Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 7, 1973

It's a new week, and the new White House is getting organized, with Nixon agreeing on Al Haig as his new chief of staff.

Elliot Richardson is preparing for his confirmation hearings for Attorney General, scheduled to begin in a couple of days, and today he announces that he would appoint a special counsel to handle Watergate.

At some point in early May, John Dean -- having failed to get what he wanted from the Justice Department -- started working another angle. He approached Senator Lowell Weicker, maverick Republican from Connecticut, and secretly told him what Dean was prepared to say. Before long, Watergate Committee counsel Sam Dash was meeting with Dean and his lawyer. Eventually, the Committee agreed to give Dean use immunity, meaning that prosecutors would have to complete their case against him before he testified. It's not what Dean wanted, but it was better than Justice was offering.

A nice New York Times explainer this morning makes clear what the public knew at this point. The president's new cover story is intact, but the threat is beginning, from a familiar source.


Q. Was President Nixon himself involved in either part of the Watergate plot?

A. There is no charge and no evidence, direct or hearsay, that the President understood the broad reach of the Watergate conspiracy before last March 21. At his news conference on April 17, Mr. Nixon said that on March 21 he heard "serious charges" and began his own new inquiry into the case.

Q. Has not John W. Dean 3rd, the former White House counsel, said he could implicate the President in the cover-up?

A. The issue of Newsweek out tomorrow relates two incidents that Mr. Dean is said to believe "associate" the President with the conspiracy, but both stories rest on Mr. Dean's assumptions, not the President's words...


The two charges are that Nixon thanked Dean for his work on the case on September 15, 1972, when the indictments were handed down; the Times points out that Dean could have been thanking Dean for (apparently) accurately reporting that the White House was not involved. The more serious charge is that Nixon knew about offers of clemency to Howard Hunt, but the charge, in the Newsweek article, is pretty vague, according to the Times.

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