John Dean, White House Counsel.
John Ehrlichman, Asst. to the President for Domestic Affairs.
Bob Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff.
Richard Nixon, President of the United States.
Henry Petersen, Head of the Criminal Division of the Dept. of Justice.
Ron Ziegler, White House Press Secretary.
REFERRED TO BUT NOT APPEARING
William Bittman -- Attorney for Howard Hunt.
Jack Caulfield -- Former NY City policeman, hired as a security operative by the Nixon Administration.
Chuck Colson -- Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison.
The Cubans -- The four burglars who, with James McCord, Jr., were caught during the second break-in at the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate Complex. They included Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzales, Eugenio Martinez, and Frank Sturgis (not Cuban). All four were involved in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and various other CIA sponsored anti-Castro activities. Martinez was also one of the burglars involved in the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist.
Clifton Daniel -- Head of the Washington Bureau of The New York Times, formerly the Managing Editor.
Daniel Ellsberg -- An economist working for the Rand Corporation who released to a number of newspapers a top-secret copy of The Pentagon Papers, a Defense Department study of the Vietnam War. His psychiatrist's office was burglarized in an attempt to obtain information that might be used to besmirch his character.
Erwin Committee -- Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, chaired by Senator Sam Erwin, U.S. Senator from North Carolina.
Seymour Hersh -- Investigative reporter for The New York Times.
E. Howard Hunt -- Former CIA agent involved in various activities in Latin America, including the Bay of Pigs invasion. Later became a member of a special investigations unit called The Plumbers, and with Liddy was involved in the break-ins at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist and the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate Complex.
Herbert Kalmbach -- Nixon's personal attorney.
Richard Kleindienst -- Deputy Attorney General, then Attorney General of the United States, assuming the post after John Mitchell resigned on March 1, 1972, to run Nixon's re-election campaign.
Bud Krogh -- Head of a special investigations unit called The Plumbers. Approved the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist.
Fred LaRue -- Presidential aide.
G. Gordon Liddy -- Attorney and former FBI agent who worked as a special assistant for narcotics and gun control in the Dept. of the Treasury. Later an aide to John Ehrlichman, then transferred to the Committee to Re-elect the President, where he was a member of a special investigations unit called The Plumbers, in which capacity he planned the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Later planned the break-ins at the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate Complex.
Jeb Magruder -- Deputy Director of the Committee to Re-Elect the President.
James McCord, Jr -- Former CIA agent involved in various anti-Castro activities, then worked for the Committee to Re-Elect the President. One of the five burglars arrested in the second break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Complex.
George McGovern -- Senator from South Dakota; Democratic Candidate for President in 1972; lost to Richard Nixon.
John Mitchell -- Attorney General of the United States; resigned in 1972 to serve as Chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President.
Edmund Muskie -- Senator from Maine; Candidate for Vice-President in 1968; Candidate for President in the 1972 Democratic Presidential Primary; lost to George McGovern.
Paul O'Brien -- Attorney for the Committee to Re-elect the President.
Tom Pappas -- GOP fundraiser.
Herbert Porter -- Director of Scheduling for the Committee to Re-elect the President.
The Scottsboro People, the Berrigans, Alger Hiss -- Famous cases in which leftists and liberals raised money for the legal expenses of the accused.
Donald Segretti -- A political operative for the Nixon Administration and Committee to Re-Elect the President in charge of a dirty tricks campaign, including forged letters.
Charles Shaffer - Attorney for John Dean.
Earl Silbert, Seymour Glanzer, Donald E. Campbell -- The three prosecutors for the Dept. of Justice in the Watergate case.
Gordon Strachan -- Aide to Bob Haldeman.
Harold Titus -- United States Attorney, immediate supervisor of the three prosecutors in the Watergate case.
Bob Woodward -- Investigative reporter for The Washington Post.
(March 21, 1973. The Oval Office in the White House. JOHN DEAN and RICHARD NIXON are sitting across from each other on either side of NIXON'S desk. Both are frozen in position on a semi-dark stage as the VOICEOVER begins.)
VOICEOVER: March 21, 1973. The Oval Office in the White House. It is over nine months since five men were arrested after they broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. Since then, Richard Nixon has been re-elected President of the United States, two former aides of the President, G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr., have been convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping, and the five men arrested in the Complex, including E. Howard Hunt and four Cuban burglars, have pled guilty to similar charges. John Dean, Counsel to the President, has come to the Oval Office to update the President on the state of the Watergate investigation.
(NIXON and DEAN come to life as the lights go up.)
DEAN: Let me give you my overall first.
NIXON: In other words, your judgment as to where it stands, and where we will go.
DEAN: I think that there is no doubt about the seriousness of the problem we've got. We have a cancer within, close to the Presidency, that is growing. It is growing daily. It's compounded, growing geometrically now, because it compounds itself. That will be clear if I explain some of the details of why it is. Basically, it is because, one, we are being blackmailed; two, people are going to start perjuring themselves very quickly that have not had to perjure themselves to protect other people in the line. And there is no assurance --
NIXON: That it won't bust?
DEAN: That that won't bust. So let me give you the sort of basic facts, talking first about the Watergate; and then about Segretti; and then about some of the peripheral items that have come up. First of all, on the Watergate: how did it all start, where did it start? OK! It started with an instruction to me from Bob Haldeman to see if we couldn't set up a perfectly legitimate campaign intelligence operation over at the Re-Election Committee. Not being in this business, I turned to somebody who had been in this business, Jack Caulfield. I don't remember whether you remember Jack or not. He was your original bodyguard before they had the candidate protection, an old city policeman.
NIXON: Yes, I know him.
DEAN: I said, Jack, come up with a plan that, you know -- a normal infiltration, buying information from secretaries and all that sort of thing. He did, he put together a plan. It was kicked around. I went to Ehrlichman with it. I went to Mitchell with it, and the consensus was that Caulfield was not the man to do this. In retrospect, that might have been a bad call because he is an incredibly cautious person and wouldn't have put the situation where it is today. After rejecting that, they said we still need something so I was told to look around for someone who could go over to the re-election campaign and do this. That was when I came up with Gordon Liddy. They needed a lawyer. Gordon had an intelligence background from his FBI service. I was aware of the fact that he had done some extremely sensitive things for the White House while he had been at the White House and he had apparently done them well. Going out into Ellsberg's doctor's office --
NIXON: Oh, yeah.
DEAN: And things like this. He worked with leaks. He tracked these things down. So the report I got from Krogh was that he was a hell of a good man and not only that -- a good lawyer -- and could set up a proper operation. So we talked to Liddy. He was interested in doing it. I took Liddy over to meet Mitchell. Mitchell thought highly of him because Mitchell was partly involved in his coming to the White House to work for Krogh. Liddy had been at Treasury before that. Then Liddy was told to put together his plan, you know, how he would run an intelligence operation. This was after he was hired over there at the Committee. Magruder called me in January and said, "I would like to have you come over and see Liddy's plan."
NIXON: January of '72?
DEAN: January of '72. "You come over to Mitchell's office and sit in on a meeting where Liddy is going to lay his plan out." I said I don't really know if I am the man, but if you want me there, I'll be happy to. So I came over and Liddy laid out a million dollar plan that was the most incredible thing I have ever laid my eyes on: all in codes, and involved black bag operations, kidnapping, providing prostitutes to weaken the opposition, bugging, mugging teams. It was just an incredible thing.
NIXON: But, uh -- that was not --
NIXON: … discussed with --
NIXON: … other persons --
DEAN: No, no, not at all. Mitchell just sat there puffing and laughing. After Liddy left the office, I said that is the most incredible thing I have ever seen. He said I agree. And so Liddy was told to go back to the drawing board and come up with something realistic. So there was a second meeting. They asked me to come over to that. I came into the tail end of the meeting. I wasn't there for the first part. I don't know how long the meeting lasted. At this point, they were discussing again bugging, kidnapping and the like. At this point I said right in front of everybody, very clearly, I said, "These are not the sort of things, one, that are ever to be discussed in the office of the Attorney General of the United States" -- that was where Mitchell still was -- "and I am personally incensed." And I was trying to get Mitchell off the hook. He is a nice person and doesn't like to have to say no when he is talking with people he is going to have to work with.
NIXON: That's right.
DEAN: So I let it be known. I said, "You all pack that stuff up and get it the hell out of here. You just can't talk this way in this office, and you should re-examine your whole thinking."
NIXON: Who all was present?
DEAN: It was Magruder, Mitchell, Liddy, and myself. I came back right after the meeting and told Bob Haldeman, "Bob, we have a growing disaster on our hands if they are thinking this way," and I said, "The White House has got to stay out of this, and I, frankly, am not going to be involved in it." He said, "I agree, John." I thought at that point that the thing was turned off. That is the last I heard of it, and I thought it was turned off because it was an absurd proposal.
DEAN: Liddy -- I did have dealings with him afterwards, and we never talked about it. Now that would be hard to believe for some people, but we never did. That is the fact of the matter.
NIXON: Well, you were talking with him about other things.
DEAN: We had so many other things.
NIXON: He had some legal problems, too. But you were his adviser, and I understand you had some conversations about the campaign laws, etc. Haldeman told me that you were heading all that up for us. Go ahead.
DEAN: Now. So Liddy went back after that and was over at the campaign committee, and this is where I come into having put the pieces together after the fact, as to what I can put together about what happened. Liddy sat over there and tried to come up with another plan that he could sell. One, they were talking to him, telling him that he was putting too much money in it. I don't think they were discounting the illegal points. Jeb Magruder is not a lawyer. He did not know whether this is the way the game was played and what it was all about. They came up, apparently, with another plan, but they couldn't get it approved by anybody over there. So Liddy and Hunt apparently came to see Chuck Colson in the White House, and Chuck Colson picked up the telephone and called Magruder and said, "You all either fish or cut bait. This is absurd to have these guys over there and not using them. If you are not going to use them, I may use them." Things of this nature.
NIXON: When was this?
DEAN: This was apparently in February of '72.
NIXON: That could be. Colson know what they were talking about?
DEAN: I can only assume, because of his close relationship with Hunt, that he had a damn good idea what they were talking about, a damn good idea. He would probably deny it today and probably get away with denying it. But I still --
NIXON: Unless Hunt --
DEAN: Unless Hunt blows on him.
NIXON: But then Hunt isn't enough. It takes two, doesn't it?
DEAN: Probably. Probably. But Liddy was there also and if Liddy were to blow --
NIXON: Then you have a problem -- I was saying as to the criminal liability.
DEAN: I will go back over that and tell you where I think the soft spots are.
NIXON: Colson, you think, was the person who pushed?
DEAN: I think he helped get the thing off the dime. Now something else occurred though --
NIXON: Did Colson -- did he talk to anybody here?
DEAN: No. I think this was an independent --
NIXON: Did he talk to Haldeman?
DEAN: No, I don't think so. But here is the next thing that comes in the chain. I think Bob Haldeman was assuming that they had something that was proper over there, some intelligence gathering operation that Liddy was operating. And through Gordon Strachan, who was his tickler, he started pushing them --
NIXON: (Sighs.) Yeah.
DEAN: … to get something, to get some information, and they took that as a signal -- Magruder -- took that as a signal to probably go to Mitchell and to say, "They are pushing us like crazy for this from the White House." And so Mitchell probably puffed on his pipe and said, "Go ahead," and never really reflected on what it was all about. So they had some plan that obviously had, I gather, different targets they were going to go after. They were going to infiltrate, and bug, and do all this sort of thing to a lot of these targets. This is knowledge I have after the fact. Apparently after they had initially broken in and bugged the Democratic National Committee. They were getting information. The information was coming over here to Strachan and some of it was given to Haldeman, there is no doubt about it.
NIXON: Did Haldeman know where it was coming from?
DEAN: I don't really know if he did, Sir.
NIXON: Not necessarily?
DEAN: Not necessarily.
NIXON: Strachan knew what it was from.
