Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1, 1973

Two pieces of news on this day, the day after Nixon finally let his top two staff members and his Attorney General go and fired John Dean.

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution, sponsored by liberal Republican Charles Percy calling for a special prosecutor.

And Nixon was shocked to find the FBI had sealed off the offices of Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, at the orders of new White House Counsel Leonard Garment. Haldeman, Ambrose tells us, had comes to his old office to start preparing for his appearances before the grand jury and the Senate Watergate Committee, but an FBI agent was there and told him he could go in but couldn't take anything out -- couldn't even bring his briefcase in with him. Nixon stopped by and apparently lost his temper and even shoved the agent.

That evening, Nixon spoke to his new nominee for Attorney General, Elliot Richardson. Only Nixon's side of the phone conversation was taped, but the Kutler transcript is worth it:


President Nixon: What AI was going to say is that on this sense of the Senate thing it seems to me -- and I've been thinking about it myself is basically, appointing you, of course, can name an this area, with the authority to do what you want, of course, but what you might do is indicate your desire to discuss the matter with congressional leaders or to name the head of criminal division [Henry Petersen]. What's your thought about it? That's right. You can do -- what I mean want to name somebody, that's your prerogative....You are basically a man who is responsible. You are the Attorney General. I do think that the selection of Petersen would make sense. You know what I mean? [...] ...I'm not trying to tell you how to do it, but let me say that you had absolute authority to do that. [...]


The idea of a special prosecutor went a long ways back, even to before the election. As Emery points out, at that point -- even in March, maybe in April -- Nixon could have selected his own, or at least the loyal Kleindienst would have selected someone. Now, however, all of it is slipping rapidly from Nixon's control.

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