tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN August 8, 2014 6:19am-8:31am EDT
hearts when i went into that grand jury, i had no intention of lying. no expectation. nothing. i went in to tell the truth. and i got stumbled up over saying, not that i recall. and there were a couple other things, but they are very close to that. not to the best of my knowledge. so i came out of there thinking i had no problem. and earl glancer who is in a law firm in new york -- or in washington, says that there was a memorandum written by the arch bald cox people saying i was unindictable. and then the saturday night massacre happened. and then after the saturday night massacre, leon jaworski came in. they needed somebody quick. and they pulled out my testimony. they went through that testimony. and i was indicted within two weeks. and had the saturday night massacre not happened, i probably would have never been
indicted. >> so the grand jury is early '73. then a period of six months when it looks like you might not be indicted. the saturday night massacre is october of '73? >> right. i was indicted in november. >> so you thought this might go away? >> yeah. it started paling in relationship to everything else. the dirty tricks thing was just such an amateurish rinky dink thing. was it wrong? did segretti do things wrong? yes. he admitted he did. he took responsibility for it. did i lie? i didn't think so. did i try to mislead the grand jury? there was no question, by the way, when you read the grand jury thing, that i'm evading telling them that haldeman
and ehrlichman called me in there and told me. when it finally got down to the question and they asked it, i told them. i told them i had been called in and that they had told me to hire him. but you can see me wondering through there trying not to say that when you read it. >> trying not to say that haldeman and nixon or haldeman and ehrlichman. >> haldeman and ehrlichman. sorry. >> tell us about going to prison. >> it's not something that you want to do unless you absolutely have to. i had a great piece of advice on the prison thing. this elderly gentleman, who i had started being with and mentoring with, said dwight, either it can get the best of you or you can make the most of it. so i took and i set a schedule. same one i used at the white house.
i read more books than i have ever read in my life. i had a daily schedule. i couldn't hardly keep all the activities squared away. i had my jobs. they wanted to make sure i was not treated in any way that would be criticized. so they put me on a tractor out in the field because that was supposed to be punishment. they didn't know when i was 12, 13, 14, i lived in kansas and drove a tractor and loved it. and then they put me in the kitchen and that was fine. i opened a center for helping inmates find jobs when they left. and i ended up kind of doing this counseling thing where i help them prepare letters that seek jobs and do stuff. the calendar kept clicking away. i thought and i was told i would
probably be there four months, but again, we're deal with gearhart gazelle. i was there nine months. that was one of the longest of anybody. so i really got hammered. i got hammered really hard. and i think disproportionate to what i should have been hammered for. we needed to take -- the united states needed to take and set an example and say this kind of behavior would not be tolerated. and i understand that. and i can accept that. but i'll tell you, by the time we got to the ninth month, i was ready to tear my hair out. i really thought i needed to get out of there. the other thing is you're in there, and they are very nice people involved that work for the government in the prison system. that said, there are always other kinds of people. there was an office. and this guy called this one day.
he says, chapin, chapin to the office. i go to the office. he said, they missed. too bad. i said what did you mean? squeaky phone just tried to kill president ford and she missed. and i mean, i was so outraged. i wrote a letter to dick moore to give to the attorney general. and then dick called me and said, dwight, give up. just relax. you have to get through the process. but there were the injustices that i saw happening. i always said later, i wish i had gone to prison before i went to the white house. i really wish i had gone to prison before i went to the white house. because i saw things and know things and could have, in my little mind could have done things that would have helped solve some problems. >> can you give us examples? >> this whole incarceration and how it works. what you do to people.
you take these young people and put them in there and you collectify them. if they have a drug issue and they are in there and there's more drugs, you are creating an incubator effect rather than separating them out and giving them some kind of halfway house that's clean on the outside and not putting them into these facilities together. it's endless. the system is so screwed up. i'm not saying they are not very smart and wise people trying to work on this problem and people who understand it better than i do. i'm sure that's true. but there's just so much that needs to get done. it's so insane to take young men. we had a lot of young men in their 20s, early 30s who we were making worse, not better. and we should -- i happen to believe in rehabilitation. i do believe it's possible. i do think people make mistakes and that they can be --
exceptions to that, but -- >> were your friends helpful? >> my friends have been spectacular. the nixon people have been absolutely wonderful. i don't know of one nixon person -- i haven't talked to john dean and i haven't talked to jeb, but i was friends with everybody, and i stayed friends with everybody. i loved what i did. and it was very important to me. and i think these friendships are golden. they still exist. >> why don't we take a minute. >> they are 14, 15 years old. the parents are out of town and they get a hold of a few cases
of beer. they have a few beers. but they don't have their driver's license yet, but they decide they are going to take the car and go around the block and come back just to prove they can drive. they start down the alley. they get halfway down and hit a trash barrel and back into a garage. and then they pull up and hit something. by the time they get the car back in the garage, the thing is a disaster. that's what watergate is. watergate was some very nice people, some solid people with some of the dumbest decisions in doing things imaginable. and it just got worse and worse and worse. now the oversimplification of that, i mean, these were not people that were out to rape the country of the democracy or t to -- that were evil. i don't buy into that.
the nixon move to contain this and manage it and so forth, had eisenhower been alive, dirksen or lyndon johnson been alive, watergate never would have happened. they would have picked up the phone and said, dick, what in the world is going on here? here's what you need to do. you need to separate yourself from these guys. john mitchell is mitchell's problem. haldeman is haldeman's problem, whatever it is. get rid of them. then the president would have survived. >> you went to see the president after 1974, after his resignation? >> several times. a few times. then i saw him at various occasions and reunions. >> one time you went with the children it was awkward but you
said characteristically so. did you ever talk to him about all of that? >> no, never. never. i was always -- i'm a, what are we going to do tomorrow type guy. i really don't wallow in the past. i don't do this. i am excited about what's going to happen tomorrow. and to wallow back on watergate or something with the president, i can't think of anything more uncomfortable than to have said, mr. president, i'm here today to see you and why don't we talk about watergate. what are your deepest feelings? it's just -- i know -- and the other part is -- i mean, i knew him pretty well. i didn't know him well in terms of i'm your friend and you're my friend. but i was around for years. and i observed and went with him.
i knew what he liked, disliked, felt about damn near everything. i would know instinctively that i'm raising the subject of watergate or going into all of this is not something that would be appreciated. >> are there some anecdotes or recollections that we haven't gotten to that you would like to preserve? >> we talked about the -- the humphrey thing. the lbj deal in detroit. the last press conference. nothing that jumps out right now.
