Annotated Watergate Chronology
When first elected to Congress in 1946, Richard Nixon was a non-descript WWII veteran. He soon came to national prominence through his takedown of liberal icon Alger Hiss and his subsequent defeat of Hollywood diva Helen Gahagan Douglas to become California’s junior Senator. He then served as Eisenhower’s vice president for two terms, before losing an exceptionally close presidential race to John Kennedy in 1960. Left as politically dead after losing California’s gubernatorial race in 1962, he came back to narrowly win the presidency in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. This was followed by his sweeping 1972 re-election victory, where he carried every state except Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
Nixon seemed unstoppable, but the Watergate burglary gave his political opponents an opening which they skillfully exploited to drive him from office, thwart the Republican’s fundraising advantage, and launch investigations of expected GOP candidates for the 1976 presidential election. Documents recently coming to light confirm truly troublesome judicial and prosecutorial abuses which characterized the Watergate prosecutions.
As this annotated Watergate chronology will show, virtually everything that conventional wisdom holds about Watergate turns out to be badly mistaken.
I. Setting the Stage
A. The Players
Nixon rises from humble beginnings in California to become our 37th President, but remains an outsider, intensely disliked by the liberal Eastern establishment.
January 9, 1913 — Nixon is born in Yorba Linda, California.
June, 1934 — Nixon graduates from Whittier College (second in class).
June, 1937 — Nixon graduates from Duke Law School (third in class).
November 5, 1946 — Nixon beats popular incumbent Jerry Voorhees to become Whittier’s Congressman.
August 3, 1948 — Whittaker Chambers appears before House Un-American Activities Committee to accuse Alger Hiss of being a Soviet spy. [Nixon quickly comes to national prominence as chair of special subcommittee to investigate Hiss (who ends up being convicted of perjury in 1950). Nixon’s takedown of liberal icon Alger Hiss earned him both national recognition and the undying enmity of the liberal Eastern establishment.]
November 2, 1948 — Nixon re-elected to Congress, without opposition.
November 7, 1950 — Nixon beats Helen Gahagan Douglas to become a California Senator. [Douglas was a Congresswoman from Hollywood, who had stared in several motion pictures, and had engaged in a flagrant and very public affair with then-Speaker Lyndon Johnson.]
September 3, 1952 – Nixon’s famous “Checkers” speech to the Nation, defending his record against allegations of improper financing of his campaigns.
November 4, 1952 — Nixon elected vice president when Dwight Eisenhower defeats Adlai Stevenson.
November 6, 1956 — Nixon re-elected vice president when Eisenhower again defeats Stevenson.
September 26, 1960 – First Kennedy/Nixon Presidential Debate. [TV audiences felt Kennedy came off as statesman like, Nixon as stiff and wooden. Kennedy seemed to anticipate every Nixon point. It was later alleged that Kennedy’s people had bugged Nixon’s room at the Sheraton Wardman Hotel, where he had spent the week rehearsing before their first debate.]
November 8, 1960 — Nixon loses close presidential race to John F Kennedy.
November 6, 1962 — Nixon loses race to become California’s governor to Edmond G. “Pat” Brown. Announces end of political career in stormy press conference the following day: “You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference”. [Nixon’s tax returns were leaked during this campaign.]
November 22, 1963 — JFK assassinated in Dallas, Vice President Lyndon Johnson becomes President. 16,000 US troops in Vietnam.
November 3, 1964 — Barry Goldwater loses to President Johnson in the largest election margin in history (known as the Goldwater Debacle). Democratic majorities in Congress reach record proportions. Nixon is only nationally known GOP politician to campaign on Goldwater’s behalf. 23,000 US troops in Vietnam.
March 16, 1968 — Robert F Kennedy announces candidacy for presidency, challenging Eugene McCarthy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who also are running for the Democratic nomination.
April 4, 1968 – Martin Luther King is assassinated in Nashville, TN. Bloody riots follow in at least nineteen cities.
June 6, 1968 — RFK is assassinated in Los Angeles, after winning the California primary.
