TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDING OF A
MEETING AMONG THE PRESIDENT, JOHN
DEAN, JOHN EHRLICHMAN, AND H.R.
HALDEMAN ON MARCH 21, 1973, FROM
5:20 TO 6:01 PM
EHRLICHMAN: Well, you go round and round and you come up with all questions and
no answers. Backed up where you were at when you started.
PRESIDENT: That’s where we were this morning. Well, uh, anything additional to rush
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I, I just don’t think that the immunity thing will wash.
PRESIDENT: And the Grand Jury.
EHRLICHMAN: It may, if you come to–
HALDEMAN: Well, the immunity itself–We’ll just cut off never ending…
ERLICHMAN: Well, under this procedure of John’s, uh, John’s grand jury package was,
uh, was, uh
PRESIDENT: To give immunity to whom?
EHRLICHMAN: To various witnesses
PRESIDENT: …who go before the Grand Jury.
EHRLICHMAN: I, I think we have to figure that that is out of the picture. I just
don’t think that it, that it can be carried off.
HALDEMAN: Well, either the Grand Jury or you can try by setting up a special panel,
DEAN: The special panel could investigate and report back on the whole thing. Have
them (unintel-ligible) immunize witnesses so that all the information can be obtained,
PRESIDENT: Maybe the appointment of a Presidential panel?
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 2
DEAN: I would think it would be too–well that would take special legislation to
get immunity powers, whereas the Department of Justice right now possesses the,
the ability to grant immunity.
PRESIDENT: Well, let’s take the Grand Jury without immunity, what about that?
PRESIDENT: That was your idea of getting out of it.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah. Well, I think that, uh, uh, is still a possibility. It leads to
some very drastic results. Counsel over here has been reading some statutes, and,
uh, there are awful opportunities for indictment, and, uh– so, uh…
EHRLICHMAN: …you end up with people in and out of the White House indicted for
various, for various offenses. (unintelligible overlaid.)
HALDEMAN: (Unintelligible) still plenty of these guys (unintelligible)
EHRLICHMAN: That’s right. Now the other, now the other route–
PRESIDENT: That is, if we’re not, not mentioning that uh–
EHRLICHMAN: I wouldn’t, uh, I wouldn’t spend too much time with that, I, I give
up there. Uh, the other route would be two papers, or possibly three, and these
papers would say, “Mr. President, you asked me about this thing. Here’s my, here’s
my review of the fact.” And, uh, I think we disagree as to whether or not that’s
a viable option or not. I. I think you could put out
MARCH 21 1973 FROM 5:20 to 6:01 PM 3 (Repl. 10/18/74)
out a fairly credible document that would stand up, and that will have the effect
of trimming the scope, and would have the effect of maybe becoming the battleground
on a reduced scope, which I think is important. But, uh, the big danger in the Ervin
hearings, as I see it, is that they will, they will run out, uh, leads into areas
that, that it would be better not to have to get into. But, uh, if, uh, Baker, you
know, under his direction–Uh, and if you could put out a basic document that would,
uh, define a limited set of issues, uh, even if you, don’t try to concentrate on
target, you just might have something, some– but obviously, you haven’t any way
of imposing a lot of s–
PRESIDENT: But, does, uh, does anybody, uh, really think, really think that really
we should do nothing? That’s the other, I mean, that’s the option, period. If, uh-keep
fighting it out on this ground if it takes all summer. you don’t try to concentrate
on target, you Just might have something, some-but obviously, you haven’t any way
of imposing a lot of s–
HALDEMAN: Which it will.
PRESIDENT: That’s the other — in other words, the, the containment thing.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, we’ve talked about that. We talked about, uh, possible opportunities
in the Senate, that, that may turn up that we don’t foresee now. In other words,
that you go in and start playing for the odds. Keep trying to put out fires here
and there. The problem of the Hunt thing and, and, uh, possibly McCord and some
of these other people breaking is there’s no, uh, there is, there’s no, uh, sign
off on that ever. It just goes on and on and on.
PRESIDENT: That’s right. Well if that’s the case then, uh, what is your view as
to what we should do now about Hunt, and so forth?