>> did you ever see his rage? the president's rage? the public saw it that day when he pushed -- >> that's what's going through my head. >> i had a black and blue mark once. but it was a crowd situation where they were really pressing in. he was right next to me. he grabbed my arm so tightly. and i don't know whether he was frightened or what. it was in a campaign atmosphere. not rage. i have this calm thing about him. my job was to try to keep the tempo of everything right on track.
and if he got mad, his way of doing it with me would be to say, don't you understand? or you obviously don't understand. that one really got me. it was something i did understand and he'd say, you obviously don't understand when i knew i did understand. you know what i mean? but it wasn't rage. no. rage is not a word that i would use with nixon. but the ziegler thing was frustration. but rage? rage is an out of control aininger-type thing. mad, yes. upset, yes. pentagon papers or there's that story that there was some rally. maybe you have heard this. he was fit to be tied. it went wrong. we got on the airplane and
called the advance man up to the compartment and he said, i want it known back at headquarters this airplane is not going to land at anymore airports. do you understand? >> did you know you were being taped? >> no. you mean with the system in the white house? i had no idea. and i don't think there's many tapes of me. >> did you know you were being taped? >> i had no idea about the taping system. no. >> did you ever talk to haldeman about that after? >> no. never. >> did you ever talk to haldeman about that era? >> to some degree. one thing in his book, his first book, whatever the name of that thing was, that he claimed he should have never written but
did write, he did not reference the segretti thing correctly. he did not remember being in the office with nixon. they are telling me to do it. i said, bob, by god, that's what happened. when the revised edition came out, he corrected it and changed it. so, obviously, i had some discussion about it with him because he made the change. bob did come up to visit me so he could get a handle on what it would be like. he decided that's where he wanted to go. and we probably talked about the thing then. i mean, yeah, but i don't remember the substance. i'm sure we sat there and talked about it for hours, but i don't remember what the details of it are. >> we talked a bit about the weekend that john mitchell
decided to improve the plan. you had a sense that john mitchell had been on the phone with martha. >> no. he had been up all night with her. my understanding of it was, i wasn't there, but my understanding is that from john mitchell talking to him that john was up all night with martha. martha had a severe drinking problem. he had been up all night with her. then he had this meeting with her the next day. there's an interesting story here. the first time i ever heard the term president-elect was when john mitchell said, mr. president-elect, i can't go with you. that response was up in the waldorf towers when nixon put his arm around john's shoulder and said, john, we're going to florida to start planning the government.
and mitchell said, mr. president-elect, i can't go with you. and a tear comes down his face. and he says, i've got to go to connecticut and figure out what to do about martha. she was in an institution up in connecticut at that point. so her problem really was severe then. and she gets out. she's in this washington environment with all this stuff going on. and it was just a tragic story. and she was not a well person. >> you mentioned you were a point of contact? >> she liked to call the president. she liked to call "my president." so she would call. and the system had been arranged by which i would get martha's calls, and i would talk to her
and act accordingly. whatever the plan was. i would also call over and let john know that she had called. but she would call and say, i want to talk to my president. i would say he was in a conference or on the phone. can i take a message? i want to talk to him. you have him call me, and so forth. then i would call her back 20 minute s later and say, mrs. mitchell, it's not going to be possible today. i always tried to complete the loop. it was an awkward thing. it was awkward for john to know that he had this woman that he was madly in love with. i mean, he really love this lady. but yet, she was causing this commotion. >> were the calls more frequent after the break-in? >> less frequent, i think. i'm talking the calls were more frequent when he was attorney
general, not after he left that position. and i really don't recall any kind of an increase. my immediate response was a tapering off. >> did the president ever speak to her? >> at social events, but not on the phone. well, i don't know. never is pretty inclusive. i don't think so. >> not that you recall? >> no. >> i keep going back to the fact that this was a very well orgized or seemed to be. if you look at all of these various things, the various operations.
what i find interesting is why haldeman tolerated these uncontrollable operations? >> which ones? i mean, i only know of the segretti one. [ inaudible ] >> but bob's attitude on that would be that's ehrlichman's problem. if ehrlichman took something and went with it, that's ehrlichman's. and bob had enough on his plate that he's not worrying about what john's worrying about. he more likely would be worried about something that kissinger was doing, only because that's where nixon's primary focus would be. and the ramifications on that. and also, he was not a foreign policy expert. so he would be trying to make
sure that he wasn't screwing something up or messing around. bob had a great philosophy. his approach on this was to, if he was in the president's office and there was a meeting going on and it got into a subject area that he was not knowledgeable about, he would attempt, not successfully all the time, but would attempt to get the key person in. i think i mentioned this earlier. schultz or whoever it might be. he considered that a key part of his job. because he didn't want to be in a bind either where all of a sudden, he's nodding and nixon is taking it. he wanted to get the expert there. >> did you ever hear [ inaudible ]? >> no. let me go back to bob a minute. jim baker, al hague, and don
rumsfeld all are people that i know. all of whom have said the system that haldeman put in place there was absolutely spectacular. and that the modern white house today runs on the system that bob put in. he made a major contribution to the office of the presidency by what he got in place there. >> people want to understand that system. what should they look at? >> the staff secretariat system. how it works. how paperwork moves through. the whole option paper concept with the memorandums and the tabs and the staffing it out and making sure that clean, concise decisions could be made after proper considerations. just the flow. i mean gerry ford came in with
this crazy hub spoke thing. no manager in their right mind would have because, i mean -- but after coming after nixon, it's understandable why he did it. it was a pr maneuver to say i'm here and anybody can walk in the door. that's just not the proper way to run something. all these guys are bright enough to know that. >> but one of the consequences of that approach is that the center doesn't always get all the information. >> if it's run properly, the center gets all the information possibliy necessary to make the right decision because that's what the staffing system is all about was to say, let's pick an example. we have a memorandum from john volpe at hud. he wants to have in the next budget this and this and this and it impacts treasury, it
impacts oeo, it impacts three other things. that memorandum, that document is sent out to treasury, oeo, and the other departments that might be affected. memos are called back as to the impact on that. it's all put together, and it's sent in. it's a much better way to make sure all the bases are covered. and everybody is exposed to it than letting some cabinet officer come in and have a private meeting with the president. and god only knows what's been said. the cabinet officer hears one thing. nixon thinks he says something else. lo and behold, you've got a mess. >> is watergate a breakdown of that system? >> yes. watergate is a breakdown in the sense that when nixon and haldeman -- this is a personal view. when nixon and haldeman started
managing this the way they did, and they excluded the people with the political sinensitivits that would have realized how this was going to build and what was going to happen on the hill and got nixon to act in a political way, not necessarily in a managerial or legal way. i mean, you can make the case that until somebody is indicted, they are innocent until proven guilty. but in politics, that's not always the best way to go. right? i mean, my opinion. >> they apparently didn't bring all the people into a room to ask questions? >> absolutely. john mitchell was never asked. people were never asked. people were never asked what happened. what the hell was going on here?
