Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30, 1973

It's a travel day: Nixon, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman are off to the Pacific White House. Which means, alas, no more tapes during the following week. Before they leave, however, we do get Nixon and Haldeman talking. And elsewhere, it's a very busy day.

Jeb Magruder spends the day chasing after his former assistant, Robert Reisner, who he now learns from the Washington Post has been subpoenaed by the Ervin Committee. Alas for him and them all, to no effect. Reisner, by the way, checks in during the day with Fred Fielding, who works under Dean at the White House -- and Fielding, according to Reisner, basically tells him to tell the trust. Magruder, on the other hand, tells him over the phone "Everybody else is cooperating...If this gets out of hand, they're going to impeach the president." But Reisner lets him know he's going to tell the truth, specifically about the Gemstone meetings.

Nixon also retreats on testifying, with a new offer to allow the White House staff to testify to the Ervin Committee in some "informal" arrangement. It's not a complete surrender, but it is a major modification of the position they've been pushing all through March, and shows that the pressure of the last few weeks is getting results.

But the most important thing today, by far, is that John Dean decides to get out. As the president heads for California, John Dean secretly meets with a lawyer, Charles Shaffer, in a marathon five hour session. That day, and over the weekend, Dean spills most of the story to Shaffer (although Dean says that he still waited a week before involving the president and pre-Watergate Plumbers material). Shaffer immediately sees just how much trouble Dean is in, and begins preparing to cut a deal with prosecutors.

Before they left, Haldeman and Nixon discussed Ervin Committee maverick Republican Lowell Weicker, and then the general situation:


President Nixon: I want you to get the [goods?] on Weicker. I think we've got to play a tough damn hard game on him. And he is not a strong man.
President Nixon: Have they done the checking on his financial statements and everything?

Haldeman: As best we can, yeah.

President Nixon: Is his income tax being checked yet, or have we got our man [presumably the new IRS director Donald Alexander] in yet?

Haldeman: We nominated him, but he isn't confirmed.[...]


Haldeman: It's funny. Boy, the raw human stuff keeps -- as you grind people against the wall, it starts coming out. Mitchell -- that's why I was not so sure you ought to have Ehrlichman in with Dean. I don't know whether this is true, but Mitchell says that Dean doesn't trust Ehrlichman, he thinks Ehrlichman is maneuvering to --

President Nixon: Sink him?

Haldeman: -- sink Dean. Now, Dean thinks that Mitchell and Magruder are maneuvering to sink him. That's what he tells me.

President Nixon: I don't think Ehrlichman is maneuvering to sink anybody.

Haldeman: No, I think Ehrlichman will maneuver to keep himself clean.

President Nixon: You're damn right he will, and everybody does.

Haldeman: And he should.

President Nixon: Everybody --

Haldeman: As long as he doesn't pull anyone else in, and I don't think he will. And I don't think John has --

President Nixon: John wouldn't do it at the expense of somebody else.

Haldeman: No, sir.


The point of the first part of this is that Nixon only really knows one way to "play the game," and he's entirely blind to the danger to himself over it. Not that Lowell Weicker was going to ease off at any rate, but that the more Nixon revealed himself to be willing to abuse the powers of his office in vindictive assaults, the less anyone cared to stick with him when things got rough.

And on the second part...Ehrlichman has been out to sink the CRP people, Mitchell included, for months. Just striking that Nixon and Haldeman either can't see that, or don't want to see it.

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