Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 22, 1973

Patrick Gray is still testifying in support of his nomination, which is by now pretty clearly doomed. Or if it wasn't...


Senator Byrd. Going back to Mr. Dean, when he indicated that he would have to check to see if Mr. Hunt had an office in the Old Executive Office Building, he lied to the agents; didn't he?

Mr. Gray. I would say looking back on it now and exhaustively analyzing the minute details of this investigation, I would have to conclude that that probably is correct, yes, sir.


This is the end of a very long line of questioning based no Byrd's observation that Dean had taken possession of the materials in Howard Hunt's White House office safe on June 20 (having directed it to be opened on June 19), but then told an FBI agent on June 22 that he didn't know whether Hunt had a White House office and would have to check. Not only that, but when Gray did take possession of the materials a few days later, it never occurred to him that Dean's answer on June 22 was a lie; in fact, under questioning from Byrd he repeatedly says that he just trusts people who work for the president to tell the truth, end of story.


Senator Byrd. Wow, you just conclude that at this point.  How about on the 27th, the day after

Mr. Gray. No. sir. No, sir, there were none of us that discussed it in that time frame. We did not even consider it. We didn't think about it.

Senator Byrd. I cannot for the life of me, with all due respect to you, imagine how these things would not have occurred to you in the face of the chain of events that are on the record.


No surprise that all of this generates more front-page headlines: "Gray Testifies That Dean 'Probably' Lied To F.B.I." It's worth mentioning, too, that at the start of these hearings Dean was an obscure figure who had to be identified; now he's in the headlines.

With Mitchell on the way from New York for a White House meeting, Haldeman has a morning conversation with Nixon that covers plenty of ground, including the details of Haldeman's involvement in the hush money:


PRESIDENT: Dean goes down the line and, and, and then the line is, uh, (unintelligible). He gets, uh, for example, it appears to me that it's, if you really want to look at the thing, it's, uh,--And he said completely the
opposite. He says that he's involved. He, he--and-I said why the hell, how, how, how are you involved? He said because he was aware of and participated in the obstruction of justice by reason of the fact that, uh,
he was aware of the fact that they were, uh, they had a fund to take care of these various defendants. I don't believe that that is going to be something that is going to set Dean, myself, you know what I mean. That's, uh, well, when Dean ran the fund to--he didn't hand out the money. Others did.

HALDEMAN: We, John and I worked on that with him. Perhaps he thinks I'm tied into that too because of this, in a sense, my fund that he was taking.

PRESIDENT: Yeah. Well, I, I, that's the kind of thing I'd kind of like to get...


PRESIDENT: ...out of the way.

HALDEMAN: Okay, but, we're very clear on that, except this concern is what they do on the other side. What happened was that is they, they needed the money


HALDEMAN: ...They were supposed to be getting it themselves from other sources, from other Cubans and all that kind of crap...


HALDEMAN: ...So, they got back to a crunch once in a while when a guy had to have another $3,000 or something, or, or he was gonna blow, blow--

PRESIDENT: Then, who did it? Dean? That's what worries him.

HALDEMAN: No. Then what happened-was, the only, see they knew over there that the only money there was that was useable was this 350,000.

PRESIDENT: Who's they, who's they?

HALDEMAN: LaRue and Mitchell.


HALDEMAN: And so, Mitchell said, "You've got to use that money.” So, I said, "Turn the whole thing back to 'em. We don't want the money anyway. Give just enough, I've been looking for a way to get rid of it.” I'll admit I was, I was worried about this, this money. I wanted to get it back into the, where it belonged. Uh, so, so, he gave it back to them, and they wouldn't take, Mitchell wouldn't let them take it back, but he did
say "You've got to use some of it.” So Dean told Strachan, who was the guy that had the...


HALDEMAN: ...the physical possession to give X thousand dollars to LaRue. So, Strachan would go and open his safe, take out X thousand dollars and, and go trudging over to LaRue's, aiid, and this is all after the
election, this is in the--

PRESIDENT: After the election?

HALDEMAN: Yeah, on the, yeah, and this in--

PRESIDENT: Oh, after the election.

HALDEMAN: Yeah. And he would go over and give LaRue...


HALDEMAN: ...X thousand dollars and, and, we can certainly claim that, that Strachan had no knowledge of what that was for—he was carrying out Dean's instructions; that Dean was carrying out instructions from me; and you've gotta prove it for me. And my point there was, it's their money, give it back to 'em, give it all back to 'em.[...]


That last bit, basically, is the basis for a cover story to sell out the campaign: sure, the money involved in obstruction of justice came from Haldeman (through Dean and Strachan), but it was campaign money that they were just returning to the campaign, and they had no idea that the campaign would subsequently use it for payments to the Watergate defendants to keep them quiet. Of course, as the conversation shows, that's pure fabrication. The president says, "Why don't we just say [...] [it] was never used, turned over to the Committee at the end of the campaign. What they did with it is their problem."

Meanwhile, John Mitchell arrives from New York. As Emery reports, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and Dean all say that upon arriving, Mitchell told them the Hunt crisis was resolved for now Emery says it had been "taken care of."  The meeting itself, as so many of these meetings are, is another dud. Although one bit of it is that Dean is sent back (once again) to write the Dean Report that will clear everyone, with Nixon for at least the second time offering Camp David to him for that purpose.

The problem remains for Dean that if he does write his report and more is revealed, then Dean's report becomes the center of the cover-up -- with everyone above Dean hoodwinked by Dean's report. Of course, Dean is deep in it no matter what, but he still could claim (honestly!) that he was only carrying out the cover-up at the instructions of his bosses, rather than fooling them.

So that wraps up March 22.

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