what if you would have called the creep people over, put them in a room, and said what the hell is going on here? we're not leaving until i fully understand. you're my campaign staff. i need to know what's going on here. not nixon's style. he's not going to do that. he's a man that doesn't believe in confrontation. if he's going to have a confrontation, somebody else is going to do it for him. well, probably because it bothered to even raise that with the president. bob said maybe we don't want to know what's going on. i can't answer that, tim. i really don't know. >> do you think this is the sort of situation where it had been a harlow or bob finch or eisenhower? >> yes. that's what i'm talking about. exactly. political guys. the political guys were the ones that would bitch the most about the haldeman system. and the haldeman system was
terrific for running business. but not necessarily for making political judgments and the nuances that have to go into political calculation. the thing that's mind boggling is the best politician of all is nixon. and he suffers, as he always does, when he's under attack. and when it's personal, he cannot, in my reading of this, he does not make good decisions when it's personalized and he's under attack politically. if it's abstract, china and russia and the world today, he's brilliant. brilliant strategist. but when you get in tight and close and everything else and you're fighting him and fighting his people and coming at him and it's them, we, he starts falling apart. it's very tricky. >> had now noticed a change in him by the time he left the white house from the way he had been when he came to the white
house? >> i saw him come into the white house and be fairly uptight first few. that would be my reading. and then relax and just really got into it and knew the job and felt comfortable and so forth. the war thing was just this arbatross around him that was this constant thing of trying to get past. and then watergate, i was gone. i can't really talk about watergate. i was gone. >> so you didn't see as he got tense again? you saw him loosening up? >> i saw him enjoying his job. we had our moments, but -- >> well, do you have anything you'd like to ask? >> i'm free. thank you.
on the next "washington journal," we'll talk to democratic consultant and pollster doug schoen about gridlock and the possibility of bipartisanship in washington. then historian douglas brnkley will discuss the 40th anniversary of president nixon's resignation. recently mr. brinkley co-edited the book "the nixon tapes." we'll also take your phone calls and you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter. "washington journal" live each morning at 7:00 eastern on c-span. friday night on american history tv, president richard nixon's resignation in 1974. at 8:00 eastern, that night's "cbs news special report." at 8:30, president nixon's address to the nation announcing his resignation. and at 8:50, a panel of journalists, including "the washington post's" bob woodward and carl bernstein discuss
watergate and president nixon's resignation. watch it friday night beginning at 8:00 eastern here an c-span3. judge robert bourque was solicitor general in the nixon administration. in this oral history interview for the nixon presidential library, he talks about the saturday night massacre when president nixon ordered him to fire watergate special prosecutor cox after the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned in protest. this is an hour and a half. >> i was sitting in my office with the solicitor general when he called and said what time did i go home, and i told him. he said since i went right by the white house, would i drop in and see him when i left. i had no idea what was going on.
so i did, i dropped in, and first he sat me down and said the president wanted me to resign as solicitor general and become his chief defense attorney. that shocked me because i had no idea anything like that was coming or that they would ask it. later on, i remember after a different episode at the white house, richardson said to me, why would he call you, you were a professor. i said before i was a professor, i was a practitioner and i put together big cases, anti-trust cases, which were quite complex. richardson didn't know that but i guess nixon must have been in touch with my partners who were at the bussing bill session. he was very persuasive and he made the case and it sounded like only i could save the
republic. he discussed the fact that their legal operation was in shambles. for example, they did not know in advance that butterfield was going to disclose the existence of a taping system in the white house. i've heard that dispute, but anyway, in addition to that, there was no strategy. people were charging in different directions. he said you'll be in charge. i said, how do we know -- how will people know i'm in charge? will you give me a title? he said no, no, you'll be in charge because you'll be the only one with access to the president. i said, yeah, until i give him the wrong advice and then i sit by a phone that doesn't ring. he said, that's very per exce
receptive of you. i wasn't about to get myself in a position where i sat and stared at a wall for months on end. i had just enough brains to ask for 24 hours to think it over. i went home and called a friend of mine, alexander bickle who was in town, and he and i spent the night discussing it and drinking a little, i must say. by morning it was quite clear i didn't want to job. so i went over to see elliott richardson before going down to see hague. and he made some suggestions. i went to see hague and i said a couple things. one is i have to hear the tapes.