DEAN: Strachan knew what it was from. No doubt about it. And whether Strachan -- I have never come to press these people on these points because it hurts them to give up that next inch, so I had to piece things together. All right, so Strachan was aware of receiving information, reporting to Bob. At one point Bob even gave instructions to change their capabilities from Muskie to McGovern, and passed this back through Strachan to Magruder and apparently to Liddy. And Liddy was starting to make arrangements to go in and bug the McGovern operation.
NIXON: They had never bugged Muskie, though, did they?
DEAN: No, they hadn't, but they had infiltrated it by a secretary.
NIXON: By a secretary?
DEAN: By a secretary and a chauffeur. There is nothing illegal about that. So the information was coming over here, and the next point in time that I became aware of anything was on June 17th, when I got the word that there had been this break-in at the DNC and somebody from our Committee had been caught in the DNC. And I said, "Oh, my God!" You know, eventually putting the pieces together --
NIXON: You knew what it was.
DEAN: I knew what it was. So I called Liddy on Monday morning and said, "First, Gordon, I want to know whether anybody in the White House was involved in this." And he said, "No, they weren't." I said, "Well, I want to know how in God's name this happened." He said, "Well, I was pushed without mercy by Magruder to get in there and to get more information. That the information, it was not satisfactory. Magruder said, 'The White House is not happy with what we are getting.'"
NIXON: The White House?
DEAN: The White House. Yeah!
NIXON: Who do you think was pushing him?
DEAN: Well, I think it was probably Strachan thinking that Bob wanted things, because I have seen that happen on other occasions where things have been said to have been of very prime importance when they really weren't.
DEAN: All right now, we have gone through the Watergate trial. I don't know if Mitchell has perjured himself in the Grand Jury or not.
DEAN: Mitchell. I don't know how much knowledge he actually had. I know that Porter has perjured himself in the Grand Jury.
DEAN: He is one of Magruder's deputies. They set up this scenario which they ran by me. They said, "How about this?" I said, "I don't know. If this is what you are going to hang on, fine."
NIXON: What did they say in the Grand Jury?
DEAN: They said at the trial and in the Grand Jury that Liddy had come over as Counsel and we knew he had these capacities to do legitimate intelligence. We had no idea what he was doing. He was given an authorization of $250,000 to collect information, because our surrogates were out on the road. They had no protection, and we had information that there were going to be demonstrations against them, and that we had to have a plan as to what liabilities they were going to be confronted with …
DEAN: … and Liddy was charged with doing this. We had no knowledge that he was going to bug the DNC.
NIXON: Well, the point is that's untrue.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Magruder did know that --
DEAN; Magruder specifically instructed him go back in the DNC.
NIXON: He did?
NIXON: You know that?
NIXON: I see. O.K.
DEAN: I honestly believe that no one over here knew that. I know that as God is my maker, I had no knowledge that they were going to do this.
NIXON: Haldeman wouldn't have known that either.
DEAN: Bob … I don't believe specifically knew that they were going in there.
NIXON: I don't think so.
DEAN: I don't think he did. I think he knew that there was a capacity to do this, but he wouldn't, wasn't giving it specific direction.
NIXON: Did his assistant, Strachan, know?
DEAN: I think Strachan did know. So -- those people are in trouble as a result of the Grand Jury and the trial. Mitchell, of course, was never called during the trial. Now --
NIXON: Mitchell has given a sworn statement, hasn't he?
DEAN: Yes, Sir.
NIXON: To the Bureau?
DEAN: To the Grand Jury.
NIXON: Did he go before the Grand Jury?
DEAN: Mitchell was actually called before the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury would not settle for less, because the jurors wanted him.
NIXON: And he went?
DEAN: And he went.
DEAN: I don't know what he said. I have never seen a transcript of the Grand Jury. Now, (sighs.) what has happened post the break-in on June 17? I was under pretty clear instructions (laughs.) not to investigate this, that this could have been disastrous on the election if all hell had broken loose. I worked on a theory of containment --
DEAN: To try to hold it right where it was.
DEAN: There is no doubt that I was totally aware of what the FBI was doing at all times. I was totally aware of what the Grand Jury was doing. I knew what witnesses were going to be called. I knew what they were asked, and I had to.
NIXON: Why did Petersen play the game so straight with us? He was in charge of the investigation, wasn't he?
DEAN: Because Petersen is a soldier. He kept me informed. He told me when we had problems, where we had problems and the like. He believes in you and he believes in this Administration. This Administration has made him. I don't think he has done anything improper, but he did make sure that the investigation was narrowed down to the very, very fine criminal things, which was a break for us. There is no doubt about it.
NIXON: He honestly feels that he did an adequate job?
DEAN: They ran that investigation out to the fullest extent they could follow a lead and that was it.
NIXON: But the point is, where I suppose he could be criticized for not doing an adequate job, is why didn't he call Haldeman? Why didn't he get a statement from Chuck Colson?
DEAN: (Raises his hand in protest.)
NIXON: Or they did get Colson?
DEAN: That's right. But as based on their FBI interviews, there was no reason to follow up. There were no leads there. Colson said, "I have no knowledge of this" to the FBI. Strachan said, "I have no knowledge." They didn't ask Strachan any questions about Watergate. They asked him about Segretti. They said, "What is your connection with Liddy?" Strachan just said, "Well, I met him over there," and they never really pressed him. Strachan appeared, as a result of some coaching, to be the dumbest paper pusher in the bowels of the White House. All right. Now post June 17th: These guys immediately -- It is very interesting. (Chuckles.) Liddy, for example, after the break-in, he ran Attorney General Kleindienst down at Burning Tree Country Club and told him, "You've got to get my men out of jail." Kleindienst said, "You get the hell out of here, kid. Whatever you have to say, just say to somebody else. Don't bother me." Liddy said that they all got counsel instantly and said that we'll ride this thing out. All right, then they started making demands. "We have to have attorney's fees. We don't have any money ourselves, and you are asking us to take this through the election." All right, so arrangements were made through Mitchell initiating it. And I was present in discussions where these guys had to be taken care of. Their attorney's fees had to be done. They brought your personal attorney, Kalmbach, in. Kalmbach raised some cash.
NIXON: They put that under the cover of a Cuban Committee?
DEAN: Well, they had a Cuban Committee and they had -- some of it was given to Hunt's lawyer, who in turn passed it out. You know, when Hunt's wife died in the plane crash in Chicago, she was actually, I understand after the fact now, was going to pass $10,000 to one of the Cubans -- to meet Hunt's lawyer in Chicago and pass it to somebody there.
NIXON: I would certainly keep that … (laughs.) that cover for whatever it's worth.
DEAN: That's the most troublesome post-thing because, one, Bob Haldeman is involved in that; two, John Ehrlichman is involved in that; three, I am involved in that; four, John Mitchell is involved in that. And that is an obstruction of justice.
NIXON: In other words, the fact that you're taking care of the witnesses.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: How was Bob involved?
DEAN: Well, they ran out of money over at the Re-election Committee. Bob had $350,000 in a safe over here that was really set aside for polling purposes. And there was no other source of money, so they came over and said you all have got to give us some money.
DEAN: I had to go to Bob and say, "Bob, they need some money over there." He said, "What for?" So I had to tell him what it was for because he wasn't just about to send money over there willy-nilly. And Ehrlichman was involved in those discussions. And then we decided there was no price too high to pay not to let this thing blow up in front of the elections.
NIXON: I think you should be able to handle that one pretty fast.
DEAN: Oh, I think --
NIXON: That issue, I mean.
DEAN: I think we can. But now here, here is what is happening right now.
DEAN: What sort of brings matters to the present is, one, this is going to be a continual blackmail operation by Hunt and Liddy and the Cubans who participated in the burglary. No doubt about it. And McCord, who is another one involved. McCord has asked for nothing. McCord did ask to meet with somebody, with Jack Caulfield, who is his old friend who had gotten him hired over there. And when Caulfield had him hired, he was a perfectly legitimate security man. And he wanted to talk about commutation, and things like that. And as you know, Colson has talked indirectly to Hunt about commutation. All of these things are bad in that they are problems, they are promises, they are commitments. They are the very sort of thing that the Senate, when they start their hearings, is going to be looking most for. I don't think they can find them, frankly.
NIXON: Pretty hard.
DEAN: Pretty hard. Damn hard. It's all cash. All right, now, the blackmail is continuing.
NIXON: Is Hunt out on bail?
NIXON: Is Hunt out on bail?
DEAN: Hunt is on bail. Correct. Hunt now is demanding another seventy-two thousand dollars for his own personal expenses; another fifty thousand dollars to pay attorney's fees; a hundred-and-twenty some thousand dollars. Wants it, wanted it as of the close of business yesterday. 'Cause he says, "I am going to be sentenced on Friday, and I've got to be able to get my financial affairs in order." I told this fellow Hunt sent, O'Brien, "If you want money, you came to the wrong man, fellow. I am not involved in the money. I don't know a thing about it. I can't help you. You better scramble about elsewhere." O'Brien is a ball player. He carried tremendous water for us."
NIXON: He isn't Hunt's lawyer?
DEAN: No, he is our lawyer at the Re-Election Committee.
NIXON: I see, good.
DEAN: So he's safe. There's no problem there. But it raises the whole question of Hunt has now made a direct threat against Ehrlichman. As a result of this, this is his blackmail. He says, "I will bring John Ehrlichman down to his knees and put him in jail. I have done enough seamy things for him and Krogh, they'll never survive it."
NIXON: What's that, on Ellsberg? Was he talking about the break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office?
DEAN: Ellsberg, and apparently some other things. I don't know the full extent of it.
NIXON: I don't know about anything else.
DEAN: I don't either, and I (laughs.) hate to learn some of these things. (Pause.) So that's where we are now. Now we're at the soft points. How many people know about this? Hell, well, let me go one step further in this whole thing. The Cubans that were used in the Watergate were the same Cubans that Hunt and Liddy used for this California Ellsberg thing, for the break-in out there.
DEAN: So they're aware of that. How high their knowledge is, is something else. Hunt and Liddy, of course, are totally aware of it, and the fact that, of course, it was run right out of the White House.
NIXON: I don't know what the hell we did that for.
DEAN: I don't either. So there is the problem of the continued blackmail, which will not only go on now, it'll go on while these people are in prison, and it will compound the obstruction of justice situation. It'll cost money. It's dangerous. People around here are not pros at this sort of thing. This is the sort of thing Mafia people can do: washing money, getting clean money, and things like that. We just don't know about those things, because we are not criminals and not used to dealing in that business.
NIXON: That's right.
DEAN: It is a tough thing to know how to do.
NIXON: Maybe we can't even do that.
DEAN: That's right. There is a real problem as to whether we could even do it. Plus there is a real problem in raising money. Mitchell has been working on raising some money. He is one of the ones with the most to lose. But there is no denying the fact that the White House, in Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and Dean, are involved in some of the early money decisions.
NIXON: How much money do you need?
DEAN: I would say these people are going to cost a million dollars over the next two years.
NIXON: We could get that. On the money, if you need the money you could get that. You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotten. It is not easy, but it could be done. But the question is who the hell would handle it? Any ideas on that?
DEAN: That's right. Well, I think that's something that Mitchell ought to be charged with.
NIXON: I would think so too.
DEAN: And get some pros to help him.
NIXON: Let me say there shouldn't be a lot of people running around getting money --
DEAN: Well he's got one person doing it who I am not sure is --
NIXON: Who is that?
DEAN: He has Fred LaRue doing it. Now Fred started out going out to solicit money from all kinds of people.
DEAN. I had learned about it, and I said, "Jesus! It is just awful! Don't do it! People are going to ask what the money is for." LaRue apparently talked to your fundraiser friend, Tom Pappas.
NIXON: I know.
DEAN: And Pappas has agreed to come up with a sizable amount, I gather.
NIXON: What do you think? You don't need a million right away, but you need a million? Is that right?
