Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 8, 1973

A busy day for Nixon, with several Watergate-related briefings with his new staff. Unlike his conversations with Haldeman and Ehrlichman, Nixon is here the only one who really knows anything -- and the version of events he tells is consistent with the new cover-up of the cover-up, not with the truth.

Nixon prepares Ron Ziegler for his press briefing on the Plumbers:


President Nixon: [...] [D]on't you think we had better check with Ehrlichman to say, to say that our position here is that I did not learn of this -- I mean, I did not learn of the [Fielding] burglary -- you know what I mean -- until I began my own investigation? ... Yeah, that he informed me of the burglary.


President Nixon ... [I] talking to Bob, ... I might say I had no knowledge of the break-in, I had no --

Ziegler: The Ellsberg?

President Nixon: Exactly, the break-in, until my own investigation in March.[...] John [Dean?] and Ehrlichman didn't come in and tell me. Believe me. Nobody told me.


In fact, according to Ehrlichman, Nixon knew everything that Ehrlichman knew after a walk on the beach on July 8, 1972; it's also possible that Colson had already discussed it with Nixon. Nixon certainly knew before Watergate that Hunt was involved with the Plumbers and that the Plumbers were up to things which could never be disclosed. It makes little sense that he would have cared so much about covering up what they did if he didn't know what it was.

In the continuing conversation with Ziegler, Nixon (falsely) denies meeting with Dean on September 15, and insists "we all assumed he was conducting an investigation." Indeed, Nixon well knows, and has always known, that there was never an investigation; that was invented for the press.

Nixon then meets with Al Haig, four days into his new job as Chief of Staff. Haig quickly refers to Dean as a "son of a bitch," a "sniveling coward," and a "vicious little coward." They discuss the upcoming naming a special counsel:


President Nixon: Has Richardson gotten any word of special counsel yet?

Haig: No, he hasn't.[...]
President Nixon: [...] If he had any -- wants anything, he can run names by or thoughts --

Haig: Well, he knows quietly that he's to appoint no one without checking.

President Nixon: Well, I'd just like to know something about it.


Later that afternoon, Nixon and Haig talk, according to Kutler for the first time, about the March 21 meeting with Dean. His version is, not surprisingly, quite different from what the actual tape shows.


President Nixon: [...] March 21st was the critical day. He came into the office and on that day did reveal a hell of a lot of things except leaving out that he was involved. Like he didn't go into the fact that he had fixed this. I told you the testimony for Magruder. Now that later comes up, that he did coach Magruder, which he was not supposed to have done. [...]

...And -- and this is the critical point -- that this fellow Bittman, Hunt's lawyer, was now demanding more money for his attorney's fees.

It was then that I got into a discussion which I deliberately led him on, about I said, well, suppose you could get it. How much -- how much you going to need. You're going to have to do it for four years, aren't you? So, that would cost a million dollars, but how are you going to get it delivered to him? And how -- you can't provide -- you can't produce -- clemency...


It was his job to tell me what the hell was up. And it was then -- it actually then in my own mind, as I reflect back, that triggered my own investigation of this Goddamn case is because, as I told you then, the word -- the only word you could (unintelligible) basically is blackmail.
Now, how would you answer anything like that? I don't know. I don't know. I can't do it. I can't get up and say, look, I'm not a crook, something like that...Here's the guy who for nine months we were counting upon, who was supposed to be making the reports. Here's the guy, and so forth an so on. And then he comes in for the first time nine months later reports this sort of thing --

Haig: ...An investigation was launched and the man was told to write up a complete report. That was the kind of activity that he had been involved in, and that's it. It's got to be.


That evening, another meeting with Haig sets in place Nixon's defense lawyer:


Haig: ...We'll work out the way. That's why we'll get this thing through, get a, beef up our capability with a real tough guy who operates and works --

President Nixon: I think [lawyer Fred] Buzhardt would be good. Get him over into it right away...[...] Now, with Buzhardt, you've got a guy that you know that is loyal and everything. I'd rather take a loyal guy and put him to work on this.

Haig: And a smart guy.

President Nixon: And a smart guy and a loyal guy and somebody that is not from the outside that we could really have the inside.


There's plenty more. Nixon is focused on Dean, all day -- at times worrying about what documents Dean might have, at one point shouting to Haig about how Dean let them down.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that this is all but impossible to quantify, but I'd sure like to know what percentage of the tape-time is devoted to Watergate matters. It sure seems like the percentage would be pretty high. Which would suggest that Nixon et al. were spending a lot of time protecting themselves, time they wouldn't have needed to spend had they *not* been crooks. (I know, I k now, we already know that it was consuming their time and attention, but tht economist in me likes numbers...)

    On the other hand, having Nixon distracted from actually governing was probably a good thing.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?