hague said, you may not hear the tapes. this president feels so strongly about the institution of the presidency, that if he's ordered to give up those tapes, he will burn them first and then resign. i started to say, out of curiosity, then why doesn't he burn them now. but i decided it was the wrong thing to say because somebody might burn them and say we're burning the tapes on the advice of the solicitor general. so i shut up. then i said, furthermore, i'm not a private attorney, who is going to pay me? richard nixon? they said, no, the government. i said if the government pays me i'm a government attorney. i'm not free as a private attorney would be. if he comes across bad evidence, i'd have to turn it over to an
impeachment committee or somebody. i sensed that interest in my services was waning at this point. i made a couple of other points. and then hague said finally, well, i see your point, i guess. it wouldn't work out. about two weeks later nixon called me on the phone, no particular reason, just chatting. as my wife said, it was his way of saying it's all right, he doesn't hold it against you. they got other attorneys, and nobody seemed to raise a question about whether they could hear the tapes, whether they knew what the story they were telling was true or not. >> when you were -- well, when you were chatting with your mentor and friend, professor
bickle, had you decided that this would be a condition, listening to the tapes would be a condition to you taking the job? you already decided you didn't want the job. >> i didn't want it but if they satisfied all my conditions, i don't know how to turn it down. >> i know it's a long time ago, but did you really think they would let you listen to the tapes? >> i didn't know. i didn't think about it way that. yeah, i thought they might. i didn't realize at the time what we now know, that those tapes were almost inaudible. i mean, i'd still be there trying to make out what's on those tapes. that was the genius of the stenous compromise. he would have never figured out what the hell he was listening
to. seemed to me i had to hear the tapes. i couldn't begin telling a factual story if i had no idea whether or not there was anything to it. in fact, it might be contradicted by the tapes for all i knew. but i heard some other attorneys took the job and did just that, they made up stories and told a story. >> at some point, j. fred bezard was allowed to listen to the tapes, i believe, but perhaps not that early. >> i don't know. you mentioned richardson's name. tell us about the state of the justice department when you arrive in june of '73. >> when i arrived, i think a lot of people at the department of justice were dissatisfied with the way things were going.
and i can't give any detail because i don't know exactly what their concerns were. there was a feeling that it was kind of motionless. when i was sworn in in the attorney general's conference room, i was sworn in by warren berger. after the swearing in of course we gather around for a reception and i heard somebody say now the department is going to start moving again. but they didn't mean just me. he meant elliott and so forth. it was like a whole new set of people who looked a little more vigorous than what they had before. klein was an interesting fellow because i wouldn't have suspected but on his wall he had
a fi beta kappa plaque. that's not what you would negotiate with his name. i think he was brighter than we thought. i think what it was, he was rash. he would rush to -- when i first got there i had a case that somebody in the department signed the wrong slips and it looked like we were going to have to let about 400 criminals loose. it looked like it had political overtones, somebody screwed up. i went down to see him and said this is what we face. i have three options. i said, one, i gave him the first one and he said do that. i said wait a minute. you didn't even hear the other two. he was like that.
he would draw and shoot very rapidly. >> the special prosecutor -- the watergate special prosecution force had just been assembled when you arrived. please explain to us what, if any, connection there was between the office of the solicitor general and the wspf. >> what there was what? >> what relationship, if any. >> almost none. i'm trying to think. at one point the white house began to scream about investigations into matters that were not related to watergate, and elliott called me in and
said he clearly had intended, the special prosecution force, to look into matters related to watergate, not anything else in the man's background or life. he said cox agreed with that. elliott asked me to sit down with the jurisdiction and rewrite the jurisdictional statement. so it was clear it was aimed at watergate and not at the world. but before i finish with that, the roof fell in and we were -- there was no point in worrying about the exact terms at that point for reasons i'll go into if you wish. the only other -- i was in a meeting with elliott in which
the white house had been complaining that he was -- cox was getting into national security matters. there was a discussion of how to deal with that. that was a problem -- a suggestion about getting retired counsel from the cia or somebody to act as sort of a master and decide what things were national security and what weren't. that, too, was cut short by events. the only other relationship i had -- the solicitor general's office had with them was the saturday night massacre. >> let me ask you about the national security issue that came up. that had to do with plumbers, didn't it? >> i don't know. >> one of the things jawarski
will do is he will proceed with investigative plumbers as part of his -- as part of his mandate. >> probably so. the truth is that i didn't have much to do with cox and i had nothing to do with jawarski. the last thing i needed was allegations i was interfering with him. i told him when he came in that he was on his own and i was not going to interfere with him. he said in public that i had kept that promise. >> then before we go to the saturday night massacre, let's talk about agnew. when you meet with hague, one of the things possibly of discussing the president's lawyer, doesn't he raise the agnew? >> yes. >> how does that come up?
>> the indication of the fact that things were coming apart and that they were facing battles on many fronts, one of which was agnew and they needed a central direction, a central strate strategy, some lawyer could give them. >> and that's the first you hear about it? >> yes. agnew had approached me at the inauguration as a matter of fact and later said he wanted to meet with him. it was kind of obvious that he was considering a run for the presidency and he was looking around for somewhat he regarded as talent to help him out. when the day came and i went to see him, i didn't know that he was in trouble. but he knew it. so we had this utterly colorless
conversation. >> you once told the new haven register that you and elliott richardson were prepared to resign if president nixon did not support indicting agnew and you actually met with the president. >> yes. >> could you please tell us about that? >> oh, yeah, that was quite a moment. i should provide a little background. the u.s. attorney in baltimore was investigating corruption among contractors and their relationships to governmental units. they were not looking at agnew. they had no reason to. but agnew's name kept coming up when they investigated these guys. finally, it got to the point where they were convinced they
had a case against agnew. the u.s. attorney called elliott richardson and told him that the vice-president looked like he had been taking bribes and was still taking bribes, not for anything he did in the white house but still receiving increments of what he earned before by his corruption. so elliott told the white house, and we then -- the department of justice, we got into a thing, there was some feeling perhaps that we shouldn't indict agnew. agnew went to the speaker of the house of representatives and said that we were considering indicting him and that would usurp the power of the house to impeach. and he couldn't be indicted before he was impeached and
removed from office by conviction on impeachment in the senate, which posed a political problem as well as a legal problem. i take some credit for having solved both. i'm jumping ahead. it got sticky with the house of representatives. we sent back a letter saying -- elliott signed it, saying that we had to indict agnew because if we tried these other people, if we tried anybody, agnew's name was going to be all over the papers as a conspirator. you're not going to hide
anything. furthermore, if we delayed indicting the other people in order to arrange matters with agnew, the statute of limitations would begin to run and we couldn't let that happen. so we sent a letter like that to the speaker and we put that in our brief as a matter of fact, i think. i'm not sure it's in the brief or not. >> the arguments are in the brief. >> then we got a call from the white house saying that they wanted to -- i don't know who they wanted to see, elliott maybe. he took me along or they asked me. i don't know which. i went over to the white house and sat down with al hague, glen garman, fred bezard and maybe
one or two others and they really insisted that we not indict. they made the argument, the legal argument which i didn't believe but they made the legal argument. it was clear there was a political motive because agnew's base was the same as nixon's base, and they were afraid that if we attacked agnew, it would hurt nixon with his base and nixon was in trouble on impeachment grounds so he didn't want to squander the base. now, some people have written about how it was a plot by nixon to get rid of agnew. it was not a plot. they were dying not to have us attack agnew. but we wouldn't give way.
