President Richard M. Nixon Watergate tapes, press coverage and campaign funding (part 2 of 3)

Speaker: Richard M. Nixon
Delivered On: 4/14/1973
Place: Old Executive Office Building, Washington DC
Audio/Video Available:

Description: PARTICIPANTS: President Nixon H.R.Haldeman John D. Ehrlichman Continuation (part 2 of 3) of discussions of press coverage and the issue of campaign funding; Hunt's testimony; President insisting, publicly, to Mitchell, Magruder, Liddy not to withhold testimony thinking they to protect the President; reports of promises of pardons, clemency; implications of hush money to defendants; possible Ehrlichman meetings with Mitchell, Magruders and their lawyers; possible grand jury appearance by the President; legal exposure of Dean, Haldeman, Chapin in the cover-up.
1973, FROM 8:55 TO 11:31 A.M.

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Part I
Part III

[Part II]
PRESIDENT: ...Let's come around, let's come around again though. You know the case. You've conducted the investigation for me. You have reported to me and I have asked you to go up and lay it on the ground to Mitchell and to tell Mitchell, look, there is only one thing that could save him. I think John's got to hear that kind of talk and I think he's got to hear it from somebody that doesn't have -- I was thinking of bringing Rogers in and telling him all this stuff, but God-damn it, Mitchell will wind him around his finger.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, yeah.
PRESIDENT: ...well, there's our problem.
EHRLICHMAN: If you want me to go, I'll go.
PRESIDENT: I think the message...
EHRLICHMAN: I don't know what he thinks --
PRESIDENT: ...but the message to Garcia has got to be carried --
EHRLICHMAN: Bob, Bob has a pretty good feel of Mitchell's attitude toward me that I don't have.
PRESIDENT: Well, Mitchell's attitude toward you is not going to be personal -- it isn't going to be any better for Rogers. It would be toward Rush...
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, but how in the name of God can --
PRESIDENT: ...Rush is smart and he is tough. He's a good man. And, uh, he's a man, incidentally that we can consider --
EHRLICHMAN: He can't argue the facts of this case, that's the point.
PRESIDENT: The point is, Rush is a man that I would cons- -- if you need a special man in the White House -- I was thinking last night that he is the best man I can think of...
EHRLICHMAN: (Unintelligible).
PRESIDENT: bring over to advise the President on this God-damn thing and -- no, and examine all the White House things, to look at all the FBI files, to look at your report, Dean report, the FBI files and give me a report. He's articulate, he's, he's, uh, before television he's, uh, respected among, uh -- he's one of the towering figures in the Ambassadorial world and in the bar. He is, he's no slouch.
PRESIDENT: And an outsider's -- good God, it's going to take so long to -- Rush, I trust. Rush is a friend. He's a total White House man and yet he is not, not tied into this.
EHRLICHMAN: He's exactly the kind of guy we need. Now, I don't know how he, he is in person -- he hasn't practiced law for a long time. That's not, that's not an immediate drawback but, but, uh...
PRESIDENT: He has the lawyer's mind.
EHRLICHMAN: got to get him somebody to help him, like, uh, uh --
HALDEMAN: Haven't, though, haven't events overtaken that project?
PRESIDENT: Oh, no. No. No. No. No. Bob, for Christ's sake, will you -- look, the point that I make is let's suppose they get Mitchell. Then they're going to say now what about Haldeman and what about Chapin, and what about Colson and the rest? I've got to have a report indicating -- in other words, you've got all that whole Segretti crap in there. I want somebody to say, now look, here are the facts. None of the White House people were involved. There are no other higher-ups. The White House was not involved. Put a cap around it. And, and second...
EHRLICHMAN: More than that --
PRESIDENT: ...and then face the Segretti crap.
EHRLICHMAN: I, I, in, in forcing this out, Dean remains a problem and, and, uh, here's -- uh, let me just read you what I've come to on that...
EHRLICHMAN: ..."John Dean has not involved himself in this matter as your counsel for several months and properly so. I should not continue to fill in for him," meaning me, "for several reasons, including the impermissible demands on my time that are -involved.
You need a full-time special counsel to follow these related problems who can advise you of the legal niceties from his experience in constitutional, criminal and governmental practice. I'll be happy to continue to consult with him, and so on. I do not recommend that Dean take a leave. That is neither in nor out. He has involved himself to the extent described above. Either that
requires dismissal or it does not. And that choice should be made at once. If he is discharged, the U.S. Attorney and the Grand Jury should treat him differently. But I think he's, he -- you've got to bite the bullet on Dean, one way or the other, pretty quick.
PRESIDENT: Alright. But...
