straightforward: Nixon is making sure that everyone who could testify against him knows that they, too, have guilty knowledge or worse.

Even at this point, with Haldeman and Ehrlichman getting to the helicopter to come to Camp David, Nixon is still going back and forth, talking to Ziegler and Bill Rogers about resignation vs. leaves. Nixon is also afraid that he won't really be able to do it, especially if one or the other of them fights it.

Haldeman and Ehrlichman hardly talk in the helicopter. When they get there, Ziegler grabs Haldeman, and warns him that Nixon himself is talking about resigning. Haldeman immediately discounts it: "I told him that I was sure that was not the case, that it was part of his steeling himself for meeting with us, that he's creating a big crisis he knew he couldn't meet in order to be able to meet the lesser crisis he has to meet."

Haldeman's diary:


He made the points on why he had to do it, but he's come to the conclusion that he has to have our resignations. He wants us to stay on to handle the transition. Then he went through his whole pitch about how he's really the guilty one. He said he's thought it all through, and that he was the one that started Colson on his projects, he was the one who told Dean to cover up, he was the one who made Mitchell Attorney General, and later his campaign manager, and so on. And that he now has to face that and live with it, and that for that reason, after he gets his other things completed, that he too will probably have to resign. He never said that directly, but implied it.


The meeting is filled with Nixon's sentiment; Haldeman tells him, at least, that while he disagrees with the decision he'll abide by it, and that Nixon has to stay and fight on.

Then the meeting with Ehrlichman, which apparently goes better than Nixon expected after the previous night's phone call. Haldeman goes back after that, and Nixon goes over it with him; Haldeman notes that Nixon is still shaken from what Ehrlichman had said in that previous conversation.

And then Kleindienst, who hard already realized that his position was impossible, meets with the president and is told that he, too, is to resign, and be included in the same batch as Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean. He protests -- he wants to wait and so not be lumped into those three, all of them facing likely indictment -- but Nixon insists (and, it seems perfectly fair to me; while Kleindienst never was prosecuted for Watergate, his decision to ignore Gordon Liddy's confession at the golf course immediately after the arrests -- while serving as the Attorney General of the United States -- was as much of a disgrace to his office as anything the rest had done, and the cover-up would have been over before it started had he immediately passed what Liddy said along to the FBI and the prosecutors).

And then Elliot Richardson. Richardson, before accepting the job, questioned Nixon on Watergate and received an absolute assurance that he had no involvement.

The rest of that Sunday is spent working on Nixon's speech to the nation, scheduled for Monday night. Gallup was finishing up a survey while they were working at Camp David. When it was tabulated and released, the result was that Nixon had fallen to 48% approval, matching his June 1971 low, and down nine points since the beginning of April.

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