hague said, let's go see the president, which is supposed to be -- when they drop that on you, you're supposed to quiver. on the way down the hall, elliott said, we have to go to the men's room. so we go in the men's room and turned on all the faucets to defeat any listening devices. you have no idea of the atmosphere in the white house in those days. you have no idea whether something was turned on and listening to you or not. so we turned on all the faucets and whispered to each other. elliott said, i think it's a resignation issue, don't you, bob? i said it certainly is. so we turned off the faucets and went to see the president. now, the resignation issue is a hard one to deal with. you can't walk in and say to a president, you do this or i'll
resign. if he's any kind of a president he'll say he'll do it and make you resign. he can't be blackmailed that way. on the other hand, you can't get him go so far to commit himself, it's too embarrassing for him to back out once you bring up the resignation issue. it requires delicate handling. you have to sort of by the seriousness with which you take it, sort of indicate to him that there's something here that may be resignation issue and don't press this too far. >> i was asking you why the solicitor at the -- the office of the solicitor general was not involved in basically defending the issue of executive privilege on the tapes. >> there was a problem about that issue.
elliott would be in charge for the negotiating for the department with cox's outfit to try to arrive at a position that would not unduly cut into executive privilege. you couldn't tell him not to plead it. we tried to -- on our end i met a couple of times. there was no principle way to say that executive privilege did not apply in this case but did in other cases. so he said he would make as narrow an argument for an exception to executive privilege as he could, and he did. >> this is during, again, before the -- >> before the argument of the
supreme court. >> oh, in '74? >> yeah. well, i was negotiating with them before that, in '73. it was before elliott left office. the collision between executive privilege and the special prosecutors needs was inevitable. it was approaching. you could see it. that's when elliott asked me to try to work out a compromise. >> judge shricka didn't really provide you any guidelines on any executive privilege, i think. he didn't even rule on that that summer. >> no. in a sense, there is no executive privilege. every branch of government claims the same privilege. calling it an executive privilege sounds as if the president is elevating himself
above the rest of the government. he's not. you try subpoenaing the conference records of a court or try subpoenaing the records of a closed session of a congressional committee. you're going to get a claim of privilege. it's not executive. it's a governmental privilege. >> tell us about any interactions you had with archibald cox when you were both professors. >> none. i didn't know the man. i knew who he was, but i didn't know him. i read one article by him. >> that summer as you were watching -- you did interact a little bit with his team. you mentioned about talking to
him. how well did you think he was doing his job? >> cox, he was doing okay. he was very slow. he didn't do anything wrong, but he was not a prosecutor. he agonized over decisions, which was just as well because if you don't know quite what you're doing it's just as well. jawarski was a prosecutor and he moved much more rapidly because he was used to that kind of stuff. he knew the doctrines, which cox didn't. it's not cox's fault, he just wasn't that kind of a lawyer. i think he did a good job as far as he was allowed to go.
the uproar was because cox could be fired for cause, and there was no cause to fire him, not in the legal sense. that's what caused the uproar. when i say there's no cause to fire him, within the meaning of the charter there was no cause. the reason for firing him was facing down the president on national television. you can't have a subordinate officer facing the president down on national television, particularly he kent pointing out at a time when the president's prestige was being challenged in the middle east where there were all kinds of things going on and nixon had to
exert a great deal of moral authority as well as physical authority. so i think cox had to be fired but not because he was behaving improperly within the meaning of the charter. >> what did you hear of the stenous compromise in the week before this blew up? >> i heard that he was going to listen to the tapes. i thought it was hilarious because stenous was -- i had met stenous and he was by no means vigorous enough or his hearing sw wasn't good enough to make out those tapes. it was a way of putting the whole thing off. i think at one point cox agreed to it but then backed away. i'm not sure about that.
but the compromise, i thought, was a nonstarter. in fact, i don't think there's anything that could have saved nixon. we haven't even gone into the -- the u.s. attorney's office made the case about nixon before cox was even appointed. i had a 72-page memoranda given by early sillbert who was an assistant in the u.s. attorney's office to cox about the case. i think doyle's book quotes somebody in saying that the case was 90% made at that point. beside nixon's name in the memoranda, somebody had written -- i can't find out who. somebody had written constitutional question, question mark.
let me explain this. it's the kind of thing i love and nobody else does. there was no jurisdiction in the case. the supreme court didn't have jurisdiction, but they weren't going to let that stop them. there comes a time when the pressure is on sufficiently and things like that just drop out of sight. when there's a controversy between two persons, one of whom can end the controversy by issuing an order, there's no case or controversy. now, the same thing would have been true if the u.s. attorney's office continued which would
mean, in effect, unless a state undertook to impeach the president, which you can forget about, which would mean, in effect, that there's no root in a case like that except impeachment. now, when the case was argued, st. claire argued for the president, didn't fully understand this argument about jurisdiction. he said to the court, you can't have two people in the same branch of government suing each other to get a court determination of the difference between them. potter stewart said, well, that's certainly true in the ordinary case, but here he has a charter. the charter i issued.
