Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 26, 1973

Haldeman's diary:


The P had me over again at 10:00 this morning for another six-hour session. I talked to Dean on the phone first to get a reading on how the reaction to the story is going. He decided last night to hire a lawyer and to have him give notice to the papers that he would move for libel action if they went ahead with the story.


OK, there's a lot there.

The story Haldeman is checking about is an LA Times scoop about what James McCord is telling Sam Dash, the Ervin Committee counsel: that Dean was involved in Watergate and that Magruder perjured himself. In fact, Dash gave a statement to the press the previous day making it public that McCord was talking to him, but the LA Times story has the detail that McCord had accused both Dean and Magruder.

Second, "another six-hour session." Watergate, now, is totally consuming the administration. Remember, this is the President of the United States and his White House Chief of Staff. They have other things to do!

Third: Dean hires a lawyer. Now, the idea of a libel suit is a joke; there's no way that Dean would want to subject himself to discovery at this point. He'd either have to perjure himself (and with an excellent chance of being caught), or confess to obstruction of justice, at the very least. But for Nixon and his men on March 26, the notion of John Dean consulting with an attorney should have been absolutely terrifying. Even if Dean only did it because he really did want to sue the LA Times, a lawyer is going to tell Dean to look out for himself -- and a John Dean looking out for himself, fully aware of what he's been telling the president and how the president has responded...oh my.

For now, however, Haldeman and Nixon don't focus on that last threat. Instead, in addition to McCord, there's a new worry: Jeb Magruder now tells the Committee to Re-elect's layer, Paul O'Brien, that the real story of Watergate was that it was all a White House idea in the first place, with Dean implementing Haldeman's plan for intelligence-gathering. In this version, CRP merely signed off on what the White House was demanding. This is essentially the flip side of John Ehrlichman's plan to blame everything on a Mitchell - Magruder - Liddy chain of command, and of course if yet another immediate problem for John Dean.

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