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 4
EHRLICHMAN: Well, my, my view is that, that, uh, Hunt’s interests lie in getting
a pardon if he can. That ought to be, somehow or another, one of the options that
he is most particularly concerned about. Uh, his, his indirect contacts with John
don’t contemplate that at all. Well, maybe they, maybe they contemplate it–but
they say there’s going to be some problem.
PRESIDENT: I know.
DEAN: That’s right.
EHRLICHMAN: They think that, that’s already understood.
PRESIDENT: I mean he’s got to get that by Christmas time.
DEAN: That’s right. But, uh–
EHRLICHMAN: And if he doesn’t, obviously, uh, he’s got to figure he gets crosswise.
PRESIDENT: If that blows.
EHRLICHMAN: If that blows and, and that’s, it seems to me, that the, uh–although
at lea–It obviously is understood, that he has really gone over the ground with
his attorney, that’s in there.
PRESIDENT: However, can he, by talking, uh, get pardoned? Get, get clemency from
DEAN: That’s one of the options he’s obviously looking at now. He comes in and tells
this judge before sentencing, “Your Honor”– and the Judge is likely to call him
in before sentencing–and says, “Your Honor, I am willing to tell all. Uh, I don’t
want to go to jail. I have pleaded guilty to an offense. I’ll take that plea. I
don’t want to go to Jail. I’ll cooperate with you and the government in any way
MARCH 21,1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 5
DEAN: possible. I’ll tell you everything I know.”
(cont.) I think the Judge would probably uh, uh, look upon that very favorably;
it would pay somebody to tell him.
UNIDENTIFIED: So then now–
PRESIDENT: So the point we have to, the bridge you have to cut, uh, cross there
is, uh, which you’ve got to cross, I understand, quite soon, is whether, uh, we,
uh, what you do about, uh, his present demand. Now, what, what, uh, what about that?
DEAN: Well, apparently Mitchell and, and, uh, uh…
UNIDENTIFIED: La Rue.
DEAN: …La Rue are now aware of it, so they know what he is feeling.
PRESIDEMT: True. We have to do something.
DEAN: I, I have, I have not talked with either. I think they are in a position to
do something though.
PRESIDENT: It’s a long road, isn’t it? I mean, the way you look back on that, as
John has pointed out here is that that’s a, that’s a, that’s a long road.
DEAN: It sure is.
PRESIDENT: For all of us, for all of us. I mean, what the hell you going to do?
(Unintelligible) That’s why you’re, that’s why you, you’re sort of wrestling with
the idea of moving in another direction.
DEAN: That’s right. Uh, ’cause it’s not only that group, but within this circle
of people who had tidbits of knowledge, there are a lot of weak individuals and
any one of those could cause it to blow: the secretary to Gordon Liddy, uh…
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 6
DEAN: …the secretary to, uh, to Jeb Magruder.
DEAN: Chuck Colson’s secretary, they will undoubtably call her before the Senate
Committee. And it’s not, it’s not only one forum. There’s the civil suit filed by
O’Brien which, uh, for some reason we can’t get settled. They are holding on to
it. They are going to have uh, intense civil discovery. They may well work hand
in glove with that Senate Committee. They’re going to go out and take depositions
and start leaking things and you get inconsistencies. Leak what’s in the transcript
of one and see who breaks out in the other. There are all kinds of things they’ve
got going right now that, uh, would mean, uh, we’ve got to hold this thing together.
And the other thing I must say I’ve noticed is there is a, there’s an attitude that
has grown amongst all the people that have been involved in this thing to protect
their own behinds. You know they’re starting to go out and hire counsel right now.
HALDEMAN: They’re starting to do that?
DEAN: Oh yeah. Uh, Dwight, for example now wants a lawyer; uh, uh, (sharp noise)
Kalmbach has hired himself a lawyer; (noise) Colson has retained a lawyer; and now
that we’ve known enough of these things enough to know that (noise) self-protection
is setting in.
PRESIDENT: Well, let’s not trust them.
PRESIDENT: Maybe we face the situation, but we can’t do a damned thing about the
participants, who would get it eventually, (unintelligible) why not now?
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 7
DEAN: Well, that–
PRESIDENT: That’s, that’s what you’re sort of resigned to do.