so i listened to him. now, the answer to that is, if that were true, the president could turn every policy dispute within the government into a judicial question by issuing charters everywhere. that's not going to work. st. claire didn't make that argument. he just accepted the charter argument and went on. it's the only point they had, the only chance they had to win was that one, and i don't think it was a real chance because you don't remember the incredible tension in washington and in the country. they wanted a resolution. they didn't really care much how they got it. so i don't think the jurisdictional argument i think
is logically but i don't think it was going to stand up. >> is there another problem, too, which is how you get information to make the judgment about impeachment if the person who is being -- who is under suspicions is also the one controlling access to information? >> not if a court orders them to fork over the information. >> yes, but that was the whole problem with the tapes. >> what? >> well, how do you get one branch of the government to order -- >> no. the problem with the tapes was that one branch of government was suing itself. >> well, yes, but once the supreme court got involved ultimately i'm saying. >> when any court got involved. once a special prosecutor who was a member of the executive branch began to sue another member in the executive branch,
you're into this the dilemma. >> would the root have been for the house judiciary committee to have sued the president for the tapes and then you would have one branch suing another and then the supreme court would rule? is that how it should have worked? >> yeah. >> in which case the jurisdictional argument was only good for the instance of the special prosecutor, but it wouldn't have protected the president from that. >> not from impeachment, no. >> i thought that was the essential problem here the access to information where the judgment could be made. early sillbert, we've interviewed him and he did make that a very strong case, but even he will admit that without the tapes the case against president nixon was not an open and shut case. >> no, it wasn't.
i don't see that that's a problem. if an impeachment proceeding is going forward, you have to be able to get evidence to base the decision whether to impeach or not. i think there was an attempt by the irvin committee to get tapes by subpoena and it failed. but the irvin committee was not an impeachment committee. i think it was just sort of a freelance rummaging about -- i'd have to go back and read the
thing again. >> we got into this as a preface to talking about what happens when the stenous compromise fails and you find yourself pulled into this crises. >> it was funny because i was watching it and the radio reported that it had been resolved by compromise. i called elliott and said congratulations. he said mr. cox is not going along. they met at the white house. there's a dispute about who -- i wish elliott had taken me to that meeting as he did to the agnew meeting because they screwed it up at the white house, both elliott and the
white house. the question came up about issuing an order to cox and somebody said what will cox do. and elliott apparently said he'll resign. well, i wish i had been there to say suppose he doesn't resign. what next? well, what next is the saturday night massacre. >> elliott later said he regretted maybe he hadn't made it clear enough to the president that he could not fire cox.
that was when the disaster set in. it's true that he couldn't for a variety of reasons, one of which was he had given cox a charter which he himself drafted that said he wouldn't fire cox. well, that hemmed him in considerably. they went ahead on the theory that elliott was going to fire him. when it turned out elliott wouldn't, they were stuck, so they turned to me. i remember sitting in elliott's office. cox had just given this nationwide color tv speech about why he was going to -- it was a
theatrical speech. elliott's secretary appeared in the doorway and said the attorney general wants to see you. i went in and a couple of young aides were there running around. we discussed that nobody could see any way out. elliott finally said, i can't fire him, bill, can you? he said no. he turned to me and said can you fire him, bob? i said give me a minute to think. there may be people whose minds are so clear that they can peer through the fog of all these messes right away. i'm not one of them. seems to me there was a big, buzzing confusion going on and i wanted to get it straightened out in my mind. so i paced around the room while
they continued to discuss things. i finally said i'll fire him, but then i'll resign. they said, why would you resign? they said i shouldn't because the department needed continuity. i said because i don't want to be viewed as an apparachuk. the truth is i was the third in line. there was nobody behind me. the department of regulations and the deputy solicitor general. that was it. if i had resigned or i refused the order and been fired or whatever and the acting attorney general would have been appointed, it would have had to be somebody from the outside because after elliott and bill and i quit, nobody was going to take that job inside the department of justice.
i think probably it would have been fred bezard. those guys wanted to wipe out the entire special prosecution force. after a fired cox, some people wanted to know why i stopped there. i said because i'm not going to get involved in an obstruction of justice. that's why i stopped there. so there was nobody behind me. i finally thought that the man had to be fired for the reasons we've discussed, and the only reason i wouldn't do it was personal fear of what would happen to me. i don't mean i was going to get put in jail, but my reputation would be shot for good. i called my wife who had no inkling of this and said i think i may have to fire cox. if you got something to say, say
it now. she said call alex bickle. so i called bickle and he was out playing tennis and that was that. i went back and told -- kay called me and i said send a car over. he did and i went downstairs and it was getting dark and there was a driver. glen garmen was in the rear passenger seat and bezard in the back seat. they were afraid i was going to back out and grab me i think. it looked funny. it looked like we were going for a ride. i went over and i talked to hague and i said i'll do it but then i'll resign. he didn't look like he was too interested in whether i resigned
or not. bryce harlow was there and charles wright, the whole crew was there. charles wright said i'll write the letter. i said make it terse, and he did. it was a one-line letter. after that nixon wanted to see me. i went in and chatted with him. he was very gloomy. it was not an outcome he wanted. but i think if it hadn't happened then, it would have happened sooner or later. there was no way he could -- the u.s. attorney's office or the special prosecutors office, one of the two was going to get him. >> let's step back a minute. had you been attorney general that week before this happened,
what might you you have done differently? you don't think that this could have been avoided? >> well, it could be delayed but if i had been attorney general i would have had to say i can't fire cox because i've given him a charter, i can't now say the charter is meaningless that i wrote, i'm firing you, so i can't fire cox. at that point it was up to the president what he was going to do, fire me or go along. it would only be a holding action. sooner or later that conflict was going to rise to the top. >> since you -- >> i can see why -- people
forget why nixon -- nixon had his insecurities as we know. one of them was the kennedy family whom he regarded as tough and unskrup lus people. when cox was sworn in as solicitor general, irvin grizzwald and this is another reason i don't think griswald is a great lawyer, had the swearing in taken place at the office of the solicitor general. the solicitor general doesn't preside over the swearing in of a guy who is supposed to get the president and kennedy and his family were there. because cox was a kennedy family lawyer. he always was who they turned to at harvard for testimony or whatever they needed.
