TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDING OF A
THE PRESIDENT, H.R. HALDEMAN AND
JOHN EHRLICHMAN IN THE EXECUTIVE
OFFICE BUILDING, APRIL 14,
1973, FROM 8:55 TO 11:31 A.M.
(PRIVILEGED MATERIAL DELETED)
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
PRESIDENT: …to 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
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: …you 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
REEL 2 BEGINS
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
REEL 1 ENDS
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,
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) 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…
PRESIDENT: …is 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…
HALDEMAN: …and he talked about
HALDEMAN: …man 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
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
PRESIDENT: I mean.
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
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,…
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.
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: “…in 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…
PRESIDENT: We’re right on the door of the White House and we’re trying to protect
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: “…to 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: …in his mind
PRESIDENT: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: …that you’re, you’re operating…
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
PRESIDENT: You see, John, somebody has to talk to him who knows the facts. That’s
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
HALDEMAN: …what Magruder’s gonna do.
EHRLICHMAN: I can say…
PRESIDENT: We have learned from…
EHRLICHMAN: I can, I —
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
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
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,
PRESIDENT: Do you think they would keep going on the cover up even if Mitchell went
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.
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
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?
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
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…
PRESIDENT: Well – –
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: …it, 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
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.
PRESIDENT: Well —
HALDEMAN: Thus, if you’ve got some saying they’ve got to set up a way to take secret