DEAN: Well, my thought is that if it’s going to come, it should come in a way that
would not harm you and, uh, the individuals bear part of it.
PRESIDENT: Well, we don’t want to harm the people either. That’s my concern. Well–survives
the–well, we can’t, we can’t harm the, uh, these young people I mean I’m damned
concerned about all these people that were all working in the White House.
DEAN: For my part–
PRESIDENT: Whatever they considered to be the best interests of the country, and
so forth. I’ve never, I haven’t any question as to–
HALDEMAN: That’s right, we don’t have any question here of some guy stashing money
in his pocket.
PRESIDEMT: (Unintelligible) it isn’t something, it isn’t, it isn’t something like
Hiss, for example, God-damned treason. Something (unintelligible).
HALDEMAN: Or like Sherman Adams, (coughs) doing it for his own comfort, or uh, Albert
Fall, doing it for his own enrichment.
PRESIDENT: Yeah. That’s right. That’s the point. That’s why I say I’m, I’m going
to take a lot of the heat. (Coughs) Well, we have to realize that, uh, the attrition
is going to be rather considerable. That, that’s your point, isn’t it?
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 8
DEAN: I think it, it’s hard to prevent. Now that’s why I raise the point of, of
this immunity concert again. That would take a lot of heat. Obviously, to do something
like that. But it also(unintelligible) you find cannot be structured, that you’re
con–, you’re concerned about, there’s something lurking here that has been brought
to your attention of recent. Uh, now is the time to get the facts. People have been
protecting themselves. Dean couldn’t get all the information. People wouldn’t give
it to him. Uh, there are indications now that there are other trends, and you’d
like to get all this information and lay it before the public, but it’s not going
to come out if people are going to take the Fifth Amendment before a Grand Jury.
It’ll never be proven. I–
PRESIDENT: And it isn’t going to come out of a committee.
DEAN: It’s not going to come out of a committee, either. Uh, for those reasons–
PRESIDENT: Not in a fair way, that’s the point.
DEAN: True. That’s right. Now–Or it may never come out. They may–They will probably
never get it out either, regardless of how clever they are. But now’s the time to
pull it all
HALDEMAN: Plus, they’re not going to have the key witnesses.
DEAN: That’s right.
PRESIDENT: That’s right.
DEAN: So therefore, you, you select a panel of, say the Deputy Attorney General,
the head of the Criminal Division, the head of the Civil Division, something like
that, to call over
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 9
DEAN: everybody in the White House, and tell them
(cont.) that we want, “I have been instructed by the President, we’re to put together
exactly what happened. You won’t be prosecuted for it because, uh, that’s not the
point now. The point is to get out all this information.” And then you’ll make a
decision, based on what you learn, whether people can remain in the government or
not. And if it’s bad, uh, they’ll be removed, they’ll be forced to resign. If it’s
something that, uh, is palatable, they’ll go on with their job.
HALDEMAN: The hue and cry would be that, “This is, this is a super cover-up. Before
they were just trying to cover up the, the information. Now they realize they’ve
got guilty people, so they, they’ve immunized them so that they can’t be prosecuted.”
DEAN: I’m not just sure how many people would come out guilty.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, well (unintelligible). The perception is the important thing.
PRESIDENT: Yeah, but the point is, were we talking–
DEAN: All right, is that, is that better? Or is it better to have, you know, just,
just keep going and have the thing build up and all of a sudden collapse? And, then
people get indicted, and people, uh, get tarnished.
PRESIDENT: After we’ve stonewalled it?
DEAN: After we’ve stonewalled it, and after the President’s been accused of covering
up that way.
PRESIDENT: That’s the point.
EHRLICHMAN: Or is there another way?
PRESIDENT: Yeah, like–?