DEAN: That is right.
NIXON: You need it in cash, don't you? I am just thinking out loud here for a moment. Would you put that through the Cuban Committee?
NIXON: It is going to be cash money, and so forth. How if that ever comes out, are you going to handle it? Is the Cuban Committee an obstruction of justice, if they want to help?
DEAN: Well, they have priests in it.
NIXON: Would that give it a little bit of a cover?
DEAN: That would give some for the Cubans and possibly Hunt. Then you've got Liddy. McCord is not accepting any money. So he is not a bought man right now.
NIXON: O.K. Go ahead.
DEAN: Let me continue a little bit right here now. When I say this is a growing cancer, I say it for reasons like this. Bud Krogh, in his testimony before the Grand Jury, was forced to perjure himself. He is haunted by it. Bud said, "I have not had a pleasant day on my job." He said, "I told my wife all about this. The curtain may ring down one of these days, and I may have to face the music, which I am perfectly willing to do."
NIXON: What did he perjure himself on, John?
DEAN: Did he know the Cubans? He did.
NIXON: He said he didn't?
DEAN: That is right. They didn't press him hard.
NIXON: He might be able to -- I am just trying to think. Perjury is an awful hard rap to prove. If he could just say that I -- Well, go ahead.
DEAN: Well, so that is one perjury. Mitchell and Magruder are potential perjurers. There is always the possibility of any one of these individuals blowing. Hunt. Liddy. Liddy is in jail right now, serving his time and having a good time right now. I think Liddy in his own bizarre way is the strongest of all of them. So there is that possibility.
NIXON: Your major guy to keep under control is Hunt?
DEAN: That is right.
NIXON: I think. Because he knows …
DEAN: He knows so much.
NIXON: … about a lot of other things.
DEAN: He knows so much. Right. He could sink Chuck Colson. Apparently he is quite distressed with Colson. He thinks Colson has abandoned him. Colson was to meet with him when he was out there after, you know, he had left the White House. But Colson met with him through his lawyer. Hunt raised the question he wanted money. Colson's lawyer told him Colson wasn't doing anything with money. Hunt took offense with that immediately and felt Colson had abandoned him.
NIXON: Just looking at the immediate problem, don't you have to handle Hunt's financial situation damn soon?
DEAN: I talked with Mitchell about that last night and --
NIXON: It seems to me we have to keep the cap on the bottle that much, or we don't have any options.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Either that or let it all blow right now.
DEAN: What really bothers me is this growing situation. As I say, it is growing because of the continued need to provide support for the Watergate people who are going to hold us up for everything we've got, and the need for some people to perjure themselves as they go down the road here. If this thing ever blows, then we are in a coverup situation. I think it would be extremely damaging to you and the --
NIXON: Sure. The whole concept of Administration justice. We cannot have --
DEAN: That is what really troubles me. For example, what happens if it starts breaking, and they do find a criminal case against a Haldeman, a Dean, a Mitchell, an Ehrlichman? That is --
NIXON: If it really comes down to that, we would have to shed it in order to contain it again.
DEAN: That's right. I am coming down to what I really think, is that Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Mitchell and I can sit down and spend a day, or however long, to figure out, one, how this can be carved away from you, so that it does not damage you or the Presidency. It just can't! You are not involved in it and it is something you shouldn't --
NIXON: That is true!
DEAN: I know, Sir. I can just tell from our conversation that these are things you have no knowledge of.
NIXON: You certainly can! Bugging and so on! Let me say I am keenly aware of the fact Colson, et. al., were doing their best to get information as we went along. But they all knew very well they were supposed to comply with the law.
DEAN: What really troubles me is, one, will this thing not break some day and the whole thing -- domino situation -- everything starts crumbling, fingers will be pointing. Bob will be accused of things he has never heard of and deny and try to disprove it. It will get real nasty and just be a real bad situation. And the person who will be hurt by it most will be you and the Presidency, and I just don't think --
NIXON: First, because I am an executive. I am supposed to check these things.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: So what you really come to is what we do. Let's suppose that you and Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Mitchell say we can't hold this. What then are you going to say? What are you going to put out after it? Complete disclosure, isn't that the best way to do it?
DEAN: Well, one way to do it is --
NIXON: That would be my view.
DEAN: One way to do it is for you to tell the Attorney General that you finally know. Really, this is the first time you are getting all the pieces together.
NIXON: Ask for another Grand Jury?
DEAN: Ask for another Grand Jury. The way it should be done, though, is a way -- for example, I think that we could avoid criminal liability for countless people, and the ones that did get it could be minimal.
DEAN: Well, I was just thinking it all through first as to how. You know, some people could be granted immunity.
NIXON: Like Magruder?
DEAN: Yeah. To come forward. But some people are going to have to go to jail. That is the long and short of it, also.
NIXON: Who? Let's talk about --
DEAN: All right. I think I could. For one.
NIXON: You go to jail?
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Oh, hell no! I can't see how you can.
DEAN: Well, because --
NIXON: I can't see how. Let me say I can't see how a legal case could be made against you, John.
DEAN: It would be tough but, you know, I can see people pointing fingers. You know, to get out of their own, put me in an impossible position, disproving too many negatives.
NIXON: Oh, no! Let me say I got the impression here -- But just looking at it from a cold legal standpoint: you are a lawyer, you were a counsel -- doing what you did as counsel. You were not -- What would you go to jail for?
DEAN: The obstruction of justice.
NIXON: The obstruction of justice?
DEAN: That is the only one that bothers me.
NIXON: Well, I don't know. I think that one -- I feel it could be cut off at the pass, maybe, the obstruction of justice. Sometimes it is well to give them something, and then they don't want the bigger fish.
DEAN: That's right. I think that with the proper coordination with the Department of Justice -- Henry Petersen is the only man I know bright enough and knowledgeable enough in the criminal laws and the process that could really tell us how this could be put together so that it did the maximum to carve it away with a minimum damage to individuals involved.
NIXON: Petersen doesn't know the whole story?
DEAN: That's right. No, I know he doesn't now. I know he doesn't now. I am talking about someone I have over the years grown to have faith in. It would have to put him in a very difficult situation as the Head of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice, and the oath of office --
NIXON: Talking about your obstruction of justice, though, I don't see it.
DEAN: Well, I have been a conduit for information on taking care of people out there who are guilty of crimes.
NIXON: Oh, you mean the blackmail?
DEAN: The blackmail. Right.
NIXON: Well, I wonder if that part of it can't be -- I wonder if that doesn't -- Let me put it frankly: I wonder if that doesn't have to be continued? Let me put it this way: let us suppose that you get the million bucks, and you get the proper way to handle it, and you could hold that side.
DEAN: Uh huh.
NIXON: It would seem to me that would be worthwhile.
DEAN: There are two routes. One is to figure out how to cut the losses and minimize the human impact and get you up and out and away from it in any way. In a way it would never come back to haunt you. That is one general alternative. The other is to go down the road, just hunker down, fight it at every corner, every turn, don't let people testify - cover it up is what we really are talking about. Just keep it buried, and just hope that we can do it, hope that we make good decisions at the right time, keep our heads cool, we make the right moves.
NIXON: And just take the heat?
DEAN: And just take the heat.
ACT 2: Scene 1
(April 14, 1973. An office in the Executive Office Building. HALDEMAN and EHRLICHMAN are seated on a sofa facing the audience, in front of which is a long, low coffee table running the length of the sofa. NIXON is seated in an armchair stage right of the coffee table. On the opposite side of the coffee table, facing the sofa with its back to the audience, is an empty office chair. All three are frozen in position on a semi-dark stage as the VOICEOVER begins.)
VOICEOVER: April 14, 1973. An office in the Executive Office Building. A Grand Jury has continued to investigate the aftermath of the Watergate break-in. Meanwhile, a Senate investigative committee has subpoenaed several Nixon administration officials to testify. Ehrlichman and Haldeman are meeting with President Nixon to try to get out in front of the swiftly unraveling coverup.
(All three come to life as the lights go up.)
NIXON: 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 am not sure that I want to know. I want to say, Mitchell, look, I think that the attorneys for the Committee, and I found this out, and I found out that, and I found out that, and the Grand Jury has told me this that -- I just don't know, you know what I mean. I am not trying to duck it. The thing, John (To EHRLICHMAN.), is that there's nobody really 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 critique this -- I'd go up, and I'd say, (Getting up and addressing the empty chair.) "The President has asked me to see you." That you (indicating EHRLICHMAN.) have come today with this report; that these are the cold facts indicating, of course, that the Grand Jury is moving swiftly. "Magruder will be indicted. Under the circumstances, time is of the essence. You can't be in the position that you didn't go to the Grand Jury and say, 'I am responsible. I did not know, 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 afterwards, yes." (Turns back to EHRLICHMAN.) He probably would not deny that anyway. He probably was not asked that at an earlier time. But the defendants are entitled to that --
EHRLICHMAN: Well now you're glossing it. I don't think he can do that.
NIXON: All right.
EHRLICHMAN: I wouldn't want to --
NIXON: All right. Fine. Fine. What would you say to him?
EHRLICHMAN: I'd say, ah --
NIXON: (Turns and gestures towards the empty chair.)
EHRLICHMAN: (Gets up and walks around the coffee-table to take his turn at the empty chair. HALDEMAN also gets up and stands next to him, stage left of the empty chair, while NIXON remains standing stage right of the empty chair.) I'd say, "The jig, you know, basically the jig is up, John. And, you know, I've listened to Magruder, and he's, in my opinion he's about to blow, and that's the last straw."
NIXON: (Also to the chair.) "And, also, Hunt is going to testify, Tuesday, Monday, we understand."
EHRLICHMAN: "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's now time, I think, to rethink what best serves the President and also what best serves you in the ultimate outcome of this thing."
EHRLICHMAN: "And we have to recognize that you are not going to escape indictment. There's no way. Far better that you should be prosecuted on information from the U.S. Attorney based on your conversation with the U.S. Attorney, than on an indictment of a Grand Jury of 15 blacks and three whites after this kind of investigation."
NIXON: "We're right at the door of the White House, and we're trying to protect you."
EHRLICHMAN: "If the Grand Jury goes this way, you've been dragged in by the heels. If you go down first thing Monday morning or yet this afternoon, and talk to the U.S. Attorney, and say, 'O.K., 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 I am here on behalf of the President --"
HALDEMAN: "Well, and three, you have the dignified opportunity to discuss this in the office of Earl Silbert instead of in the Erwin Committee, with the whole country watching it on television."
EHRLICHMAN: "And I'm here at the President's request to ask you to do that."
EHRLICHMAN: "He has reviewed the facts now."
NIXON: That's right.
EHRLICHMAN: "He has no alternative, John, but to send me here and ask you to do this."
NIXON: Right. "If you want to hear it personally --"
EHRLICHMAN: "Pick up the phone."
NIXON: No. "Come down and see him."
(They step away from the empty chair, all three still standing.)
HALDEMAN: I have a couple of modifications to that. One, a minor question, 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 EHRLICHMAN.) to talk with him. Then there's no question in his mind that you're operating unilaterally.
NIXON: Right. Right.
HALDEMAN: And, secondly, that if at all possible, he should come down here. My reason for it is: (A) you get him here under your circumstances; (B) if you make your case, which you may at this point -- 'cause he may be on the same track, 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." See, he may say, "I've got to talk to the President before I do this."
HALDEMAN: And then run him in to do it. (To EHRLICHMAN.) One part of your scenario really worries me. You say, "I listened to Magruder."
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I can't say it quite that way.
HALDEMAN: You can say what Magruder is going to do.
EHRLICHMAN: I can say --
NIXON: (Turning back towards the empty chair.) "We have learned that Magruder is going to testify."
EHRLICHMAN: (To NIXON and HALDEMAN.) I can say -- well, I can start out by saying, "Look, I can't vouch for any of this first-hand." (Turns to the empty chair.) "A tremendous amount of what I know is second-hand, but I have every reason to think that Magruder is in a frame of mind right now to go down there and tell everything he knows."
