Monday, April 29, 2013

April 28, 1973

"Told me to get the statements written in the best possible way. Says he isn't going to mention our names in his TV talk Monday."

That's Haldeman's report of his morning phone conversation with Nixon; the president is at Camp David, and the decision has been made that Haldeman and Ehrlichman will both take a leave, not resign. Nixon wants them to come to Camp David, but their lawyer wants them to wait until the next day, and so they spend the Saturday writing their statements requesting leaves until their names are cleared.

The president knows he has to let them go, but still slides all over the place. Here, just before calling Haldeman, he speaks on the phone to Ron Ziegler:


Ziegler: Are Bob [Haldeman] and John [Ehrlichman] coming up today [to Camp David]?

President Nixon: That's what they tell me. That's what they tell me. You know, I don't know, I don't know. As you know, this is going to be a painful session. God I don't -- do you see -- Jesus. Do you see anything, now that they, with all of this, that they really should hang on? What's your feeling on that?

Ziegler: My feeling is the same, Mr. President.

President Nixon: That they better move now or the time will be gone?

Ziegler: Yes, sir.


Nixon then calls Haldeman, and agrees that they can wait until tomorrow; Haldeman and Ehrlichman's lawyers are putting a lot of weight on how they leave, compared to how Dean leaves, so they continue to talk about that. Nixon, however, has something else on his mind:


President Nixon: ...I wanted to ask you a question. You know, I mark things in news summaries now and then, you know, to do this, Good God, check on this, what the hell's this guy doing, and so forth and so on.

Haldeman: Yeah.

President Nixon: It was not your practice to just make multiliths of those and send them to fellows like Dean and so forth? They don't have the verbatims of that stuff stuff, do they?

Haldeman: No. They have -- what they have is a memo from the staff secretary saying it's been requested that you check such and such.

President Nixon: Does it indicate the president has requested?

Haldeman: No.

President Nixon: Good. That's fine.

Haldeman: And it doesn't ask for a report back to the president. It says: Please report back to the staff secretary on your actions, or something, by April 15th.

President Nixon: Good, good. Well, that's perfectly all right.

Haldeman: And then the originals of those go into your file...That was standard procedure.


Nixon has already asked Ziegler that morning about what might have; it sounds here that he's wondering whether anyone has put down on paper some of the things he's asked his senior staff to do -- breaking into Brookings, for example.

Ziegler speaks to Haldeman, pressing him to just resign and be done with it. And then again to Nixon, who adds one new factor:


President Nixon: ...I just talked to my daughter Tricia, who came up to tell me -- you know, she's a sweet child -- and told me the family and Pat [Nixon] that they felt strongly that Haldeman and Ehrlichman should resign.


That's late morning. Nixon checks back in with Ziegler in the evening; by now, he's moved in the direction, again, of resignations rather than leaves. Ziegler reports on what the press has that day:


President Nixon: Fine. Any other developments I should know about?

Ziegler: No, nothing of major importance in the scope of all of this. The direction of the story seemed to be going to the Plumbers operation.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ziegler: Specifically the Pentagon Papers [Fielding] break-in, but also the cable [forged by Hunt] regarding the death of or the overthrow of Diem.

President Nixon: Yeah, which was some sort of a fake, wasn't it?

Ziegler: Yes.


Haldeman was almost convinced by Ziegler, but their lawyer argues strongly for leave. Still, Haldeman at least is ready for that. John Ehrlichman, however, calls Nixon that night and pushes some, although Nixon tells him that leaves are done deal (not saying, however, that he's actually moved on to resignations rather than leaves). Nixon and Ehrlichman go over the Fielding break-in and the forged Diem cable, with each man pushing the other on culpability. Nixon, for example, says that he never knew about the forged cable, but Ehrlichman challenges that...and, at the same time, is sure to mention "your friend Colson." Nixon, meanwhile, claims that he never had heard of Hunt until after Watergate, which wasn't true. On the other hand, Ehrlichman claims that he was only involved in the Plumbers, and not in Watergate including the cover-up, which wasn't true either; Ehrlichman had been involved in the effort to "shut off" the FBI by using the CIA.

Nixon's memoir has Ehrlichman saying that "all the illegal acts ultimately derived from me [that is, Nixon]."

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