EHRLICRMAN: Like the, the Dean statements, where the President then makes a full
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 10
CONT.: everything which he then has. And is in a position if it does collapse at
a later time to say, “Jesus, I had the FBI, and the Grand Jury, and I had my own
Counsel. I turned over every rock I could find. And I rested my confidence in these
people in good faith and it’s obvious now–‘
PRESIDENT: The middle ground thing would be–I mean I’ve been around, we’ve been
around on that one quite a bit–the middle ground would be that, uh, I mean, uh,
naturally your, you having to live through it, have to be a bit sensitive about
the way we’re going to, we’re–but I–That doesn’t concern me. I mean it doesn’t
concern me, and I don’t–I think as far as the public is concerned, it won’t do
much. Uh, if you, as the White House Counsel, John, uh, on direction–uh, I ask
for a written report, which I think, uh, that– which is very general, understand.
Understand (laughs) I don’t want to get all that God-damned specific. I’m thinking
now in far more general terms, having in mind the fact that the problem with a specific
report is that, uh, this proves this one and that proves that one, and you just
prove some you–just prove it all. But if you make it quite general in terms of
my, your investigation indicates that this man did not do it, this man did not do
it, this man did do that. You are going to have to say that, John, you know, like
the, uh, Segretti-Chapin business–
DEAN: Um huh.
PRESIDENT: That has to be said. And, uh, and, so forth. And that under the circumstances,
that, uh (unintelligible).
EHRLICHMAN: Could he do this? To give some weight to that, could you attach as an
appendix a list of the FBI reports to which you had access: Interview with Kalmbach,
interview with Segretti, interview with
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 11
CONT.: Chapin, and Magruder, and whoever, Dean, the whole business. So that the
President at some later time is in a position to say, “I relied”.
DEAN: Not on Dean alone but on corroborated evidence that Dean…
EHRLICHMAN: That’s right. It also helps with the Gray situation because it shows
the use made of the FBI reports by you. He’s reporting to the President. He can
say in there, “I have not disclosed the contents of these to anybody else.”
PRESIDENT: “Yes, I was, had access to reports for the purpose of carrying out your
instructions to find out whether–” Because that is true. I’ve had–You’re the man
I have asked, “Well, now, who the hell has been involved here.” You reported it
before, found that there was no reflection on anybody (unintelligible) at this point.
Uh, but, uh–
EHRLICHMAN: I think that the President’s in a stronger position later, and the Presidency
is in a stronger position later, if he can be shown to have justifiably relied on
you at this point in time.
DEAN: Well, there’s the argument now that Dean’s credibility is in question, uh,
as a result of the Gray hearings. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. Maybe someone who has–
EHREICHMAN: This will rehabilitate you, though. Your credibility–
PRESIDENT: No, as a matter of fact, John, I don’t think your credibility is in much
jeopardy. Sure, your’re under attack, but they want you up there to testify. I don’t
think it’s the
MARCH 21 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 12
CONT.: credibility. They want you to testify. I, uh, I would not be too sensitive
about that, I think that you would, you’d make a hell of a good impression, really.
EHRLICHMAN: Beyond that, you can, you can help your, your participation in the interviews
by saying, uh, that, in addition to having seen the, uh, FBI synopses, you were
present at the time of the interview of a number…
DEAN: That’s right.
EHPLICHMAN: …of the witnesses, and…
DEAN: That’s right.
EHRLICHMAN: …you yourself conducted interviews of others–
PRESIDENT: (unintelligible) say “I conducted interviews of the following people,
d–, d–, d–, d–,” uh-I’m Just trying to (unintelligible). (Unintelligible)
HALDEMAN: Turn all that into a puzzle.
EHRLICRMAN: You were doing this in furtherance…
EHRLICHMAN: …of your role–
PRESIDENT: And also, that you, that there’s been such a, a lot of crap put out about,
uh, what you have done that, uh, without referring to the fact, without being a
bit defensive about it, uh, that, you know, that you, you intended to do the letter.
The letter–which would not be a letter to Eastland. I think that at this point
it would be a letter from Dean to me, and you’d say that, “Now that the, “–and
you would base it on the fact, “Now that the hearings, now that the Watergate is,
is done, I can now give a report about any progress of the…”
MARCH 21 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 13
EHRLICHMAN: Well, now that’s what you should say. In other words, he gives the report
because you asked him for it, regardless of the timeliness.
