Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 19, 1973

Everyone is still waiting for John Dean's public testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee, postponed now until later in the month.

The conversations in the Oval Office are less newsy now; Richard Nixon is no longer talking to his co-conspirators, but to a new staff who (as far as we know) don't realize how involved he was in the cover-up and the White House horrors before that. Typically, Nixon proclaims his innocence, and rails against Dean, or against Archibald Cox. This morning, he meets with Haig, Ziegler, and Buzhardt, who is essentially acting as his lead defense attorney.


President Nixon: [...] One thing I was, noted this morning was that, oh, that fucking shocking statement by Scott, I mean Cox. Good God, that, uh, now look here [...] But that was an ugly shocking thing.

Haig: It really was.

President Nixon: Because, first, it's wrong, as far as the Constitution; it's partisan...[C]an the President be subpoenaed or indicted, Jesus Christ, he knows better than that....Well, he's highly partisan.

Buzhardt: He's a highly partisan fella and he's gonna play it political.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Buzhardt: Because he knows he can't subpoena the President; he knows he can't indict the President; but he's gonna play this game quite opposite.


Buzhardt: ...[H]e [Elliot Richardson] cannot allow this fella, for the sake of everybody in government, to think that this fella has a hunting license as a Kennedy advocate to go after Republicans any way he can, and the President in particular. ... [After the Ervin hearings conclude], then we meet him [Cox] head-on. And we just blast the fire out of him. That's the only thing we can do. But if we come out of the hearings in good shape, and I believe we will, and the public's gonna be fed up with it at that point. I think, I think at that point, Mr. Cox is gonna reach the point where he's gonna have a very difficult time getting the press to attend his press conferences. It's just not gonna be that kind of news. It's all gonna be re-hash and by that time, I hope we'll have the Committee with enough information on Democrat financing...

President Nixon: I wouldn't anticipate it that much. [...]


And more false bravado:


Buzhardt: If he [Howard Baker] sees that Dean is beginning to crumble, if he sees that he's beginning to look bad, then, yes, I anticipate he'll jump on with both feet...I'm convinced that [Dean will]...convict himself.

President Nixon: Really?

Buzhardt: Yes, sir. As a lar, and we'll give him all the help we can.

President Nixon: As a lar, huh.


Buzhardt and Haig at this point are putting their hopes on Dean's weaknesses, particularly a story in the press about Dean "borrowing" $14,000 from the campaign for personal expenses, leaving an IOU in a safe but without telling anyone. The problem is that Buzhardt and Haig believe that Dean's main story will be full of lies, because Nixon has told them that; the president, however, knows that Dean can be devastating while sticking to the truth. Meanwhile, Buzhardt is preparing questions for committee minority counsel Fred Thompson, for the Republicans to use to cross-examine Dean. But Howard Baker isn't acting as a solid partisan ally, which means the committee as a whole is badly slanted against Nixon.

Realistically, however, there's just very little they can do at this point, other than to assume that whatever people think of Richard Nixon and John Dean, if it ultimately comes down to choosing who to believe then no one is going to want to bring down the President of the United States based on one man's claims without proof. And of those still in the White House, only the president knows that Dean is telling the truth -- and there is firm evidence to prove it.

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