NIXON: (Coaching from the sidelines.) That Hunt's going to go Monday.
EHRLICHMAN (To the chair.) "Hunt's going to go Monday."
NIXON: "And Liddy" -- well, you can't say Liddy.
EHRLICHMAN: (To the chair.) "I have reason to think Liddy has already talked."
HALDEMAN: (To the chair.) "You know they're calling Strachan, so they're obviously moving on the cover-up."
EHRLICHMAN: Let me get around that by suggesting what I think Mitchell's response would be.
EHRLICHMAN: His response will be, (Sitting down in the empty chair, back to the audience, as though he were Mitchell were speaking from it.) "Look, Ehrlichman, you're supposed to be a lawyer. You know better. Somebody who is a target in an inquiry of this kind and someone tries to pressure him into giving up his rights -- this is sort of the antithesis of what rights I would have if I were a defendant. You're in the executive branch, a government official. You're supposed to tell me that I have a right to counsel and read me the Supreme Court thing and so forth. Instead of that you just suggested that I divest myself of all my rights and you asked me down here for a highly improper conversation. You haven't even suggested that I bring my attorney. And I think that what you are doing, you're acting as the prosecutor in this case."
HALDEMAN: (To EHRLICHMAN/MITCHELL in the empty chair.) How do you come off doing that?
NIXON: (As EHRLICHMAN gets out of the chair and resumes his former self.) He won't do that, in my opinion. He is more likely to say, (Sitting down in the empty chair as speaking as though he were MITCHELL.) "Oh, damn it. Look, John, you know there are people in the White House who are deeply involved in this, and you know that Colson and Haldeman" -- he may say this -- "pressured this poor boy Magruder over here." (Getting up from the chair.) I think Mitchell will take the offensive. Don't you agree, Bob?
HALDEMAN: You see, I am not at all sure but what Mitchell may think I am involved. I am sure he probably thinks Colson's involved, because Magruder has used that.
NIXON: Is Magruder planning to go see Mitchell?
HALDEMAN: Yes, Sir, if he decides to go, if he decides to talk.
NIXON: If he decides to talk --
HALDEMAN: And he is just about on the verge. I just assume 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.
EHRLICHMAN: If Mitchell comes back to me with a line like: "You're not serving the President well; if you made any kind of investigation, surely you know people in the White House are involved."
NIXON: What do you say?
EHRLICHMAN: (Turning towards the empty chair.) 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 will go away."
NIXON: (To the chair.) "The people in the White House are going to testify."
EHRLICHMAN: (To the chair.) "This thing is not going to go away, John, and by your sitting up there in New York pretending that it is, is just making it worse. And it's been getting steadily worse, by you sitting up there for the last couple of months. We're at the point now where we had no choice but to ask you to do this."
HALDEMAN: And you could say, (To the chair.) "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 --"
NIXON: (To HALDEMAN.) Who do you mean? Liddy?
HALDEMAN: No. I mean Mitchell's calls to Dean.
EHRLICHMAN: I could say that, (To the chair.) "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 because they said they didn't know where they led. 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, you guys know there's no escaping from it."
HALDEMAN: (To the chair.) "There's no escape. It's got to get proved whether --"
NIXON: (To the chair, overlapping with HALDEMAN.) "Confident as a lawyer --"
HALDEMAN: (To the chair.) "There's nobody that can do it that would be able to persuade anyone else."
NIXON: (To the chair.) "There's nobody else that can do it."
ACT 2: Scene 2
(Later that day. The Oval office. NIXON is seated behind a desk, speaking with HALDEMAN and EHRLICHMAN, who are seated at the opposite side of the desk. All three are frozen in position on a semi-dark stage as the VOICEOVER begins.)
VOICEOVER: Later that day. The Oval Office. Ehrlichman has called Mitchell and is relaying the results of the phone call.
(EHRLICHMAN begins speaking as the lights go up.)
EHRLICHMAN: I told him that the only way that I knew that he was mentioned, insofar as the aftermath was concerned, was that from time to time he would send Dean over saying, "Hey, we need money for this." And Mitchell said, "Who told you that?" And I said, "Well, John, that is common knowledge, and Dean will know that you told him that." I said, "Dean has not been subpoenaed. He has not testified and, as a matter of fact, the way they are proceeding down there, it looks like they are losing interest in him." I said this to John because I wanted him to be impressed with the fact that we were not jobbing him.
NIXON: Oh, I get the point. Now, does he know that Magruder is going to confess?
EHRLICHMAN: I said that a person who called was told that Magruder intended to make a clean breast of it and that was first party information and very reliable, and that that would tend to begin to unravel the saint from the sinner in both directions. And he agreed with that. Now he said, "Which version is it that Magruder is going to testify to? Is it the same one that he gave Bob and me in Bob's office, or is it some other version?"
HALDEMAN: That's not true.
EHRLICHMAN: I said --
NIXON: What was the version he gave Bob? Was it another version?
EHRLICHMAN: Well, let me tell you what Mitchell said. It was another gigging of the White House. He said, "You know in Bob's office, Magruder said that Haldeman had cooked this whole thing up over here at the White House and --"
NIXON: Had he said that?
EHRLICHMAN: Well, that is what he said, and that he had been sort of --
NIXON: Now wait a minute. (To Haldeman.) Your conversation with Mitchell is the one where --
HALDEMAN: I've got my notes on it.
NIXON: (Continuing over HALDEMAN.) -- Mitchell says -- is one where -- Mitchell does -- it's good that you have notes, too, but --
EHRLICHMAN: Mitchell's theory --
NIXON: Whatever his theory is, let me say, one footnote -- is that throwing it off on the White House won't help him one damn bit.
EHRLICHMAN: Unless he can peddle the theory that Colson and others were effectively running the Committee through Magruder and freezing him out of the operation, which is the kind of story line he was giving me.
HALDEMAN: Did he include me in the others?
HALDEMAN: That I was freezing him out of the operation?
EHRLICHMAN: That you, in other words, he didn't say this baldly or flatly, but he accumulated a whole bunch of things: it's Colson, Dean, and Bob working with Magruder, and that was sort of the way the line went.
NIXON: No. The White House wasn't running the campaign committee.
HALDEMAN: He's got an impossible problem with that. The poor guy is pretty sad if he gets up there and says that. It is a problem for us, there is no question about it, but there is no way he can prove it.
EHRLICHMAN: He had a very, very bad tremor --
NIXON: He has always had it.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I have never noticed it as bad as this. (Looking at his watch.) The Magruder thing is at 4 o'clock and it is still on.
HALDEMAN: I think I have to go confirm it. (Gets up and exits stage left.)
EHRLICHMAN: All right. Now the question is whether I ought to get hold of Kleindienst for, say 5 o'clock, and get this thing all wrapped up.
NIXON: The purpose in doing this is what?
EHRLICHMAN: The purpose of doing it is --
NIXON: (Getting up as if making an announcement at a news conference.) "The White House has conducted an investigation and has turned it over to the Grand Jury."
EHRLICHMAN: (Getting up on his side of the desk and correcting him.) Turned it over to the Justice Department.
NIXON: Before the indictments.
NIXON: How much are you going to put out?
EHRLICHMAN: I think I would let them drag it out of me in a way. I don't know. I just really haven't thought that part through.
NIXON: Because if they say why did the White House wait for the Justice Department to do all this --
EHRLICHMAN: "Did the White House know?" is probably the way this would in turn come.
NIXON: (As though answering a reporter's question.) "Yes, as a matter of fact."
EHRLICHMAN: (Continuing the statement.) "We had been at work on this for some time. President first ordered it."
NIXON: "Independent investigation."
EHRLICHMAN: "Needed it known."
NIXON: "I had ordered an independent investigation at the time McCord had something to say." (To EHRLICHMAN.) Right?
EHRLICHMAN: All right.
NIXON: At that time you conducted an investigation.
EHRLICHMAN: And that a -- at the time I was ready to report to you my tentative conclusions, and they were no more than that, you felt that they were sufficiently serious -- well, you felt that one overriding aspect of the report was that some people evidently were hanging back feeling they were somehow doing the President a favor. "That the President had me personally transmit to them his views that this ought to be a complete open thing; that may or may not have played some part in --"
NIXON: -- "Jeb Magruder's subsequent disclosures to the Grand Jury."
EHRLICHMAN: "In any event, rather than for us simply to hold the information in the White House, we turned it over to the Justice Department for whatever disposition they wanted to make of it."
(NIXON and EHRLICHMAN simultaneously nod at each other, satisfied with the version of the story they've just concocted.)
ACT 3: Scene 1
(April 16, 1973. The Oval Office. NIXON is seated behind his desk as DEAN comes into the room from stage left. Both characters freeze in position on a semi-dark stage as the VOICEOVER begins.)
VOICEOVER: April 16, 1973. The Oval Office. John Dean has begun to cooperate with the Watergate investigation.
(Lights go fully up as both characters unfreeze. DEAN continues to come into the room.)
NIXON: Good morning, John. How are you?
DEAN: Good morning.
NIXON: Sit down, sit down. (DEAN sits down.) Trying to get my remarks ready to deliver for the building trades. You know what I was thinking, get the odds and ends out of the way. You will remember we talked about resignations, etc., etc., that I should have in hand. Not to be released.
DEAN: Uh huh.
NIXON: But that I should have in hand something, or otherwise they will say, "What the hell. After Dean told you all of this, what did you do?" You see?
DEAN: Uh huh.
NIXON: I talked to Petersen, and I said, "Now what do you want to do about this situation on Dean, etc." And he said, well, he said, "I don't want to announce anything now." You know what I mean.
DEAN: Uh huh.
NIXON: But what is your feeling on that? See what I mean?
DEAN: Well, I think it ought to be Dean, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman.
NIXON: Well, I thought Dean at this moment.
DEAN: All right.
NIXON: Dean at this moment because you are going to be questioned, and I will have to handle them also. But the point is, what is your advice? You see the point is, we just typed up a couple just to have here which I would be willing to put out. You know. (He hands DEAN two letters, which DEAN begins to scan quickly.) In the event that certain things occur.
DEAN: (Still reading.) I understand.
NIXON: To put -- just putting. What is your advice?
DEAN: (Finishing the letters.) I think it would be good to have it on hand, and I would think, to be very honest with you --
NIXON: Have the others, too?
DEAN: Yeah, have the others, too.
NIXON: Well, as a matter of fact, they both suggested it themselves, so I've already done that with them.
DEAN: All right.
NIXON: They said, look, whatever -- and I want to get your advice on them, too. And what I think we would want to do is to have it in two different forms here, and I would like to discuss with you the forms. It seems to me that your form should be to request an immediate leave of absence. That would be one thing. The other, of course, would be just a straight resignation.
DEAN: Uh, huh.
NIXON: First, what I would suggest is that you sign both. That is what I had in mind. And then we'll talk about after -- you don't know yet what you're … For example, if you go in and plead guilty you would have to resign.
DEAN: That is right.
NIXON: If on the other hand, you're going in on some other basis, then I think the leave of absence is the proper thing to do.
DEAN: Uh, huh. I would think so.
NIXON: And that is the way I would discuss it with others, too. If you have any other thoughts, let me know. I am not trying to press you on the thing. I just want to be sure Ehrlichman's got a record of anything that I should have here.
DEAN: I think it is a good idea. I frankly do. But I think if you do it for one, I think you have problems with others, too, Mr. President.
NIXON: I already have the others.
DEAN: That is what I am trying to advise you on --
NIXON: But on theirs, both, it is all pending their appearance, etc. That isn't yours. Nothing is going to be said, but I have to have it in hand so that I can move on this if Petersen is going to report to me every day. I said, "Now, Petersen, if you get this stuff confirmed, I need to know." He said … well, I asked him specifically, "What do you do? Who is going to be today?" And he said, "Well, Strachan." There are three today. Who is the third one?