DEAN: Yeah, the only problem with that is that if Hunt and, uh not Hunt, if Liddy
and McCord are still out on appeal, they may not be sentenced on Friday…
EHRLICHMAN: Then I wouldn’t get into that. I think you could say that, you could
EHRLICHMAN: …uh, “I have a report. I don’t mind showing it to Ervin. I wouldn’t
want it published because some fellow’s trial–the case is still around.”
PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, the problem with that is, uh, I don’t believe that
helps on our cause. In light of the fact that–well, uh, let me just–I am not sure,
maybe I am wrong–the fact that the President says, “I’ve shown Ervin the report.”
We’ve got to remember that we have, we have nobody there. I think something has
to (unintelligible) where…
EHRLICHMAN: Fine (Unintelligible)
PRESIDENT: …where we can put out something to the public.
HALDEMAN: if you’re worried about the timeliness, and trying to hang it to the–on
the sentencing, we don’t really have to do that. We’re going to say we just ignore
HALDEMAN: …and say you have been-and we’ve been. the this– the point is established
anyway. Dean has given you a report. We, we basically said it’s an oral report.
You can put the
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 14
CONT. thing that Dean has kept you posted from time to time with periodic oral reports
as, uh, on this thing, as, as it, uh, uh, it becomes available…
HALDEMAN: …and so forth. You have asked him…
HALDEMAN: …now, uh, to summarize those…
HALDEMAN: …into an overall summary.
PRESIDENT: Overall summary, and I am making the report available to the Ervin Committee.
PRESIDENT: And, and, and I again offer the Ervin Committee, I offer the Ervin Committee,
uh, I’d say, “Dear Senator Ervin,” I’d say, “here, here is the report, it is before
your hearings, I want you to have it, complete access, and, as I have said previously,
that any, any questions that are not answered here, any member of the White House
staff, they will be directed to answer any, uh
PRESIDENT: …on that basis.” Well, we’ve run that by before, John.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, we’ve said it’s formal and informal…
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 15
EHRLICHMAN: …in the statement and that’s uh,
EHRLICHMAN: But let’s suppose you did the damn thing. I mean, you did it as to the
burglary, and you did it as to…
EHRLICHYAN: …and you make some passing reference to money, correct? (pause) And
then you send her up there. Uh, then let’s suppose Hunt blows at some time. Our
position on that is that, uh, “Hunt was an investigator. He was sent out to do an
investigation on Ellsberg. Uh, when we discovered what he was up to, we stopped
him.” (Coughs) Now, I suppose that lets Ellsberg out, that’s an illegal search and
seizure that may be sufficient at least for a mistrial, if not for–
PRESIDENT: Isn’t it damn near through yet?
PRESIDENT: Isn’t that case about finished?
EHRLICHMAN: Oh, it’ll go on a while yet. Uh–
HALDEMAN: Can he get a mistrial after a conviction?
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, sure. Uh, well, let’s, let’s suppose that occurred. Uh, that was
a national security situation. Uh, Hunt exercised bad judgment, and I think it’s
arguable that he should never have been permitted to go to the Committee after that
episode, having, having, uh, reflected on his judgment that way. But, uh, beyond
that, the question is, did we, did we authorize it, did we condone it…
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 16
EHRLICHMAN: …did we support it? And that kind of thing.
PRESIDENT: And that’s that part of it. Getting back to the, uh, getting back to
this, John, uh, you still sort of tilt to the panel idea yourself?
DEAN: Well, I’m still, I see in, in this conversation the things that we’ve, you
know, thought of before, we’ve talked about before. But they do not ultimately solve
what I see as the grave problem of a cancer growing around the Presidency, and that
the cancer is going to continue to grow. This is just another thing that gives a
problem. It does not clean the problem out.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, but doesn’t it give, doesn’t it permit the President to clean
it out at such time as it does come up? By saying, “Indeed, I relied on it. And
now this, this later thing turns up, and I don’t condone that. And if I’d known
about that before, obviously I wouldn’t have done it. And I’m going to move on it
PRESIDENT: Your point, John, is the, the–you really think you’ve got to clean the
cancer out now, right?
DEAN: Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT: And, uh, how would you do that? You come back again for another round.
You see no other, you see no other way that, uh, you, you, you–without the, without
setting a, without breaking down on executive privilege, of course.