EHRLICHMAN: But recognize, uh,...
HALDEMAN: What did Dean say to...
EHRLICHMAN: ...but recognize...
HALDEMAN: ...what did Dean say to...
EHRLICHMAN: that kills him.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah basically he says that kills him.
PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible).
PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible) and he got off with plea bargaining for a misdemeanor.
PRESIDENT: A misdemeanor.
PRESIDENT: That's all the God-damn thing ever was.
HALDEMAN: Yeah. And he got an undetermined sentence that was suspended Friday.
PRESIDENT: That's right.
HALDEMAN: He never served an hour in jail.
PRESIDENT: Didn't serve in jail and then, but, but, not only -- you see, Bob --
HALDEMAN: He was indicted on a felony...
PRESIDENT: He did not -- indicted on a felony...
HALDEMAN: Pled to a --
PRESIDENT: Plea, plea-bargained to a misdemeanor, gets off with, uh, no sentence and so forth and, and Dash defends him and says that -- and Lipschitz goes out and the Post prints reams of stuff that he...
HALDEMAN: (Unintelligible).
PRESIDENT: an honorable man and so forth. Now what really --
HALDEMAN: He had already been indicted on two other --
PRESIDENT: How in the hell, who got the, got that story out (unintelligible).
HALDEMAN: Well, they, apparently, the two or three papers got wind of it, but the interesting thing is that Dash had made the moral judgment...
HALDEMAN: ...that, that didn't disqualify him, he knew about it.
HALDEMAN: And Dash has a beautiful statement on the front page of the paper which is a man wouldn't be as good an investigator if he hadn't been in...
PRESIDENT: Unless he knew how to bug.
HALDEMAN: ...(unintelligible). No, unless he had -- been in trouble a couple of, one or two times.
EHRLICHMAN: Ervin must have looked at that and...
VOICES: (Unintelligible).
HALDEMAN: ...and he talked about
EHRLICHMAN: (Unintelligible).
HALDEMAN: wouldn't have been a true campaigner if he hadn't had a prank or two once in a while.
PRESIDENT: Well, what I'm getting at is this, that uh, we're just talking here, not with Dean -- we're talking about Dean naturally -- you call my attention to Lipschitz' thing only I don't give a damn about the part of this with Hunt, Liddy, and the Cuban...
PRESIDENT: ...(Unintelligible) are in this thing. It would be my (tape noise) a reasonable time had expired after the thing (unintelligible, with tape noise) and before I leave office and they'll get off. You get them full pardons. That's what they have to have, John.
PRESIDENT: Do you agree?
EHRLICHMAN: Yep, I sure do. Well, you haven't asked me how I'd come out on this. I just, I just brought it to a focus. I think if you have to decide up or down on Dean now...
PRESIDENT: What do you think about that? Oh, let's see. What, what does Dean say when you tell him that?
EHRLICHMAN: He doesn't agree with that.
PRESIDENT: I know he doesn't agree, but what does he do?
EHRLICHMAN: He wants to stay and just disconnect himself from this case. And he says, "Yes, that's right, make your decision now, but make your decision that I should stay." He needn't decide that right this minute and I would encourage him not to...
EHRLICHMAN: ...but in talking about Rush, that relates to this general subject. I think I would pass it for the moment.
PRESIDENT: But the only thing that I was -- yeah, I agree you should --
EHRLICHMAN: And, and, uh, get back to, get back to the Mitchell thing which really is, uh...
PRESIDENT: Like today. I know.
EHRLICHMAN: ...uh, like this morning.
PRESIDENT: I don't think there's anybody that can talk to Mitchell except somebody that knows this case. Now, there's one or two people, I mean I -- versed myself in it enough to know the God-damn thing, but I'm not sure that I want to know. I want to say Mitchell, "Now, look, I, I think that, I think that you're -- the attorneys for the Committee, O'Brien -- and I found out this, and I found out that, and I found out that, and the Grand Jury has told me this th-th-th-th-th- dee." I just don't know. I just don't -- you know what I mean. They talk about my going out is, uh -- but really, I am not trying to duck it. I, I don't mind, I've done unpleasant things and I'll take this in one minute. Uh, the thing, John, is that there's nobody really that can do it except you.- And I know-how Mitchell feels. But you conducted this investigation. I would -- the way I would do it, Bob, you, you critique this, is I'd go up, and I'd say,...
HALDEMAN: Alright.
