Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 14, 1973 (part two)

John Ehrlichman was supposed to have confronted John Mitchell and basically told him to take responsibility for the Watergate break-ins -- given that it was clear, at this point, that Mitchell is going to be indicted and probably convicted anyway.

But when Ehrlichman reports back to Nixon and Haldeman, he has to tell him that none of that happened. Mitchell claims to be innocent -- claims not even to have been at key meetings -- and says that it was all Bob Haldeman's plan to begin with, anyway:


EHRLICHMAN: ...Says it comes --the origin of that, of course, was in the White House where Bob
Haldeman and I talked about something called the Operation Sandwedge. That was really the grandfather of this whole thing. And, of course, that was never put together because we couldn't get the right people to
do it, and -- They were talking about Joe Hoods and people of that kind," and so he said "It never happened."

PRESIDENT: What is Operation Sandwedge?

HALDEMAN: It's, it was something that Jack Caulfield...

PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible) Oh, yes.

HALDEMAN: ...came up with back in '71, and we needed some intelligence and ought to set up our own Intertel.


Dean has also made his report by now, in the late afternoon, and that's also passed along to the president:


EHRLICHMAN: (Sighs) I haven't any idea. Dean seems to think everybody in the place is going to get
indicted. (Laughs) No, this afternoon -- Well, I...

HALDEMAN: They're all doing the same thing. What Dean said is just looking at the worst possible side of the coin that you could make a list of everybody who in some way is technically indictable in the cover-up operation. And that list includes, in addition to Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Colson, Dean, --

PRESIDENT: Because they all discussed it?

HALDEMAN: Strachan, Kalmbach, Kalmbach's go-between, Kalmbach's source, LaRue, Mardian, O'Brien, Parkinson, ...


HALDEMAN: Bittman, Hunt, uh, and, and, you know, so, and just to keep wandering through the impossibles, he said maybe the route is for, for everybody on that list to take a guilty plea and, and get immediate, uh, uh, what do you call it, pardon, or, uh, ...


HALDEMAN: ...clemency.

PRESIDENT: From the President.

HALDEMAN: Hmm. That shows you the somewhat unclear state (Laughs) of John Dean's analytical


PRESIDENT: It's a shame. There could be clemency in this case and at the proper time, having in mind the extraordinary sentences of Magruder, and so forth and so on, but you know damn well...

HALDEMAN: It's gotta be down the road

PRESIDENT: It's ridiculous. They all know that. Colson knew that. I mean when you talked to Colson and he talked to me.


Ehrlichman leaves after a while, and the conversation ends with just the president and his chief-of-staff:


(27 second pause)
PRESIDENT: I guess we're not surprised at Mitchell, are we?

HALDEMAN: No. It's partly true.

PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible)

HALDEMAN: What he's saying is partly true. I don't think he did put it together.

PRESIDENT: Hmh. He shouldn't - he shouldn't throw the burden over here, Bob, on you. Now, frankly, Colson I understand, but, cause Colson certainly put the heat on over there. I don't think John would seriously have believed that you put him up to this thing.

HALDEMAN: I told you I didn't. He knows I didn't. (Unintelligible). No question of that.

PRESIDENT: I should think he knows it. He let it all happen himself. (20 second pause) (banging on desk to beat of music) So he saw more, huh?

HALDEMAN: That's what he says.

PRESIDNET: You know he'll never - he'll never go to prison. (20 second pause) What do you think about that as a possible thing - does a trial of the former Attorney General of the United States bug you? This God damn case.
HALDEMAN: It really is.
(18 second pause)
PRESIDENT: He'll have to take the stand at some time. What the hell is this anyhow?


We're at 4 in the afternoon on a Saturday, now, but the day isn't nearly over.

Magruder comes in, and tells them that he's testifying. He lays out his version of the entire story of Watergate, and Ehrlichman and Haldeman relay it to Nixon in their next meeting.

Ehrlichman makes his call to Attorney General Kleindienst. This is, according to their earlier script, supposed to be the big "Nixon has broken the case" call, but with Mitchell not on board all Ehrlichman really has is what Justice already has. Or would have: Kleindienst is still totally in the dark, and isn't sure exactly why the White House has more knowledge than Justice, anyway.

And with that, they all go, of all things, the White House Correspondents dinner, which happens to be that night.

But not everyone is at the gala.

Silbert and Glanzer, the prosecutors, had finally reached the point that evening that they were ready to move. They call Henry Peterson, the head of the criminal division at Justice, to his office, and now let him know about what Dean and Magruder have been telling them, from the original Watergate plot all the way through to the hush money and obstruction of justice. They need to make decisions about immunity, and generally about plea bargains.

Peterson's response: "The president is going to be impeached."

And that's without Dean, so far, having told them anything about Nixon's involvement.

At the White House, Nixon has returned from the White House Correspondents and, at 11, he calls Haldeman to go over the situation again:


PRESIDENT: At least, at least I think, I think (laughs) now we pretty much know what the worst is I, I do I don't know what the hell else they could have that's any worse, you know what I mean, unless you know...

HALDEMAN: That's right.

PRESIDENT: Unless there's, and I mean, I don't know that uh, unless somebody's got, uh, some piece of paper that somebody signed or some God damned thing but...


PRESIDENT: ... that I doubt.
HALDEMAN: Doesn't appear that there is such a thing.
I mean, there's been no hint of that, what's in here is, is all stuff that, that, uh, has been hinted at. It goes further than, than what was, uh, found in some areas but it's, obviously it's totally consistent basically with what everything John had developed.


And then Nixon calls Ehrlichman. They talk about the possibility of Haldeman leaving; they also review Ehrlichman's conversation with Kleindienst, earlier. And they go through, again, the idea that Ehrlichman has now investigated the case for Nixon and discovered...well, all the stuff that Henry Peterson just heard about.

As Dean expected, Peterson insists on immediately telling the Attorney General. And so, at 1AM very late Saturday night, Silber, Glanzer, and Peterson all go to Richard Kleindienst's house and, for the next four hours, they lay out the entire case to him. And that, at 5 AM early Sunday morning, is how Saturday April 14 ends.

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