DEAN: I don't know.
NIXON: That's right! You're not supposed …
NIXON: Then, OK.
DEAN: (Handing NIXON back the letters.) What I would like to do is draft up for you an alternative letter putting in both options, and you can just put them in the file. Short and sweet.
NIXON: All right. Fine. I had dictated something myself. All my own which, if you can give me a better form, fine. I just want you to do it either way. Do you want to prepare something?
DEAN: I would like to prepare something.
NIXON: All right. Fine. (Hands DEAN the letters.) You can take these as an idea and have something. I've got to see Petersen at 1:30.
DEAN: All right.
NIXON: Understand, I don't want to put anything out because I don't want to jeopardize your position at all. You have taken a hell of a load here, but I just feel that we've got to do it. And with Haldeman and Ehrlichman, I have leave of absences from them. Which, however, I will not use until I get the word from Petersen on corroboration, which he advised himself. I talked to him after you left - about 11:45 - and let the man know how hard we work around here.
DEAN: Well, you will have something within a couple of hours.
NIXON: I won't be back. Yes, you draft what you want me to … In other words, you can --
DEAN: And if you don't like what I draft, you can tell me and I will change it in any way you want.
NIXON: You could also, if you would, I would like for you to prepare a letter that you would have for Ehrlichman and Haldeman. Would you do that?
DEAN: Yes, Sir.
NIXON: Then I will give them the form and let them work out something that is appropriate. Would you prepare that for me?
DEAN: Yes, I will.
NIXON: But they told me last night orally, just as you did, that --
DEAN: They stand ready?
NIXON: With head erect, they said, "Look, we will leave in a minute. We will leave today, do whatever you want." I said, "No, you are going to have to wait until we get some evidence." You know what I mean?
DEAN: Uh, huh.
NIXON: I gather you agree with me.
DEAN: That is what I do, and the question is timing, and --
NIXON: Let's get Dean's advice as to how we handle this from now on. What is your advice?
DEAN: Well, I would say you should have the letters in hand and then, based on what you learn from Petersen, you can make a judgment at the time. I think you are still five steps ahead of what will ever emerge publicly.
NIXON: Right. But you remember when you came in that day, I asked you the specific question: "Is anybody on the White House staff involved in it?" You told me, "No."
DEAN: That's right. And I have no knowledge --
NIXON: You still believe that --
DEAN: Yes, Sir, I do.
NIXON: But you did tell me that in the aftermath there were serious problems.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Right. And I said, "Well, let's see what they are." What did you report to me on, though? It was rather fragmentary, as I recall it. You said Hunt had a problem --
DEAN: Very fragmentary. I was --
NIXON: I said, "Why, John, how much is it going to cost to do this?" That was when I sent you to Camp David and said, "Jesus! Let's see where this thing comes out."
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: And you said it could cost a million dollars.
DEAN: I said it conceivably could. I said, "If we don't cut this thing --"
NIXON: How was that handled? Who handled that money?
DEAN: Well, let me tell you the rest of what Hunt said. He said, "You tell Dean that I need $72,000 for my personal expenses, $50,000 for my legal fees, and if I don't get it I am going to have some things to say about the seamy things I did at the White House for John Ehrlichman." All right, I took that to Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman said, "Have you talked to Mitchell about it?" I said, "No, I have not." He said, "Well, will you talk to Mitchell?" I said, "Yes, I will." I talked to Mitchell. I just passed it along to him. And then we were meeting down here a few days later in Bob Haldeman's office with Bob and Ehrlichman, and Mitchell and myself, and Ehrlichman said at that time, "Well, is that problem with Hunt straightened out?" He said it to me and I said, "Well, ask the man who may know: Mitchell." Mitchell said, "I think that problem is solved."
NIXON: That's all?
DEAN: That's all he said.
NIXON: In other words, that was done at the Mitchell level?
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: But you had knowledge, Haldeman had knowledge, Ehrlichman had knowledge, and I suppose I did on that night. That assumes culpability on that, doesn't it?
DEAN: I don't think so.
NIXON: Why not? I plan to be tough on myself. I must say I did not even give it a thought at the time.
DEAN: No one gave it a thought at the time.
NIXON: You didn't tell me this about Ehrlichman, for example, when you came in that day.
DEAN: I know.
NIXON: You simply said, "Hunt needs this money." You were using it as an example of the problems ahead.
DEAN: I have tried all along to make sure that anything I passed to you myself didn't cause you any personal problems.
NIXON: John, let me ask you this. Let us suppose if this thing breaks and they ask you, John Dean, "Now, John, you were the President's Counsel. Did you report things to the President?"
DEAN: I would refuse to answer any questions unless you waive the privilege.
NIXON: On this point, I would not waive. I think you should say, "I reported to the President. He called me in and asked me before, when the event first occurred, and I passed to the President the message that no White House personnel in the course of your investigation were involved." You did do that, didn't you?
DEAN: I did that through Ehrlichman and Haldeman.
NIXON: I know you did because I didn't see you until after the election.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: That's right, and then you came and sat in this chair (pointing to the chair DEAN is sitting in.) and that is the first time that I realized the thing.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Now the question: Well, Mr. Dean, is: "Why didn't you tell the President before?" And your answer there is, "I didn't know." You see, I don't want you, John, to be in a position and frankly I don't want the President to be in the position where one of his trusted people had information that he kept from him.
DEAN: (As though testifying.) I did not know.
NIXON: Fine. You did not know. (Pause.) How did you find out then? But you can handle that.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: But I did ask you, and I think you should say the President authorized me to say this -- I won't reveal the conversation with the President -- he asked me this question. I told him this, that nobody in the White House was involved. I can say that you did tell me that nobody in the White House was involved, and I can say that you then came in, at your request, and said, "I think the President needs to hear more about this case."
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Then it was that night that I started my investigation.
DEAN: That's right -- that was the Wednesday before they were sentenced. Now I can get that date --
NIXON: Would you do this: Get your chronology of this. Wednesday you came in and told me that, etc. That would be helpful for me to have. That is when I frankly became interested in the case, and I said, "Now, damn it, I want to find out the score." And set in motion Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and -- Not Mitchell but a few others. OK?
NIXON: One other thing. On this privilege thing -- nothing is privileged that involves wrongdoing.
DEAN: That is correct.
NIXON: On your part or wrongdoing on the part of anybody else. I am telling you that now, and I want when you testify, if you do, to say that the President told you that. Would you do that? Would you agree to that?
DEAN: Yes, Sir.
NIXON: Fine. Don't you agree with me that it is better that we make the first announcement and not the Justice Department?
DEAN: Yes, I do.
NIXON: It was our campaign. I am not going to have the Justice Department -- we triggered this whole thing. Don't you agree? You helped me to trigger it. You know what I mean.
DEAN: When history is written and you put the pieces back together, you will see why it happened. Because I triggered it. I put everybody's feet to the fire because it just had to stop.
NIXON: That's right.
DEAN: And I still continue to feel that.
NIXON: You put Magruder's feet to the fire. Where did you see Magruder?
DEAN: I didn't. In fact, I refused to see him.
NIXON: What got Magruder to talk? I would like to take the credit.
DEAN: Well …
NIXON: I was hoping you had seen him because --
DEAN: He was told there was no chance. The situation there is that he and Mitchell were continuing to talk. Proceeding along the same course they had been proceeding to locking their story, but my story did not fit with their story. And I just told them I refused to change, to alter my testimony. But would repeat it just as I had given it. This had to do with a number of meetings in the Department of Justice.
NIXON: Oh, yes, I remember. You told me that. I guess everybody told me that. Dean said, "I am not going down there and lie," because your hand will shake and your emotions. Remember, you told me that.
DEAN: Yes, I said that. I am incapable of it.
NIXON: Thank God! Don't ever do it, John. Tell the truth. That is the thing I have told everyone around here. For Pete's sake, tell the truth! All they do, John, is compound it. If you are going to lie, you go to jail for the lie rather than the crime. So believe me, don't ever lie.
DEAN: The truth always emerges. It always does.
NIXON: Also there is a question of right and wrong, too.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Whether it is right and whether it is wrong. Perhaps there are some gray areas, but you are right to get it out now.
DEAN: I am sure.
NIXON: Is there anything else you think I should do? You don't think I should -- I am not going to let the Justice Department break this case, John.
DEAN: I understand. You've got to break it. You are breaking it. Well, that is what we have done. That's right.
NIXON: I could have told you to go to Camp David and concoct a story, couldn't I? And you have never heard that said, have you?
DEAN: No, Sir.
NIXON: But on the other hand, it was your job to tell me, wasn't it?
DEAN: Uh, huh.
NIXON: And you have. Basically what you have done -- no, you told me the truth, though. You've told the truth. It was your job to work for the President, the White House staff, and they were not involved in the pre-thing. But then you thought the post-thing. You thought about it, and that is why you decided, as you said --
DEAN: I thought we should cut the cancer right off because to keep this thing --
NIXON: Look, one thing I want to be sure. When you testify, I don't want you to be in a position, and I don't want the President to be in a position, that his Counsel did not level with him. See my point?
DEAN: There is no point that I have not leveled with you, as you should know.
NIXON: Now when they say, "Now Mr. Dean, why didn't you tell the President -- Did you know about this? Why didn't you tell the President?" You are to say, "I told the President about this. I told the President first there was no involvement in the White House. Afterwards, I told the President that I --" And the President said, "Look, I want to get to the bottom of this thing, period." See what I am driving at -- not just the White House. You continued your investigation, etc., and the President went out and investigated on his own. Which I have done, believe me.
DEAN: Uh, huh.
(In his excitement, NIXON gets up and walks around the desk towards DEAN, who also gets up and stands with him in front of the desk.)
NIXON: And as a result of the President's actions, this thing has been broken.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: Because also I put pressure on the Justice Department -- I told Kleindienst -- For Pete's sake --
DEAN: No, I think you are in front right now, and you can rest assured everything I do will keep you as far as --
NIXON: No, I don't want, understand when I say don't lie. Don't lie about me, either.
DEAN: No, I won't, Sir -- you --
NIXON: I think I have done the right thing, but I want you to -- if you feel I have done the right thing, the country is entitled to know it. Because we are talking about the Presidency here. You think you testify when? Well, Petersen will decide that.
NIXON: Do you want me to say anything to him about it?
DEAN: No. I think my lawyers and the U.S. Attorney's office ought to continue to work in the same manner --
NIXON: You see, I am having him report to me daily now. Which I think I should do.
NIXON: So all I will say is that I am going to tell him that we have talked today and that I went over again the various materials --
DEAN: What would be the best thing in the world is if they decide that they've got nothing but technical cases against people at the White House and they chuck them all out. That is not impossible.
NIXON: Should I telephone him?
DEAN: No, Sir.
NIXON: That's what they ought to do.
DEAN: That's right.
NIXON: It may be a tough case for them to prove, John.
DEAN: Well, they started out not to do it. It could very well happen.
NIXON: Well, that's what I hope and I understand. The reason I have to have that (Points to the two letters.) is in case there is a break tonight. I don't want to have to call John Dean in and say, "Look, John, can I have it?" It looks like I was, like a cramp in my plans. All I am saying of this, as you know, is that I heard things from the U.S. Attorney, and from John Dean, and from my own people that indicate that there could be a technical violation. Under the circumstances, I feel that it is my duty to have your resignation in hand. Of course, the President always has a resignation. How does that sound to you?
DEAN: Well, that's right. Well, the thing is phrasing the letter is important, so that is why I would like --
NIXON: Well, understand those are my dictations. They are only a form for you. You work it out so that it would be one that would apply to you and Ehrlichman and Haldeman. Just a form that I can give anybody. And then if we have to use these things (Again pointing to the letters in DEAN's hands.), I pray to God we don't, you guys don't deserve them. You don't deserve them.
DEAN: Well, the important thing is not them, it is you.
NIXON: No -- well, I know maybe it isn't me personally, it is this place.