PRESIDENT: ..."The President's asked me to see you." That you have come in today with this report; these are the cold facts indicating; of course, that this does not indicate that, but the Grand Jury is moving swiftly, Magruder will be indicted, you think. Under the circumstances, time is of the essence. You can't be in a position of having you (tape noise) the Grand Jury and (tape noise) (unintelligible) "I am responsible, I did not know it. But I assume the responsibility. Nobody in the White House is involved," and so forth, and so on. "We did try to help these defendants after- wards, yes." He probably would not deny that anyway. He probably was not asked that at an earlier time. But the, just as the clef-, just as any, the defendants are entitled to that sort of --
EHRLICHMAN: Well now you're, you're glossing it. Uh, I don't think he could do that.
PRESIDENT: All right.
EHRLICHMAN: I wouldn't want to, I wouldn't want to
PRESIDENT: All right.
EHRLICHMAN: ...have you...
PRESIDENT: Oh all right.
EHRLICHMAN: ...(unintelligible).
PRESIDENT: Fine, fine. What would you say to him?
EHRLICHMAN: I'd say (unintelligible)...
PRESIDENT: Let me, let me hear your speech (unintelligible).
EHRLICHMAN: I'd say, "The jig, you know, basically the jig is up, John, and uh, I've listened to, uh, Magruder and, and, uh, uh, uh, he's gonna, he's in my opinion he's about to blow, uh, uh, and that's, that's the last straw." Uh --
PRESIDENT: And, also, Hunt is going to testify, Tuesday, Monday, we understand.
EHRLICHMAN: "We've got to, we've got to think of this thing from the standpoint of the President and I know you have been right along and that's the reason you've been conducting yourself as you have."
EHRLICHMAN: "It, it's now time, I think, to rethink what best serves the President and also what best serves you..."
EHRLICHMAN: " the ultimate outcome of this thing."
EHRLICHMAN: "And we have to, have to, recognize that you are not going to escape indictment. There's no way and..."
PRESIDENT: Because -- yeah. Yeah.
EHRLICHMAN: "...the far better, far better that you should be prosecuted on an information from the U.S. Attorney based on your conversation with the U.S. Attorney, than on an indictment by a Grand Jury of, of 15 blacks and 3 whites, uh, after, uh, uh, this kind of uh, this kind of an...
EHRLICHMAN: "...investigation."
PRESIDENT: We're right on the door of the White House and we're trying to protect you.
EHRLICHMAN: "If, if the Grand Jury goes this way, you've been dragged in by the heels. Uh, if you go down first thing Monday morning, or yet this afternoon..."
PRESIDENT: This afternoon.
EHRLICHMAN: "...and talk to the U.S. Attorney, and say, 'Okay I want to make a statement,' then two things happen: one, you get credit for coming forward; two, you serve the President's interest. And, uh, I'm here in behalf of the President --"
HALDEMAN: Well, and three, you have the dignified opportunity to discuss this in, in the, office of...
HALDEMAN: ...of Earl Silbert instead of in the third Washington jail.
EHRLICHMAN: "And, and I'm here at the President's request to ask you to do that..."
EHRLICHMAN: "He has reviewed the facts now..."
EHRLICHMAN: "He has no alternative, John...
EHRLICHMAN: "...but..."
EHRLICHMAN: " send me here and..."
EHRLICHMAN: "...ask you to do this."
PRESIDENT: Right, well, then, if you want to hear it personally, he, he, he, uh...
EHRLICHMAN: Pick up the phone.
PRESIDENT: No. Come down and see him.
HALDEMAN: I have a couple of modifications to that. One, a minor ques-- not to what you say, but in setting it up. It would be helpful, in doing that, if I called Mitchell and said that the President wants you to talk with him. Then there's no question...
HALDEMAN: his mind
PRESIDENT: That's right.
HALDEMAN: ...that you're, you're operating...
HALDEMAN: ...unilaterally.
EHRLICHMAN: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT: Right, right.
HALDEMAN: And, secondly, that if at all possible, he should come down here.
EHRLICHMAN: Why is that?
HALDEMAN: Well, my reason for it is, A, you get him here under your circumstances. B. if you make your case, which you may (unintelligible) at this point...
PRESIDENT: That's right.
HALDEMAN: ...'cause he may be on the same track.
HALDEMAN: ...maybe at the same point.
HALDEMAN: If he is, you might be able then to swing a "let's get Silbert right now and go on over." Ah, he may say, I've got to talk to the President before I do this.
PRESIDENT: That's right.
HALDEMAN: And then run him in to do it.
PRESIDENT: Um, well, let me say, let me say this, uh, I've, I've run, run through my mind, uh, the, the thoughts. And believe me the idea of Rogers, as you, John, as Bob will tell you, is not, is not one that, uh, that I don't think is, is potentially good. I was hoping to get him in, in a bigger -- but I, I know Rogers like the back of my hand and Rogers does not fight real, mean tough problems and he will not go.