MARCH 21 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 17
DEAN: I see that, yeah, yeah, there a couple of ways to do it.
PRESIDENT: You certainly don’t want to do it at the Senate, though, do you?
DEAN: No, sir.
PRESIDENT: All right.
DEAN: I think that would be an added trap.
PRESIDENT: That’s the, that’s the worst thing.
DEAN: Right. Uh–
PRESIDENT: We’ve got to do it.
DEAN: We’ve got to do it. You have to do it, to get the credit for it. Uh, that,
that gets you above it. Uh, as I see it, that means people getting hurt, and I hope
we can find the answer to that problem.
EHRLICHMAN: All right, suppose we did this? Supposing you rendered a report to the
President on everything you know about this. And the President then fires some people.
Step one. Step two, sends the report over to the Justice Department, then says,
“I’ve been diligently at work on this. My Counsel’s been diligently at work. Here
are his findings.”
PRESIDENT: Where would you stop it? (Pause) With, uh, Magruder over in Commerce?
EHRLICHMAN: Christ, I don’t know where it stops. You know, uh–
UNIDENTIFIED: (Unintelligible) Ziegler?
EHRLICHMAN: Christ, that’s–
HALDEMAN: It’s probably going to be with Magruder.
MARCH 21, 1973 EROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 18
HALDEMAN: (Unintelligible) send it over to Justice.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, if you send the report over, and it says Magruder did this and
PRESIDENT: Well, yeah, but–
EHRLICHMAN: Well, that’s what he’s, that’s what he is talking about.
DEAN: That’s right.
PRESIDENT: And then Magruder, though, is a, is a fellow that’s a…
EHPLICHMAN: A free agent, at this point.
PRESIDENT: …is a free agent, according to John, who’d say, uh-he’d pull others
down with him.
DEAN: Well, now, what you, what you do–
HALDEMAN: You don’t know that he would, but you sure as hell have got to assume
EHRLICHMAN: Why, of course.
DEAN: I think what you could do is you could drop numbers, with names on them, in
a hat, you can draw them out to see who gets hurt and who doesn’t. (laughs) Well,
that’s about as fair as you could he.
EHRHLICHMAN: The minute you–
PRESIDENT: Strachan. Do the same to him with it.
PRESIDENT: Maybe; not so much.
UNIDENTIFIED: Maybe Jeb…
DEAN: (Unintelligible) I think he has a problem.
MARCH 21. 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 19
PRESIDENT: Uh, the problem of knowledge of it.
HALDEMAN: He has a problem of knowledge. Magruder has a problem of action
PRESIDENT: Action and perjury.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, Strachan found the money. That’s the problem.
HALDEMAN: Not really.
DEAN: The thing that we’d like, you know, to happen, if possible, to do this, is–Hunt
has now sent a blackmail request directly to the White House.
PRESIDENT: Who’d he send it–to you?
PRESIDENT: Or to me?
DEAM: To your counsel.
PRESIDENT: Uh huh.
HALDEMAN: That’s the interesting kind of thing, there’s something there that maybe
we blow it all up that way, and there go all the–and everything starts going in
a while new direction.
DEAN: That would hurt but he’s, he’s committing an offense. Right there. That is
HALDEMAN: Yeah, John, but where does that take you? That takes you to your support
of other people who are not fully aware of the (unintelligible)
DEAN: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: But we didn’t know about that.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s a fact. We’re above that.
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 20
DEAN: But, then again, you have to get the problem of people, what they’re going
EHRLICHMAN: Well, if you go your route, you can’t draw the line someplace—
DEAN: No, no.
EHRLICHMAN: You can’t then say, you know, we’re going to, we’re going to reserve
that, we’ve got to let it all–
PRESIDENT: You see, if you go your route of the ca–, of getting, cutting, cutting
the cancer out, the question is would you cut it out now is, uh, is, is, is, uh–take
PRESIDENT: You can’t just knock the hell out oÂ£ him, can you?
DEAN: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: Well, if you take your route and it goes as a logical one you have a certainty,
almost, of Magruder going to jail, Chapin going to jail, you going to Jail
HALDEMAN: …probably me going to jail.
PRESIDENT: Uh, again, I question the last two.