DEAN: It is this office and the campaign office as well. (He goes to the door.)
NIXON: Remember, be back.
DEAN: All right, Sir.
NIXON: I would just sit there. Hang tight.
DEAN: I couldn't be more objective, Mr. President.
NIXON: What --
DEAN: I say, don't think I have lost my objectivity in all of this. Do you know why? Because of you.
NIXON: (Laughs.) OK, John.
(DEAN exits. NIXON stands looking at the door and we hear it close behind DEAN.)
ACT 3: Scene 2
(April 17, 1973. The Oval Office. NIXON is seated behind the desk; EHRLICHMAN and HALDEMAN are facing him on the other side of it. All three characters freeze in mid-conversation on a semi-dark stage as the VOICEOVER begins.)
VOICEOVER: The next day, April 17, 1973, in the Oval Office.
(As the lights go up, NIXON is speaking.)
NIXON: Where did we come out?
EHRLICHMAN: (Handing NIXON a typed report.) Well, we got two things. We got a press plan, but it rests on some decisions that you have to make on sort of an action plan.
NIXON: Right, all right.
EHRLICHMAN: And I just finished an hour with Colson who came over very concerned and said that he had to see you. That the message he had for you and wanted to explain at length is why Dean had to be dealt with summarily. I think his argument will be that the city of Washington generally knows that Dean had little or no access to you.
NIXON: True, that's right. Dean was just a messenger.
EHRLICHMAN: That knowledge imputed to us is knowledge imputed to you, and if Dean testified that he imputed great quantities of knowledge to us, and is allowed to get away with that, that will seriously impair the President ultimately. 'Cause it will be very easy to argue -- that all you have to do is read Dean's testimony -- look at the previous relationships -- and there she goes! So, he says the key to this is that Dean should not get immunity. That's what he wants to tell you.
NIXON: Well, he told me that, and I couldn't agree more.
EHRLICHMAN: Now he says you have total and complete control over whether Dean gets immunity through Petersen. Now that's what he says. He said he would be glad to come in and tell you how to do it, why, and all that stuff.
NIXON: I don't want Colson to come in here. I feel uneasy about that, his ties and everything. But you see Dean -- let's see, what the hell -- what's he got with regard to the President? He came and talked to me, as you will recall, about the need for $120,000, for clemencies --
EHRLICHMAN: You told me that the other day. I didn't know that before.
HALDEMAN: But so what?
HALDEMAN: So what?
NIXON: I sort of laughed and said, "Well, I guess you could get that."
EHRLICHMAN: Now he is holding that over your head? Saying --
NIXON: No, no, no, I don't think Dean would go so far as to get into any conversation he had with the President. Even Dean, I don't think.
HALDEMAN: Well, he can't -- you both have executive privilege in conversation with him.
NIXON: Let's just call it executive privilege, but on the other hand you've got to figure that Dean could put out something with somebody else. That's the only thing I can think of he's told me, but I've not got him in yet to ask about this thing about you. The point is can we survive it?
EHRLICHMAN: Well --
NIXON: Can Haldeman and Ehrlichman survive it? Let me say this. I know your situation. It's a hell of a lot different than John Dean. I know that as far as you're concerned, you'll go out and throw yourselves on a damned sword. I'm aware of that. I'm trying to think this thing through with that in mind because, damn it, you're the two most valuable members on the staff. I know that. The problem is, you're the two most loyal and the two most honest. We don't have to go into that. You know how I feel about that. It's not bull -- it's the truth. The problem we got here is this. I don't not want to be in a position where the damned public clamor makes it necessary or calls -- to have Bob come in one day and say, "Well, Mr. President, the public -- blah blah blah -- I'm going to leave." Now that's the real problem on this damned thing, and I don't think that kicking Dean out of here is going to do it. Understand, I'm not ruling out kicking him out. But I think you got to figure what to hell does Dean know? What kind of blackmail does he have? I don't know what all he does --
EHRLICHMAN: Let me make a suggestion.
NIXON: All right.
EHRLICHMAN: You've got Dean coming in to you saying, "I've talked to the U.S. Attorney and I've told him a lot of things that I did wrong." So you put him on leave. He isn't charged with anything yet, but he's said them to you.
NIXON: I asked him that and he said I'll go on leave along with Haldeman and Ehrlichman.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, he's not in any position to bargain with you on that. Now when the time comes that I'm charged with anything wrong --
NIXON: Well, John, you have been by a U.S. Attorney and by Petersen to me. Petersen is not charging you legal --
EHRLICHMAN: That's what I mean. See, I understand the difference. You see, Dean has broken the law on the face of his report to you --
NIXON: Petersen has said to me, he says that there is -- because of the evidence that has come in here -- that Haldeman and Ehrlichman should --
EHRLICHMAN: If Dean says, "What about Haldeman and Ehrlichman?" You say, "John, I'm talking to you and about you. Now I'll take care of them in my own way. I'm not going to have you bargaining with me."
HALDEMAN: I don't think the President can be in the position of making a deal with John Dean on anything.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah. "I'll go if they go." Supposing I said, "I won't go unless Henry Kissinger goes!" Yeah, it's ridiculous! Let me speak to this. I have pretty much unplugged myself from my day-to-day stuff, because with this kind of stuff going on you just can't think about anything else.
NIXON: Of course, it's been a little hard for me to also.
EHRLICHMAN: Sure. Now, I have a need to get into all kinds of records and my date books and these are volumes and volumes of correspondence and stuff. If I couldn't come into the office I probably couldn't prepare a defense.
NIXON: What about Dean coming in? Why not him? I think I've told Dean he's to have nothing more to do with this case.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, he's sure not following out your orders, if that's the case.
NIXON: You see what I mean.
EHRLICHMAN: Now, you'd have another problem, and I don't know what's been going on in the last week or so, but I imagine he's carted stuff out of here by the bale. I just don't know.
HALDEMAN: You don't know that.
EHRLICHMAN: I certainly --
HALDEMAN: (To NIXON.) If you suspend him or tell him to leave in any way, you also move in to take care of his files.
NIXON: Could I say this: "John, both Haldeman and Ehrlichman have both requested the opportunity to be relieved of their duties -- I mean their main duties, so that they can concentrate on this matter to prepare for their appearance before the Grand Jury." Could I say that?
EHRLICHMAN: Sure, well --
HALDEMAN: The trap you're falling into there is that you're admitting to Dean that you regard the allegations that he has raised against us as of the same validity as his own criminal admission to you.
EHRLICHMAN: If that's the case, then maybe that's what you should say.
NIXON: No, no, no, there are two different levels.
EHRLICHMAN: Then that's the way it ought to be put. He put in a lot of silly garbage about me which doesn't add up to a nickel's worth of a lawsuit. Ah, he's come in and told you that he's been involved in all kinds of stuff. It seems to be a very different qualitative problem. Here again, I hate to argue my case -- it's very awkward.
NIXON: You should argue, John. I wonder whether or not I trapped myself about this business when I said, "Look, John," I said, "both Haldeman and Ehrlichman have offered to resign."
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I offered to resign at your total and sole discretion. You don't have to have a reason. My fear here is --
NIXON: Dean getting immunity?
EHRLICHMAN: Dean getting immunity, or anybody in the White House getting immunity. It is in itself treatable as a cover-up. And obviously if we are put in a position of defending ourselves, the things that I am going to say about Dean are: that basically that Dean was the sole proprietor of this project, that he reported to the President, that he reported to me only incidentally.
NIXON: Reported to the President?
EHRLICHMAN: Yes, Sir, in other words --
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I don't know when, but the point is --
NIXON: You see the problem you've got there is that Dean does have a point there which you've got to realize. He didn't see me until the day you said, "I think you ought to talk to John Dean." I think that was in March.
EHRLICHMAN: All right. But, but the point is that basically he was in charge of this project.
NIXON: He'll say he reports to the President through other people.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, OK. Then you see what you've got there is an imputation. He says then, "I told Ehrlichman that Liddy did it." What he is saying is that, "I told the President through Ehrlichman that Liddy did it." But you see I get into a very funny defensive position then vis-à-vis you and vis-à-vis him, and it's very damned awkward. And I haven't thought it clear through. I don't know where we come out.
NIXON: Yeah. You see Dean's little game here.
EHRLICHMAN: Absolutely. If you say, "The President got concerned about this," the question: "Why didn't he get concerned sooner, because this has been in the paper for months and months?" Well, "The reason he didn't get concerned sooner is he was resting secure in the belief that he had the whole story."
EHRLICHMAN: Well, what made him insecure?
NIXON: Do I ever ask Dean in and ask him for answers? The answer is no.
EHRLICHMAN: No, but the point is that you were resting secure on his assurances.
NIXON: Go ahead.
EHRLICHMAN: Well --
HALDEMAN: Didn't you at some point get a report from Dean that nobody in the White House was involved?
EHRLICHMAN: Didn't we put that out way back in August?
NIXON: You better check, but I don't think John Dean was ever seen about this matter until I saw him when John Ehrlichman suggested that I'd better see John Dean.
EHRLICHMAN: Well -- Let's follow this line and see where it leads us. "The President rested secure in the belief that his Counsel had investigated this and assured him that nobody in the White House was involved." OK. Then what moved him off that belief and assurance? Well, what moved him off was the sequence of events leading to John Dean being sent to Camp David to write it all down.
NIXON: What moved him off first were reports that occurred in court testimony.
EHRLICHMAN: That's right.
NIXON: "Charges were made by McCord -- and other charges --" "Charges were made by McCord." I wouldn't say … "Charges were made by McCord that, in open, before a jury committee --" "The President ordered a full investigation."
EHRLICHMAN: Well, the first thing you did -- and maybe you can avoid saying this -- but you're saying you ordered a full-press investigation when Dean came back and said to Bob, "I can't write that down."
NIXON: He told me that, too.
EHRLICHMAN: Then that rang a bell. Because if Dean can't write that down, then we must have problems bigger than I ever thought. And so that's when you put on the full-court press.
NIXON: Well, all right.
EHRLICHMAN: Yeah. Let's see what Dean says on that. Well he says, "The reason I couldn't write it down is because others said, how could I write it down?" "Draw the wagons up around the White House." That phrase, remember that, isn't that a Dean phrase?
HALDEMAN: Sure. His line was that you could do that because there was no problem at the White House, the problems were at the Committee.
NIXON: What did he tell you in that respect? What was Dean's line before he deserted?
EHRLICHMAN: Well, what he said --
NIXON: My point is -- you've got to watch out. He may say, "Well, they were trying to get me -- conspired to get me to write a report that was untrue."
EHRLICHMAN: I'm sure that when he went through this exercise, it was impossible for him to write it down without it being a confession. And he said, "My God, I don't know how this case is going to break, but I'm crazy to have a piece of paper like that around."
NIXON: I suppose then we should have cut -- shut it off, 'cause later on you met in your office and Mitchell said, "That was taken care of."
HALDEMAN: The next day.
NIXON: Yeah. And Dean was there and said, "What about this money for Hunt?" Wasn't Dean there?"
HALDEMAN: What happened was -- Ehrlichman and Dean and Mitchell and I were in the office, my office, and were discussing other matters. And in the process of it, Mitchell said -- he turned to Dean and said, "Let me raise another point. Ah, have you taken care of the other problem -- the Hunt problem?" Something like that. I don't know how he referred to it. But we all knew instantly what he meant. Dean kind of looked a little flustered and said, "Well, well, no. I don't know where that is," or something, and Mitchell said, "Well, I guess it's taken care of." And so we assumed from that, that Mitchell had taken care of it, and there was no further squeak out of it, so I now do assume that Mitchell took care of it.
NIXON: The problem I have there is --
HALDEMAN: Mitchell --
NIXON: I understand that. What I meant was, I'm just seeing what Dean's lines of attack are.
HALDEMAN: You're saying, "Did I know about it?" I did. There's no question.