HALDEMAN: The trouble with Rogers is that Mitchell will overrun him. Mitchell will say, "Bill, you're out of your fucking mind. If you knew what I knew -- I mean those kids over at the White House are, are looking at me and, uh, and, uh --
PRESIDENT: What if you knew what I knew, what about them?
HALDEMAN: Well, he'd roll his eyes and, and Rogers wouldn't know one way or the other.
PRESIDENT: You see, John, somebody has to talk to him who knows the facts. That's the point.
HALDEMAN: And as I mentioned (unintelligible, with tape noise) thing in your scenario that really worries me when you say I've listened to Magruder --
EHRLICHMAN: Well, all, all right, I can't say it quite that way
VOICES: (Unintelligible)
HALDEMAN: ...what Magruder's gonna do.
EHRLICHMAN: I can say...
PRESIDENT: We have learned from...
PRESIDENT: ...we have learned that Magruder is going to testify.
EHRLICHMAN: I can say, well, I can start out by saying, look, I can't vouch for any of this first hand. A tremendous amount of what I know is second-hand, like my conversation with Paul O'Brien, but I have every reason to think that Magruder is in a frame of mind right now to go down there and tell every- thing he knows.
PRESIDENT: That Hunt's going to go Monday (unintelligible)
EHRLICHMAN: Hunt's going to go Monday.
PRESIDENT: ...and Liddy, well, you can't say Liddy
Well --
PRESIDENT: ...maybe Mitchell has a feel--
EHRLICHMAN: I have, I have reason to think Liddy has already talked.
HALDEMAN: You know Rothblatt knows who (unintelligible) Rothblatt. So they're obviously moving on the cover-up.
HALDEMAN: See, if Mitchell went in, that might knock that whole week into a cocked hat.
HALDEMAN: Well, what do they care about the cover-up any more? They --
EHRLICHMAN: Well, they might, but they, but, you see, Mitchell -- if Mitchell gave them a complete statement
PRESIDENT: I wish they wouldn't, but (unintelligible) they would, Bob.
EHRLICHMAN: ...if Mitchell gave them a complete statement --
PRESIDENT: They shouldn't, I mean, you're right. I mean, the, the, the cover-up, he said that, uh -- said well that basically it's a separate crime. Isn't that right, John?
PRESIDENT: Do you think they would keep going on the cover up even if Mitchell went in?
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I would assume so. I would certainly assume so. You see, they're got to explain to the Ervin Committee some day why they do things and they've got a hell of a lead. They're really not in shape to stop at this point. They would certainly be diverted.
HALDEMAN: (Unintelligible with tape noise) is this, that everything relating to this and all the fringes of it and all the, well, any other --
EHRLICHMAN: I think they're in a position to uh -- I, I just don't know (unintelligible)
HALDEMAN: Yeah, that's right.
EHRLICHMAN: (Unintelligible)
PRESIDENT: But the point is what, what they have that -- they, their relations have been primarily with Dean.
HALDEMAN: I don't know about Colson.
EHRLICHMAN: I don't either.
HALDEMAN: Well, Dean is --
PRESIDENT: I have to bite the Dean bullet today.
EHRLICHMAN: I didn't say that. I didn't say that, but I think it, it is, it is a dependent question. And, uh, if you are in a situation where Mitchell stonewalls you...
EHRLICHMAN: ...and walks out and says you know, to hell with you guys, I've got to, I've got to live my own life.
PRESIDENT: Well, let's say, uh, we could uh, uh, what, I want to look at my watch, not because of an appointment.
EHRLICHMAN: You've got a dentist appointment.
PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible) I've been here since eight o'clock this morning.
EHRLICHMAN: That's why?
VOICES: (Unintelligible)
PRESIDENT: Don't worry about that. No, that's no problem. I could have got Haig to -- but, I, uh, John Dean out of the Grand Jury.
EHRLICHMAN: Let me get around that by sug-, suggesting what I think his response would be.
EHRLICHMAN: His response will be, "Look, Ehrlichman, you're supposed to be a lawyer. You know better. To go to somebody who is a target in an inquiry of this kind and try to pressure into giving up his rights is very antithesis of what rights I would have if I were a defendant
PRESIDENT: That's right.
EHRLICHMAN: "Uh you're supposed to, you're in the executive branch, and a government official, you're supposed to tell me what, what all the chips are.
PRESIDENT: Uh, that, that chair's gone.
SEVERAL VOICES: (Unintelligible)
HALDEMAN: ...a couple and fall on the floor which would not be --
PRESIDENT: Go ahead Steve.