HALDEMAN: Certainly Chapin. Certainly Strachan. No, not really.
DEAN: Not necessarily, uh–
UNIDENTIFIED: Not Chapin.
HALDEMAN: Chapin and Strachan are clean. Well, so is Strachan.
EHRLICHMAN: I think Strachan is hooked on, on this money.
MARCH 21 1973 FROM 5:20 to 6:01 PM 21 (Repl. 10/15/74)
PRESIDENT: What money was that?
EHRLICHMAN: He is an accessory in a, in a undeclared campaign fund.
HALDEMAN: That’s no–That, that’s–the only guy responsible for that is the treasurer.
EHRLICHMAN: I know.
EHRLICHMAN: But not under the law.
PRESIDENT: Well that was un–, undeclared for a while, I think it was ’70, ’68.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah. But then it got back into the coffers and, uh, was used in this
DEAN: Let’s say, let’s say the President sent me to the Grand Jury to make a report.
Who would be, who would, who could I actually do anything to, or cause any problems
for? As a practical matter, first-hand knowledge, uh, almost no one. All I could
do is to give them a focus plus leads.
PRESIDENT: Right. Right.
EHRLICHMAN: They they start following the leads.
DEAN: That’s right, and where they ultimately come down is, or–(Pause) There, there
again is, is, is the–We don’t have anybody to talk to somebody who understands
the process, I mean. I was talking outside with Bob about Henry Petersen. Uh, we
just have to have somebody who, talk to somebody that, that, can really break in
and say “Henry, what does this mean in the criminal justice system? What kind of
case could be made on this? What kind of offenses would evolve out of that?” We
have got a pretty good idea of most of the statutes that are involved, but there,
uh, there is so much behind the statues.
March 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 22
PRESIDENT: Do you want to bring him in? Talk to him? Well, if you do that, you will
suit the Attorney General.
DEAN: Well, you’re putting in, you’re putting in his knowledge.
PRESIDENT: I see.
DEAN: Uh, we’ll have to play with that.
HALDEMAN: If you do it hypothetically
HALDEMAN: …you’ve got, you’ve got this brother-in-law who has this problem in
DEAN: He told this wild scenario that I’d like you–
HALDEMAN: My friend is writing a play, and unless he, un–
(17 second Noise and Pause)
DEAN: Uh, but, it bothers me to do anything further now, in the situation, when
Hunt’s our real hang-up.
PRESIDENT: Well, now, do you think; a statement prompts him.
DEAN: Yes, sir, I do. It doesn’t solve it. It’s Just one more step.
HALDEMAN: The payment to Hunt does too.
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 23
PRESIDENT: The payment to Hunt does, yeah.
DEAN: Maybe that’s what-That’s why I say, you know, somebody to assess the criminal
liability. Maybe we are misassessing it.
PRESIDENT: Well, I really don’t know, will Petersen–? Would you confide in him?
UNIDENTIFIED: I think I would.
PRESIDENT: How else could you do it?
EHRLICHMAN: You could start down that road. You could say, “Henry, I want to, I
want to talk to you about, uh, questions that arise in the course of my investigation,
but I have to swear you to secrecy.” If he’ll take it on that basis.
DEAN: Is the answer (unintelligible) say, “Uh, I want to know if you can talk to
me off the record.” (Unintelligible)
EHRLICHMAN: You immediately eliminate one of your options. (Pause) You can, well,
you can eliminate the option of the President being able to take the position he
knew nothing about it.
PRESIDENT: Yeah. (Pause) Uh, so, so you, uh, you see then that, uh, you don’t see
the, uh, you don’t see the statement thing, uh, helping insofar as the, the–be
of any way–the, uh–helping insofar as– you, you, you must–you think that over
DEAN: Yes, sir. I see it as the temporary answer.
PRESIDENT: I agree with that. But the point is to, uh, but you see, here’s the,
the way I would see the statement that we could say we get out.
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 24
PRESIDENT: Our–Everything we would intend to say, or, or we could get out a general
statement as I have already indicated, would get out a, with regard to the fact
that we spent looking into the God damn thing, it’s really–and I’ve said it, we,
we just can’t, you, you know, withdraw, so let’s forget a withdrawal at this point.