NIXON: Say, "Yes, there was talk about it and so forth -- and Mitchell took care of it." But you, on the other hand, you make the case that --
HALDEMAN: There again, Dean is the agent on it. Dean is coming in and saying, what should I do? Dean's the agent on all of this -- that's where my money goes. All the input to me about the $350,000 came from Dean, and all the output came from Dean.
NIXON: Then Dean was the one that said, "Look, Bob, we need $350,000 for --"
HALDEMAN: No, they didn't even come that way. Dean said, "They need money for the defense, for their fees." And that's the way it was always discussed.
NIXON: (Getting up.) Right -- that's why I want that line. I think that's most important. You can work on -- Get a lawyer.
(Hold on NIXON standing at his desk, pointing his finger at Haldeman. Stage goes dark. We hear a knocking at the door which continues sporadically until the VOICEOVER is finished and the lights go up.)
(April 27, 1973. The Oval Office. NIXON is frozen standing in front of the desk as the lights go up to semi-darkness.)
VOICEOVER: April 27, 1973, the Oval Office.
(As the lights go up completely, we continue to hear a knocking at the door, stage left.)
(The door opens. PETERSEN pokes his head in.)
PETERSEN: How are you today?
NIXON: How was your hard day?
PETERSEN: (Entering the room.) I'm sure no harder than yours, Sir.
NIXON: Sit down, sit down. (PETERSEN sits down in a chair in the front of the desk as NIXON sits down back behind the desk.) We have gotten a report that, ah, that really we've got to head off at the pass. Because it's so damned -- so damn dangerous to the Presidency, in a sense. There's a reporter by the name of Hersh of the New York Times you probably know.
PETERSEN: He's the fellow that did the Vietnam articles.
NIXON: Right. Hersh has information I don't know. Information indicating that Dean has made statements to the prosecuting team implicating the President. Now, Henry, this I've got to know. Now, understand -- I have told you everything I know about this thing.
PETERSEN: I don't have any problem with that, Mr. President, and I'll get in touch with them immediately, but --
PETERSEN: With Titus, Silbert, and Glanzer and Campbell. Who are --
NIXON: Do you mind calling them right now?
PETERSEN: No, Sir.
NIXON: OK. Say, "Now, look. All of your conversations with Dean and Bittman, do they implicate the President?" Because we can't -- I've got -- if the U.S. Attorney's office and, ah --
PETERSEN: Mr. President, I had them over there -- we had a kind of crisis of confidence night before last. I left to come over here, and I left my two principal assistants to discourse with Silbert and the other three. And in effect it concerned me -- whether or not they were at ease with my reporting to you, and I pointed out to them that I had very specific instructions, discussed that with them before on that subject, and -- well --
PETERSEN: As a consequence -- I kind of laid in to Titus yesterday, and it cleared the air a little bit, but there was a very suspicious atmosphere. They were concerned and scared. Ah -- and I will check on this, but I have absolutely no information at this point that --
NIXON: Never heard anything like that --
PETERSEN: No, Sir. Absolutely not.
NIXON: My gosh -- As I said --
PETERSEN: Mr. President, I tell you, I do not consider it, you know, I've said to Titus, "We have to draw the line. We have no mandate to investigate the President. We investigate Watergate." And I don't know where that line draws, but we have to draw that all the time.
NIXON: Good. Because if Dean is implicating the President -- we are going to damned well find out about it. That's -- that's -- because let me tell you the only conversations we ever had with him was that famous March 21st conversation I told you about, where he told me about Bittman coming to him. No, the Bittman request for $120,000 for Hunt. And I then finally began to get at them. I explored with him thoroughly, "Now what the hell is this for?" He said, "It's because he's blackmailing Ehrlichman." Remember I said that's what it's about. "And Hunt is going to recall the seamy side of it." And I asked him, "Well how would you get it? How would you get it to them?" So forth. But my purpose was to find out what the hell had been going on before. And believe me, nothing was approved. I mean as far as I'm concerned -- as far as I'm concerned turned it off totally.
PETERSEN: Yeah. My understanding of the law is -- my understanding of our responsibilities, is that if it came to that I would have to come to you and say, "We can't do that. We can't investigate the President. The only people who have jurisdiction to do that is the House of Representatives, as far as I'm concerned.
NIXON: That's right. But I want you to know, you tell me, because as far as I'm concerned --
PETERSEN: I'll call them. Do you want me to call from here or outside?
NIXON: Use the Cabinet Room and you will be able to talk freely. And who will you call, who will you talk to there?
PETERSEN: I'll call Silbert. If he's not there, I'll get Titus.
NIXON: You'll say that "This is the story some New York Times reporter has, and Woodward of the Post. But Hersh is reporting that Dean had made a statement to the prosecutors. Now understand that this is not a Grand Jury thing. Now, damnit, I want to know what it is."
PETERSEN: I'll call right away.
NIXON: And I need to know.
PETERSEN: Yes, Sir. (Exits stage left. We hear the door close behind him.)
VOICEOVER; About a half hour later.
(NIXON and PETERSEN are standing frozen in conversation in front of the desk in the Oval Office as we hear a tentative knock, lights go back up, and ZIEGLER enters.)
NIXON: (Looking up from his conversation with PETERSEN and addressing ZIEGLER.) That story, according to Henry Petersen -- he just called the U.S. Attorney's office. It is a totally false story. Needs to be totally knocked down.
ZIEGLER: Yes, Sir.
NIXON: (To PETERSEN.) Read me exactly what you can recall the U.S. Attorney --
PETERSEN: (Reading from his notes.) Called U.S. Attorney and he said that in the past an attorney representing John Dean was in his office and indicated that if we insisted on Dean, that they would be tying in the President, not in the Watergate, but in other areas.
NIXON: (To ZIEGLER.) That's not Watergate, but in other areas.
PETERSEN: Whatever that means.
NIXON: Well, that's fine. Just let them tie us in!
PETERSEN: Now, to put that in context, they had previously said that if we insisted on trying Dean and not Ehrlichman and Haldeman, that, that they would be "trying this Administration," the President and what have you.
NIXON: So basically that's the game they are playing.
ZIEGLER: I can understand how -- you indicated that their attorney, the other day, said they would resist in tying in -- did you say? -- in not the Watergate, but --
PETERSEN: They would be tying in the President. I mean it was an emotional statement.
NIXON: Emotion at tying in the President, not in Watergate, but in other things. Right.
PETERSEN: Not in the Watergate, but in other things. Whatever they would be --
NIXON: When was this?
PETERSEN: Monday. Monday of this week.
NIXON: Monday of this week.
PETERSEN: Monday of this week.
ZIEGLER: I think what all of this is --
NIXON: What do you think it is?
ZIEGLER: I think it's the attorney.
NIXON: I think he is bargaining for Dean.
ZIEGLER: I had occasion to talk to Dean a few minutes ago, but a call --
NIXON: You did?
ZIEGLER: He is a very good friend of mine.
NIXON: Well, tell us what you -- Now understand we have to watch how we handle him now, because we've got --
ZIEGLER: It was a very good conversation. He said, "Ron, I am issuing no statements." Incidentally, he said, "I got a telephone call."
NIXON: A telephone call from the President. You know, that shows you what a person he is. I called -- you know -- some nice things we do -- I called six people, members of my staff. I called Ron, Henry Kissinger, Ehrlichman, and Rose, my secretary, and John Dean. I just go down a list of people, and just say, "I want to wish you a Happy Easter." That's all I did. And it's all over the press!
PETERSEN: Well, you know, we got a report. Again, I got it through Charlie Shaffer, Dean's attorney, that Dean was pleased and elated and reassured. And you know, as a human being.
NIXON: I don't want to hurt John Dean. Believe me, I'd like to help him.
ZIEGLER: He went out of his way to make the point to me, just in this two-minute conversation, he said, "I didn't make that phone call, Ron." I don't know who may have done it 'cause he knows --
NIXON: Oh, you did not discuss this crazy Hersh story.
NIXON: Now the problem about this Hersh story is that if the Times comes out and runs this --
ZIELGER: Oh, no. As a matter of fact I talked to Clifton Daniel this afternoon, and he didn't raise it.
NIXON: The Woodward story. Woodward also has the same story. Woodward of the Post.
ZIEGLER: Woodward said that reliable sources said that someone had implicated the President in their testimony, or referred to him.
NIXON: In the Dean story?
ZIEGLER: No, that was Hersh.
NIXON: What did Woodward say?
ZIEGLER: Woodward said they had two stories: One was the fact that it was reaching a new plateau, and he was not ready to read the story because he was still working on it, and Woodward was taking the position that he was confused and needed to talk to someone to get a perception.
NIXON: OK. Take a hard line. Tell your assistant Gergen to call Woodward. Anything on that they better watch their damned, cotton-picking faces. Because, boy, if there's one thing in this case as Henry will tell you, since March 21st when I had that conversation with Dean, I have broken my ass to try to get the facts of this case. Right? (PETERSEN nods obediently.) Tried to get that damned Liddy to talk. So there you are. You've got to knock that -- Crack down! If there's one thing you have got to do, you have got to maintain the Presidency out of this. I have got things to do for this country, and I'm not going to have -- now this is personal. I sometimes feel like I'd like to resign. Let Agnew be President for a while. He'd love it.
PETERSEN: I don't even know why you want the job.
ZIEGLER: Let me have Gergen call Woodward back and say, "Let me tell you what is going on here. What's going on here, Bob, is the President is going to get to the bottom of this."
NIXON: That's right!
ZIEGLER: And then have Gergen say, "I have checked this at a very high level, and you'd better absolutely not even go into any emotional concerns of running a story like this. You had better just wipe it out of your mind. Because there is nothing to it."
NIXON: That's right!
ZIEGLER: "If you say you want to be responsible and fair, well, you had better not go with a source that you have to speculate on."
NIXON: Right! The same with the Times.
ZIEGLER: The New York Times man, I'm sure --
NIXON: Hersh is so damn unreliable. I'd call Daniel. Hersh told Bittman who told O'Brien that Dean had testified that there was a new -- that the President was involved, right?
ZIELGER: Not testified, but told the prosecutor or something.
NIXON: Told the prosecutor that the President was involved, right? Let me ask Henry a question: You have Titus and those saying Dean -- neither Dean nor his lawyers -- have said anything of that sort except this one thing.
PETERSEN: They said, "tying in the President," not in Watergate but in other areas, and the prosecutor said, "Stop! We don't want to get in this. We don't want to discuss this."
PETERSEN: What I think is it's bombast, it's negotiation, it's ah --
NIXON: (To ZIEGLER.) Again make it clear that Henry's made his check.
ZIEGLER: Just to put this into perspective. This is not, as I sense it, about to break in the papers. This is just a rumor type.
NIXON: Well, kill it! Kill it hard.
ZIEGLER: OK, Sir. (ZIEGLER exits.)
NIXON: (To PETERSEN as ZIEGLER is leaving.) First, on Dean -- I would not want to get into the position -- You have told me now, "You can do what you want with Dean." You see, I have three courses: I can wait until the Grand Jury acts, I can take leaves of absence, or I can take resignations. I have three different courses on all three men. I can do different things with each one of them. Right?
PETERSEN: Yes, Sir.
NIXON: These are the options, but what I will do remains to be seen. Now in Dean's case, I do not want the impression left that -- I have gone over with you before, that by saying, "Don't grant immunity to a major person," that in so doing I am trying to block Dean giving evidence against Haldeman or Ehrlichman.
PETERSEN: I understand that.
NIXON: Do I make myself clear?
PETERSEN: Yes, let me make myself clear.
PETERSEN: I regard immunity authority under the statutes of the United States to be my responsibility, of which I cannot divest myself.
PETERSEN: And -- ah -- we take opinions, but I would have to treat this as advisory only.
NIXON: Right. Well, understand, I only expressed an opinion.
PETERSEN: I understand.
NIXON: And understand you have got to determine who is the major culprit, too.
PETERSEN: Yes, Sir.