EHRLICHMAN: Uh, "you're supposed to tell me, uh, that I have a right to counsel and, uh, you know, read me the, the uh, Supreme Court thing (unintelligible) and so forth. Instead of that, you just suggested that I, uh, I divest myself of all my rights, and, uh, and uh, you, uh, asked me down here for a highly improper conversation. You haven't even suggested that I bring my attorney. And I take it what you are doing, is, uh, you're acting as the, uh, prosecutor in this case." How do you come off doing that?
PRESIDENT: He won't do that, in my opinion. Uh I think he's more likely to say,"well God-damn it, look, John, we -- don't you know that there are people in the White House that are deeply involved in this. Don't you know that Colson and Haldeman...
HALDEMAN: He may say this, yeah.
PRESIDENT: "...pressured this poor boy over here" I think Mitchell will take the offensive. Don't you agree? Bob?
HALDEMAN: You see, I'm not at all sure but what Mitchell may think I am involved. I'm sure he probably thinks Colson's involved, because Magruder has used that. I would guess that the line Magruder has used with Mitchell -- and you might have to play Magruder's tape recording for him (unintelligible)
EHRLICHMAN: Well I don't think, I don't think that'll happen. I just don't.
HALDEMAN: Well, I just --
PRESIDENT: Is Magruder planning to go see Mitchell?
HALDEMAN: Yes, sir, and it's -- if he decides to go, if he decides to talk.
PRESIDENT: If he decides to talk, he's convinced...
HALDEMAN: And he's about on the verge, his -- I, I assume from that conversation that what he has decided, he is either going to talk or he's going to take the Fifth. He's not going to lie, over and over.
PRESIDENT: But, they're not calling him -- they may not call him back, that's always --
EHRLICHMAN: That's correct. (Unintelligible) Liddy will never try it.
PRESIDENT: Well the Fifth (unintelligible).
EHRLICHMAN: He says, I know I'm going to be arrested. I know I'm on my way to jail. All right, if, if Mitchell comes back with a line like that, you're not serving the President, well, if you have made any kind of investigation surely you know people in the White House are involved.
PRESIDENT: What do you say?
EHRLICHMAN: I say, "look, John, we're past the point where we can be concerned about whether people in the White House are involved. We're not protecting the President by hoping this thing is going go go away."
PRESIDENT: The people in the White House are going to testify.
EHRLICHMAN: The thing is not going to go away, John, and by your sitting up there in New York and pretending that it is, it's just making it worse. And it's been getting steadily worse on account of your sitting up there for the last couple of months. We're at the point now where we have no choice but to ask you to do this.
HALDEMAN: We have a whole, and you could say, we have a whole series of people who have remained mum in order not to create problems for you, who, it's now clear, can no longer remain mum. They don't intend to create problems for you, but, I mean...
PRESIDENT: Like Hunt, Liddy?
HALDEMAN: No. I mean like Haldeman, Dean --
EHRLICHMAN: I could say that when I got into this I discovered that there were all kinds of people sitting around here who had bits of information. They were hanging on to them, becuase they didn't know where they led...
EHRLICHMAN: ...and because they were afraid they would hurt John Mitchell. And I've had to put this whole thing together. And now, having put it together...
HALDEMAN: (Unintelligible) you guys received word he comes down --
EHRLICHMAN:, there's just no escape from it, just no escape.
HALDEMAN: And it's got to be proved whether, uh, any...
PRESIDENT: The adversary type. There's nobody that can do it --
HALDEMAN: He will be able to persuade anyone else there is a way.
PRESIDENT: But, there is nobody else that can do it. Also (pause) let me digress a moment before we get to the (unintelligible) of Mitchell. Another indication of the, the problem we've got here, uh, is -- which is related to what we talked about last night -- is to just to keep a, a posture vis-a-vis the Committee on this. Uh, I just think we are in an impossible position frankly, with regard to White House people not appearing before the Committee. Now you've gone over that with Ziegler and he still thinks we should stonewall it on those grounds.
HALDEMAN: That's right.
EHRLICHMAN: And I've, I have not talked with him at length for days.
PRESIDENT: Well, I hear you've got the -- I, was just looking in the paper this morning -- uh, Saxbe, Mathias, Johnny Rhodes, John Anderson, Aiken. Well, of course, two or three of those names are not new, but they're all there...
PRESIDENT: ...they are trying to build that up as a chorus of Republicans and more will come.
EHRLICHMAN: They'll get five a day for the next month.
HALDEMAN: Bet they don't. Bet -- what's interesting is on a universal chorus he must appear before the Committee.
HALDEMAN: Thus, if you've got some saying they've got to set up a way to take secret testimony...
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