he was known as a kennedy family appendage. so nixon was paranoid about the whole thing, and he was determined to get rid of cox sooner or later. i think he thought it would have changed the outcome. i remember talking to hague -- well, after getting rid of cox i was at the attorney general for two and a half months and finally we decided we had to have another special prosecutor because this thing was not flying politically. it was interesting because my staff and i went down the names of all the former presidents of the aba. at first i was just looking for a good prosecutor. but then i realized that wasn't going to be enough. it had to be somebody well known
to whom the press could turn and others and say what about this guy. and he would get a good writeup from his colleagues. so we began to look through well known lawyers. not hollywood types but solid. we went down the list and it's amazing how many members of the aba would not do. either overage or not very bright. and the one we came up with was jawarski and at the same time the white house came up with jawarski. people think with one or the other told the other what to do but it's not true. we all came up with him.
i called around and the lawyers i all knew said he would be fine. and he was. but hague said at last we're going to get a pearo in here. that's good. i refrained from saying i don't know why you should want a pro. that's the last thing you should want. because by that time i think it was going down. jawarski came over, he went to see hague and then came to see me and henry peterson. it requires background. when i came down from yale, a professor with a beard, i was suspect. i remember when i first got over there, i was standing at a reception with norm carlson, head of the federal bureau of prisons and henry peterson, head of the criminal division.
they began talking about their days at good old camp lejeune. i said i was at camp lejeune and they said you were in the corps? right away their attitude changed. as long as i had been in the corps. jawarski came in and handed the chief of a resume, every position i can imagine, president of the aba, the travelers association and on and on. peterson and i read it and peterson looked up and said, bob, he wasn't in the corps. jawarski looked mightily puzzled. he thought we were talking about him. but he was the ideal choice from our point of view, not from the white house's point of view. >> why was he an ideal choice from the department's point of
view? >> he had a lot of prosecuting experience. he prosecuted war crimes trials. so he was unimpeachable reputation, and he was competent, very competent. so he would move the thing along. that's what we needed. i think for a while the white house thought he was going to be great because he was a pro, but maybe that staff didn't believe nixon had anything in his background. maybe they thought it was all a putup. i don't know what they thought. >> why were you sure that it was almost all over by that point? >> i remember henry peterson saying to me, bob, we indict
people on less evidence than this. it's true. there were just too many things that looked -- and you could feel the tide shifting in the country and in washington against nixon. i was sure when i went to the supreme court it was going to go against nixon. >> you mean the next summer? >> yeah. i was sure. it wasn't too long after i fired cox that i began to think that nixon was going to lose. >> because you knew the situation the white house was in, did that not make you doubt a little bit staying around? after you did fire him and you
did not resign. >> if i resigned it would look like i was admitting something was wrong, that i had done something wrong. i didn't think so. >> but you found yourself in a position where you had to defend the administration. >> i didn't. when did i defend the administration? >> that you would have to, not that you did. you put yourself in a position where you might have to defend it. >> no, not at all. i got a call. they got james sinclair as their chief defense attorney. i got a call one day to come over to hague's office. i went over and there was st. claire and hague and bezard and
garman. hague said, bob, the president wants you to argue this case in the supreme court on the tapes. i said i can't. i said, well, because jawarski is a member of the department of justice, and i have been on his -- i have necessarily been on his side. if i switch sides and oppose him, my next argument is going to be before the character and fitness committee dealing with the state bar as to why i shouldn't be disbarred. i can't start arguing the case on both sides. so st. claire then said that -- this is where i kind of lost some respect for st. claire. he said, hey, walk the way,
muttering something about technicalities. st. claire leaned over and said, i think you're right. i said tell him so. he said maybe i will some day. that struck me as not the most stand-up position i had heard in a while. >> just so we're clear, you felt that it was right to fire cox because the president had the authority to do so? >> the authority to do so and i thought he had good reason to do so. >> because of the press conference? >> yeah. >> but not because of cox's -- >> no. >> solely because of the press conference? >> solely for making a national political showdown between himself and the president. >> so had this crises -- had he not done the press conference
and you had been faced with the same problem, the same question, you might have had a problem? >> no. once the special prosecutor was a member of the department of justice the way he was in the beginning, i could not oppose him. i could oppose him in an argument in elliott's office and say you shouldn't do that, but i couldn't go into court and oppose him formally. >> to be clear, if cox had not given the press conference, you would have had a quandary had you been asked to fire him? >> yeah, i suppose. i don't know. >> nixon wanted to fire him well before the press conference? >> oh, yeah, but there was no reason to. nixon had a reason to. i didn't have a reason to. >> so for you it was the press conference? >> for me the was the showdown -- political showdown in public between the minor
officer and the president. >> the president, the white house thought that it had also closed the watergate special prosecution force. in the coverage of the period, there's some confusion over whether or not that office had been abolished or not. >> it was abolished. i abolished it. >> it didn't -- >> i re-established it. >> simultaneously. >> no. >> how long was it abolished? >> until jawarski came on. all that happened was they now become formally the department of justice attorneys. peterson and i went over to talk to him, stay in these offices, continue doing what you're doing, but now you're no longer known officially as the
watergate special prosecution force. that's all that changed. then when jawarski came in and there was a new special prosecutor, there was no special prosecutor before. when he came in, we re-establ h re-established it as a special prosecution force and i issued a new charter. >> during that period of i don't know how long it was, two weeks or so between these two moments, what did you do to make sure you didn't put yourself in jeopardy of an obstruction of justice charge? >> i told them to continue with their investigation. what more am i supposed to do? >> you had just mentioned earlier that you avoided firing them. >> oh, yeah. at one point somebody over there, a couple of them -- you
get a special prosecution force, what you do is get enemies of the person being investigated. they want to get him. in nixon's case they clearly did. i've seen it in other cases, too. i told them that i want them to go forward. at one point i said i hope you have some good cases because if you haven't got any good cases, this could look like an obstruction of justice. if i fire cox and the whole thing collapses. they said we have good cases, and he designated a guy, a man,
of considerable seniority who he said he had a case against. for some reason peterson exploded at that point and denounced him. although peterson didn't like the guy he was talking about. i don't know what the hell that was about. maybe peterson's nerves were just stretched thin. that was very tense times. but i went on my way not to interfere or influence in any way any decision they made. now, if they started violating their charter in some e greejous fashion, i would have had to do something, but they didn't and i stayed the heck out of it. >> in that first week, the president in a speech said that he would not give his materials to any prosecutor, but then a
few days later when you talked about jawarski you said he would have the opportunity to seek whatever materials he needed. >> that's right. >> any tension or pushback from the white house to talk to them in between? >> at one point somebody asked me if you're going to let these things go on, what's the point in firing cox. the point is to stop the investigation. nixon said he wasn't going to turn him over, but that's not inconsistent with the special prosecutor's power to seek them. >> whose idea was it when president nixon -- i think you mentioned this.