NIXON: If you think Dean is an agent -- Let me say. If Dean, I-I think Haldeman and Ehrlichman in the case of themselves with Dean … But my point is, you have got to -- ah -- I don't know what your prosecutors think, but if your prosecutors believe that they have got to give Dean immunity, in whole or in part, in order to get the damned case, do it. I'm not -- I'm not telling you what to do, but -- You understand? Your decision. Now have you talked to the prosecutor about this situation?
PETERSON: They vacillated. In the first instance they, I think, felt quite strongly that Dean should be immunized, and I was resisting. And the last time we discussed it, why, they had made other --
NIXON: Why? Because of what I said? See? I don't want -- I don't want them --
PETERSEN: No, I don't think so, because they are in a position to simply make the recommendation and let me shoulder the heavy burden.
NIXON: Why do you think that they had turned around?
PETERSEN: Well, I think they see the question of credibility. They have come to the recognition that if they are going to put him on the stand and he's going to have any credibility at all, he'll have most credibility if he goes in and pleads and testifies as a co-defendant against Ehrlichman and Haldeman as opposed to someone who has been given immunity and testifies against them.
NIXON: All right. We have got the immunity problem resolved. Do it. Dean, if you need to, but boy I am telling you -- there ain't going to be any blackmail.
PETERSEN: Mr. President, I --
NIXON: Don't let Dick Kleindienst say it. Dean ain't -- "Hunt is going to blackmail you." Hunt's not going to blackmail any of us. It's his word against mine. Now for -- who is going to believe John Dean? We relied on the damned so -- Dean, Dean was the one who told us throughout the summer that nobody in the White House was involved when he, himself apparently, was involved, particularly on the critical angle of subornation of perjury. That's the one that -- I will never, never understand John.
PETERSEN: I, I can almost quote him. He said, "Henry, God damn it, I need this information. That man has designated me to get all these facts." And he calls me in there and chews my ass off.
NIXON: Do you know something?
PETERSEN: And this was before the trial --
NIXON: Dick Kleindienst told me this last night when I talked to him. And I said, "Do you know, the first time I ever saw Dean alone was on February 27, 1972, except for five minutes when I signed my will on August the 14th." I think you were in the room. He said, "Are you kidding?" I said, "No, why? Did you hear otherwise?" He said, "Well, Dean was around here quoting the President all the time." Did he indicate that I was telling him to do this?
PETERSEN: He told me that he had been designated by you to accumulate all these facts and he was reporting to you personally.
NIXON: Dean. You will get Dean in there. Suppose he starts trying to impeach the President, the word of the President of the United States, and says, "Well, I have information to the effect that I once discussed with the President the question of how the possibility of the problem --" Of this damn Bittman stuff I spoke to you about last time. Henry, it won't stand up for five minutes because nothing was done, and fortunately I had Haldeman at that conversation and he was there and I said, "Look, I tried to give you this, this, this, and this." And I said, "When you finally get it out, it won't work. Because," I said, "First, you can't get clemency to Hunt."
PETERSEN: I agree.
NIXON: I mean, I was trying to get it out. To try and see what that -- Dean had been doing! I said, "First, you can't give him clemency." Somebody has thrown out something to the effect that Dean reported that Hunt had an idea that he was going to get clemency around Christmas. I said, "Are you kidding? You can't get clemency for Hunt. You couldn't even think about it until, you know, '75 or something like that." I said, "The second point to remember is: How are you going to get the money for them? If you could do it, I mean you are talking about a million dollars." I asked him -- well, I gave him several ways. I said, "You couldn't put it through a Cuban Committee, could you?" I asked him, because to me he was sounding so damned ridiculous. I said, "Well, under the circumstances," I said, "There isn't a damn thing we can do." I said, "It looks to me like the problem is through John Mitchell." Mitchell came down the next day and we talked about executive privilege. Nothing else. Now that's the total story. And -- so Dean -- I just want you to be sure that if Dean ever raises the thing, you've got the whole thing. You've got that whole thing. Now kick him straight!
PETERSEN: That's -- I mean -- that's what we had to do. I just don't see how we can minimize that man. That's all there is to it. The strange thing about this one, Mr. President, is that they could have done it openly. If they had just come out in the Washington Post, they could say, "Well these people were --"
NIXON: They helped the Scottsboro people, they helped the Berrigans, you remember the Alger Hiss defense fund?
PETERSEN: And we're going to help these -- They were doing this -- Once you do it in clandestine fashion, it takes on elements --
NIXON: Elements of a cover-up.
PETERSEN: That's right, and obstruction of justice.
NIXON: That's what it is, a question of the way it was done.
NIXON: Let me say, there is no way they could get that to the President without going through Haldeman and Ehrlichman. But I am referring to Dean. There's no way they could get it to here except through the fact that on March 21st, Dean, as I reported to you, did report to me that Bittman had told O'Brien that they needed the money. They needed the money. It was discussed, and we, I said, "It can't be done. We can't do it." He went on to see Ehrlichman, and Ehrlichman said, "No dice." Nothing could be done. Now that is the fact. As far as we're concerned. That isn't much of a thing for Dean to have.
NIXON: But Dean is not credible. He is not credible. He can't go out and say, "Look, I've talked to the President and he told me this and that and the other thing." First, it's not true.
PETERSEN: That's the reason I say, in order to make Dean a credible witness, one, he has to plead, and two, he has to be corroborated in an essential degree -- not everything he says, but in a sense an essential number of factors by other witnesses.
NIXON: Well, there's only this one charge I give to you, among many others, and that is: If any of this -- I mean, I can't allow it. Believe me that even prosecutors shouldn't have informed you of this one. Or me -- I --
PETERSEN: They have described it as bombast, and rhetoric, and -- you know, posing --
NIXON: You examine them tomorrow. And you tell them, they are my men. I'm for them, too. I want them to do the job. I want this to come out solid and right here. And they will start right in to get the big fish. (Pause.) Let's come to the Dean thing again. I can give you some more time if you want to negotiate with him. I mean, when I say I -- more time --
PETERSEN: He needs more pressure. It's become counterproductive to the President.
PETERSEN: It's become counterproductive. I think he was pressed up against the wall, he's seen the early-morning crisis pass, and now he's had a resurgence. You know, he sees Ehrlichman here. He sees Haldeman here. He sees John Dean still here. Nothing happens. His confidence is coming back rather than ebbing.
NIXON: What do you think? Is the proper course of action to have Dean to either -- There are two courses of action I can take. I can take a leave of absence until they clear. You know what I mean. And in the end, then they resign, of course. Or I can ask -- just resign. Now the problem with resignation, which hits at -- There isn't any question about what I will do when you get through with your damned Grand Jury. I just don't -- I don't want to -- you know what I mean? I don't want him in effect -- by something that I do -- to totally prejudice even John Dean. You understand what I mean?
PETERSEN: I understand that aspect of it.
NIXON: As President, I shouldn't give a damn about that, but as President -- I'll speak to the country on this. And I will soon. But my point is with a leave of absence, with a leave of absence for all three --
PETERSEN: With a leave of absence, you have the best of both worlds. You have given them the benefit of the doubt and you haven't cut the Gordian knot. You haven't asked for their resignations.
NIXON: I have asked for a leave of absence. And I say, "Now I will determine at the conclusion not just of the Grand Jury, but at the conclusion of this entire investigation." If, for example, you don't happen to indict one of these three, or one or two or three. I am not going to take that as clear evidence -- it is not enough to serve the President simply to get by --
PETERSEN: I understand --
NIXON: I have told them all that. They have got to be --
PETERSEN: I don't see that we're in any disagreement here. The problem is one of timing, as I see it. I think, in my humble judgment, that the question of timing is working first to your detriment, with respect to your image, before the press and public.
NIXON: Do you mean now would be a good time --
PETERSEN: And secondly, I think it is working toward the detriment of the investigation because it is giving all of these people an attitude of hope that I think is unwarranted, and I think that if he --
NIXON: Let me ask you this. How about moving Haldeman and Ehrlichman and see what that does to Dean. I am just thinking about that -- Let me put it this way. I am not in communication with Dean at all. For obvious reasons. But Haldeman and Ehrlichman, I hold my damn brain sessions. I know that they are telling me the truth. Dean, I can't believe him. Because I don't know what he is up to, you see? And this leave of absence talk, let me say -- Please let us keep it within ourselves. I can't leak this out. It will kill them. It will kill the whole thing. I am particularly -- can't let it out to Dean. I don't like to put the three of them in the same bag. Although they may all be there.
PETERSEN: Mr. President, why do you not like to put them in the same bag? You don't like to put them in the same bag because Haldeman and Ehrlichman are loyal to the last minute, and you --
NIXON: No, no, it isn't that. It isn't that.
PETERSEN: I am not questioning your motive.
NIXON: I am referring primarily to the fact that I have a different relation with the others. At this point I can't get Dean in and say, "Look, fella, you take a leave of absence, and if you come through clean, I will take you back." You know, something like that.
PETERSEN: Well, I, in all candor, I think a leave of absence is just a preliminary step to ultimate departure.
NIXON: I see.
PETERSEN: I don't see how either way any of them could come back. But it certainly, at least in terms of bias and prejudice, it indicates to the public at large that you haven't completely abandoned them. You haven't completely and unalterably decided their fate. What you say is you are guilty until you are proven innocent. That's what the leave of absence is. You see. The other way, I am saying, "Resignation -- you are guilty." That's the difference, isn't it? The leave of absence in effect is saying, "Look, fellas, I give you leaves of absence. So I hold you, basically, not that you're guilty, but -- I'm not holding you guilty, I'm not finding you guilty, but I'm saying is that you've got to prove that you are innocent before you can come back.
NIXON: Now in recognition I am saying --
PETERSEN: No -- you're saying that you have to prove you're worthy to work in the Office of the President.
NIXON: Oh, I see. I understand.
PETERSEN: But I think that, I think that's a much more ritualistic way of saying --
NIXON: Well, that's what I told them. That's what I told them. You know what I mean by guilt and innocence, I mean worthiness.
PETERSEN: That's right.
NIXON: You have to prove you're worthy.
PETERSEN: But you see, that's what I see has to get out to the public. Mr. President, my wife is not a politically sophisticated woman.
NIXON: That's right.
PETERSEN: She knows I'm upset about this, and you know, I'm working hard and she sees it. But she asked me at breakfast -- She, now I don't want you to hold this against her if you ever meet her, because she's a charming lady --
NIXON: Of course.
PETERSEN: She said, "Doesn't all this upset you?" And I said, "Of course it does."
NIXON: Why the hell doesn't the President do something?"
PETERSEN: She said, "Do you think the President knows?" And I looked at her and said, "If I thought the President knew, I would have to resign." (Pause.) But, you know, now there is my own family, Mr. President --
NIXON: Sure. Sure.
PETERSEN: Now whatever confidence she has in you, her confidence in me ought to be unquestioned. Well, when that type of question comes through in my home --
NIXON: We've got to get it out.
PETERSEN: We've got a problem.
NIXON: Well you know I have wrestled with it. I've been trying to --
PETERSEN: Mr. President, I pray for you, Sir.
NIXON: I have been trying to get the thing --
PETERSEN: I wouldn't distinguish between the three of them.
NIXON: I understand. I understand. Well, I won't try to distinguish, but maybe they will be handled differently due to the fact that I am not communicating with Dean.
PETERSEN: Mr. President, it is always far easier to advise than it is to assume the responsibility.
NIXON: I will do it my way. And it will be done. I am working on it. I won't even tell you how -- how --
PETERSEN: I understand. (Getting up.) Ah, we'll see what develops.
NIXON: (Remaining seated behind his desk.) All right. Thank you.
(PETERSEN smiles, turns away, goes out, and closes the door behind him. NIXON holds for a moment, a lonely and pained expression of his face.)
VOICEOVER: Here the transcript of the tapes ends.
© 2021 by Nicholas Gordon