Sunday, March 3, 2013

March 2, 1973

Senate Judiciary has completed their work for the week, but Nixon and Haldeman have more urgent things on their minds:

Haldeman: The other one Mitchell raised, which I don't believe he did with anybody else, is -- I don't know if John Dean's told you or not -- one of the major problems on the business John's working on is the question of financial, continuing financial activity in order to keep those people [the Watergate defendants] in place. And the way he's working on that is via Mitchell to Tom Pappas [a Nixon fundraiser].

President Nixon: Yeah.

Haldeman: Which is the best source we've got for that kind of a thing. Pappas is extremely anxious that [U.S. Ambassador to Greece Henry] Tasca stay in Greece...And our plan was, you know, to remove him and put someone else in Greece but Mitchell says it would be a very useful thing to just not disrupt that.

President Nixon: Good. I understand. No problem. Pappas has raised the money for this other activity or whatever it is. [...]

Haldeman: And he's able to deal in cash...


So Tom Pappas, who has interests in US policy in Greece, is raising hush money for the Watergate defendants, and in return Nixon is willing to postpone a change in ambassadors and, implicitly, to support the policy preferences of his fundraiser. 

That's in private. In public, Nixon held a press conference. The bulk of the questions, including the first eight are about other topics, but he is asked about why the FBI didn't interview Martha Mitchell, and for a general comment on the case now after the verdict in the Watergate trial. On the latter, he just repeats the standard line: John Dean investigated and found no White House involvement. The problem is that his John Dean answer leads to another question:


 Q. Mr. President, yesterday at the Gray hearings, Senator Tunney suggested he might ask the committee to ask for John Dean to appear before that hearing to talk about the Watergate case and the FBI-White House relationship. Would you object to that?


Q. Why?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, because it is executive privilege. I mean you can't--I, of course--no President could ever agree to allow the Counsel to the President to go down and testify before a committee.

On the other hand, as far as any committee of the Congress is concerned, where information is requested that a member of the White House Staff may have, we will make arrangements to provide that information, but members of the White House Staff, in that position at least, cannot be brought before a Congressional committee in a formal hearing for testimony. I stand on the same position there that every President has stood on.

FRANK CORMIER [Associated Press]. Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Mr. President, on that particular point, if the Counsel was involved

THE PRESIDENT. He always gets two. [Laughter]

Q. if the Counsel was involved in an illegal or improper act and the prima facie case came to light, then would you change the rules relative to the White House Counsel?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not expect that to happen, and if it should happen, I would have to answer that question at that point.

Let me say, too, that I know that, since you are on your feet, Clark [Mollenhoff], that you had asked about the executive privilege statement, and we will have that available toward the end of next week or the first of the following week, for sure, because obviously, the Ervin committee is interested in that statement, and that will answer, I think, some of the questions with regard to how information can be obtained from a member of the White House Staff, but consistent with executive privilege.


The pressure on Dean has been building for some time, and it's only getting worse. He's managing the seven defendants, working on getting payoffs to them, coordinating everyone's testimony to make sure it sticks to the story. He's reporting to Nixon more; Nixon tells Haldeman that day that they've talked "two or three times" (about "it" -- not clear if it's Watergate in general, something specific, if it's two or three times recently, or what). Nixon continues to refer constantly in public to Dean's fictional report clearing the White House. He's being exposed by Gray, and at best he's going to have to prep everyone again for the Ervin Committee.

Nixon is impressed, calling Dean a "pretty good gem" to Haldeman. 


Haldeman: The great thing is he's good in dealing with people. He's able to -- because all this is a people game, trying to just keep these people on an even keel, not having someone break and go rattling off, and all these Goddamn Watergate seven guys he's had to nursemaid all these months.

[Withdrawn item. Privacy.]

President Nixon: Well, I must say I've been impressed by him.


  1. This is an awesome series, and much appreciated. Looking forward to more.

  2. Thanks! As I've said before, I'm a little scared by March and April of 1973...I don't know how many days I can do them, but I'll try to get as many as I can.

  3. Speaking of impressed, those are superb answers from Nixon given the predicament he's in. And they called Bill Clinton "slick"! I don't know, somehow this makes me appreciate the skills it takes to be a professional politician at that level.


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