president nixon undertook that he would not fire jawarski unless he had met with a bipartisan group. >> yeah. >> where did that come from? >> nixon or hague, i forget -- it's so stupid. i issued -- i told the people, i said the charter has to be identical to the one cox has. you can't take away any powers that cox had. just not in the cards anymore. somebody said, give an additional assurance to jawarski by saying that he had to go to -- anyway, he had to get unanimous approval including the
partisan democrats. teddy kennedy announced that i was planning to fire the prosecutor and i put that into the charter. i was called up before the senate judiciary committee and i pointed out this is idiotsy. if i were planning to fire a special prosecutor, i would not make it impossible by giving a veto power to a bipartisan commission which has to be unanimous. the press was all excited. they were going to -- when they heard what it was all about, they closed their notebooks and went home. kennedy was doing his best to --
it was silly because there was no way you could convert that kind of a guarantee into a threat. in fact, jawarski told them he wasn't worried. nevertheless, they went ahead and screamed for a while. >> the idea had come from the white house, right? >> yeah. somebody was -- that's right. but somebody was trying to show how pure they were. >> now, during this period, the white house changes its position completely on the tapes and decides to give them up. >> yeah. >> did you participate at all in that discussion? >> no. why would i? >> i didn't know the extent to which they were talking to you. >> i was not eager to talk to them. when they called i'd talk to them but i was not eager to insert myself into their
deliberations. i can imagine what those deliberations were like, probably highly confused. >> a new attorney general starts in december of '73. what were your relations like with william saxby? >> they were core dal. he's a very funny guy. do you know him? >> no. >> pretty down to earth. he chewed tobacco all the time. he had a coffee can. he didn't spit into it, he drooled into it. sitting in the attorney gener general's office and he would lean over and drool. in the limousine when we were going together, his limousine, he had the coffee can on the floor of the limousine and he would drool tobacco juice into it. i remember the first time i
tried to talk to him and try to explain if the department to him, he did that, and i found it pretty disgusting. so the next time i was going in with the entire leadership of the department of justice and being senior i should go in first. but i had been there before, so i insisted that they all go first and i would sit on the other side of the room because i knew which side saxby faced when he did this routine and i wasn't going to be facing it. but he was kind of charming. he didn't take the job seriously at all. he traveled around the country doing what he called job owning for justice, by which he meant he went on hunting trips and so forth. the department's business was run by the next level down.
silverman who was then deputy attorney general, when they had a big meeting in his office and there was a -- as there often was, conflict between different branches of the government and he had to adjust them, it was routine occurrence, when it got really serious he would say, well, this is one that has to be taken up by the attorney general, this is too serious, and he would leave the room, walk down the hallway and go into the elevator bank and smoke a cigarette, come back and say the attorney general says -- that's the way saxby ran it. he had staff meetings. we all had staff meetings, the entire department, the leaders of the department. we all had something to say.
may not be earth shaking but something to say. saxby would open the meeting and look around and say, well, the bar is open. that was it. we would all go over and get a drink. that was the staff meeting. it never varied. >> what were your principle concerns the first nine months of '74? >> what? >> in 1974, your solicitor general, before president nixon resigns, what were your principle concerns those months? >> when i was solicitor general but not attorney general? >> yeah. >> my principle concerns were arguing the cases i had. let me see. the first day back during the
time i was -- when i was acting as attorney general i had no staff. everybody had left. so nobody was writing memoranda, putting things in context and so forth. i had two guys from my own office sort of screwing around trying to straighten things out. i sat on the couch and received people and sort of dispensed justice offhand. it was ridiculous. the first day back when saxby took over and i went back to the court, i was sitting there just before the court adjourned, solicitor general sits up front. just before the court adjourned, a page handed me a note. it said, i want to throw a lunch in your honor. the other members will be the
members of the court. please let me know. i couldn't read the signature. so i waited. somebody up there invited me to lunch. so i went up to the clerk of the court afterwards and i said who was that and he told me. that was extraordinary because i had written many vitriolic articles about william douglas. he knew it. people like that know what's been said about them. so i went up on the appointed day. douglas was not a spendthrift by any means but he was standing there with bartender and a bar and a table fully for the court. the first thing he said was, there's no business purpose to this meeting. i just want you to know you've
got friends in this town which astounded me. then at the end of the lunch when everybody else had left, he had stayed behind and said exactly the same thing again. >> what was the meeting with the watergate special prosecution force like that night back at the saturday night massacre. you met with them the next day? >> i met with the leaders the next day. >> did you not meet with the leaders? >> yeah, but not the next day. i think some time during the following week i guess. what was it like? well, a little bit tense. whenever i walked in with peterson, i said i'm willing to discuss anything with you about your work or anything else, but i'm not going to argue with you about whether i should have fired cox or not.