And secondly, again, the offer for White House people to cooperate so that we’re
not covering up that sort of thing. And that still leaves it, however, in the hands
of the Committee. I agree. A statement, at least, would, it’s true, temporary, but
it, uh, would indicate the President has looked into the matter, has had his Counsel
report to him and this is the result of that, uh, now let the Committee do their
damnedest. We will cooperate. And the Committee will say, “No.” And so we’ll just
stand right there.
DEAN: Well, that will really (sighs), I think what will, will prompt a new problem
will be Sirica giving a speech from the bench on Friday when he sentences.
DEAN: I think he will charge that he cannot believe the trial was conducted (unintelligible
government presented a limited case. That he is not convinced the case represents
the full situation.
HALDEMAN: In other words, uh–
DEAN: I know it. But I think it’ll have a dramatic impact on the day of…
DEAN: …sentencing with Sirica from the bench…
PRESIDENT: That’s right.
DEAN: …because he’ll charge that there are higher-ups involved in this. He may
take some dramatic action like, uh, you know, appoint a special prosecutor. Who
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 25
PRESIDENT: Can he do that?
DEAN: Sure. I think he could.
PRESIDENT: He could appoint a special prosecutor, for what? For–
DEAN: To reopen the investigation.
EHRLICHMAN: He is the presiding judge.
DEAN: Yes, sir.
EHRLICHMAN: He could, he could convene a grand jury. Or he said he could
DEAN: Well, the government is going to do that. Uh–
PRESIDENT: The government’s going to do that for what?
DEAN: Right after sentence–, the week after sentencing, they’re going to take all
the people who’ve been sentenced back before the Grand Jury–
PRESIDENT: These same ones
DEAN: These same ones. And see if they want, now want to talk. Sirica may–put,
you know, (unintelligible) give them provisional sentences And say if they are helpful
to the government back before the Grand Jury, he’ll reconsider the sentences, because…
DEAN: …horrendous sentences.
PRESIDENT: Suppose–Horrendous sentences I think we can anticipate. But, but, suppose
he does that? Then where, where does that leave us then, John? Where does that leave
us? You just say–
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I don’t think that’s a surprise to the
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 26
CONT.: defendants. I think their counsel must have prepared them for that.
PRESIDENT: I’m–right. I wonder, however, however, in terms of what about our, what
about our position? In other words, we’re damned by the courts before Ervin could
even get there.
EHRLICHMAN: The, the only thing that we can say is for Ziegler to say, “‘Look, we’ve
investigated backwards and forwards in the White House, and we’re satisfied on the
basis of the report we have that nobody in the White House has been involved in
a burglary; nobody had notice of it, knowledge of it, participated in the planning,
or aided or abetted it in any way.”
PRESIDENT: Well, that’s what you could say.
EHRLICHMAN: And it happens to be true…
EHRLICHMAN: …as for that transaction.
PRESIDENT: (Laughs) Sure. As for that transaction. Well, John, you, uh, you, uh,
you must feel that’s, uh, is enough.
DEAN: I don’t think it’s good.
EHRLICHMAN: Now, let’s, let’s try another, let’s try another concommitant to that.
Supposing Mitchell were to step out on that same day and were to say, “I’ve been
doing some investigation at 1701 and I find so and so, and so and so.”
PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible) scope up.
UNIDENTIFIED: Yes, sir.
EHRLICRMAN: And I don’t know what he would say, but maybe he’d want to make some
kind of a disclosure. And then what?
MARCH 21, 1973 FROM 5:20 TO 6:01 PM 27
PRESIDENT: What the hell is he going to disclose that isn’t going to blow something?
HALDEMAN: Well (unintelligible)
PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to have to–
UNIDENTIFIED: I (unintelligible) have to resolve it.
PRESIDENT: I don’t have any time. I’m sorry. I’ve got to leave. What is it–What
have you got here? (unintelligible) (Noise) Well, uh, you meet what time tomorrow?
HALDEMAN: I’m not sure. In the morning.
DEAN: Maybe we’ll brood this out.
PRESIDENT: Fine. Well, sure. You come here–We’re going around. That’s the way you
have to do.