November 5, 1968 — Nixon beats Humphrey and is elected President, but Republicans fail to gain control of either House of Congress. He is the first President since Zachery Taylor in 1848 to come into office without controlling either House of Congress. 536,000 US Troops in Vietnam. [Nixon was told by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that Johnson had ordered the bugging of Nixon’s plane during the last two weeks of the campaign. Others have argued that, while this order was given, the FBI was unable to accomplish it.]
January 15, 1969 — The Vietnam Study Task Force submits its highly classified Report on US Vietnam Relations (later known as the Pentagon Papers) to then Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, just days before Nixon is inaugurated. [Historians incorrectly conclude from transmittal document that all 47 volumes of the Report were completed by this date. Author Les Gelb only referenced 43 in his transmittal, and it appears only the first 37 actually had been finalized. A separate set is provided to the Brookings Institution, where Gelb, Paul Warnke and Morton Halperin continue to work on its completion for the next six months.]
January 20, 1969 — Richard Nixon inaugurated as 37th President of the United States.
July 19, 1969 — Mary Jo Kopechne drowns in car driven by Senator Edward Kennedy in Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts. [Senator Kennedy, the only surviving brother, was expected to challenge Nixon in 1972, but this effectively took him out of the race.]
August, 1969 — Investigative reporter Clark Mollenhoff joins the White House staff as ombudsman. A liberal Democrat, his title is deputy counsel, reporting to John Ehrlichman, who is then counsel to the President.
May, 1970 — Mollenhoff’s departure is announced, effective in July. [Chaffing at his limited access to the President, he returns to the Des Moines Register, now heading up their Washington bureau office, where he quickly becomes Nixon’s fiercest newspaper critic.]
July, 1970 — John Dean leaves his position of Associate Deputy Attorney General and replaces Ehrlichman as counsel to the President. Ehrlichman becomes Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, heading the newly created Domestic Council. [Hiring Dean onto the WH staff as counsel turns out to be a devastating personnel mistake.]
February, 1971 — A secret taping system is installed, which automatically records the President’s Oval Office and EOB conversations, but the quality is quite poor. [President Nixon had a “hideaway” office in the Old Executive Office building, next door to the West Wing and a part of the WH compound, where he went many afternoons to think through challenges and to discuss issues with a handful of trusted aides. The EOB tapes are uniformly of the least quality.]
May, 1971 — The Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP) is established as Nixon’s re-election campaign organization. Its offices are at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the WH compound. Jeb Magruder is sent from Haldeman’s staff to be acting head until Mitchell arrives from DOJ. [Mitchell had run the successful 1968 campaign, but postponed returning to head CRP because he so enjoyed being Attorney General.
B. Leak of the Pentagon Papers
The existence of the Pentagon Papers was completely unknown to the Nixon WH, but when portions were printed in The New York Times and other newspapers (followed by the leak of our negotiating position in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), the WH established a Special Investigations Unit to stop the leaks, hunt down the leakers and bring them to justice. Aggressive actions were seen as justified in the name of national security.
The future difficulty for the WH was that the very same people who had taken questionable actions on behalf of the Plumbers in 1971 were the ones who then conducted the Watergate break-in in 1972 (and where there clearly was no national security justification). The need to keep the Plumbers Unit activities from becoming public was a major rationale for the Watergate cover-up.
June, 1971 — Egil Krogh hires Gordon Liddy onto the Domestic Council staff (from Treasury), where he soon joins newly established Plumbers Unit. [Hiring Liddy onto the WH staff turns out to be another devastating personnel mistake.]
June 13, 1971 — The New York Times publishes its first installment of the Pentagon Papers, portions of which were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, a former official at the Department of Defense. Ellsberg, who had worked on the Pentagon Papers while at the Pentagon, had become a fierce critic of the Vietnam War.
__________The FBI later reports to the WH that a copy of the Papers had been delivered to the Soviet Embassy on June 17, 1971. [The importance of this is not whether it turned out to be true or not; it’s that this is what the WH was told, which added an extraordinary sense of urgency in the need to know what else Daniel Ellsberg might be up to.]
June 18, 1971 — The Washington Post publishes a different segment of the Pentagon Papers. DOJ immediately seeks a restraining order and permanent injunction against the Post. Judge Gerhard Gesell, who had himself been a reporter before becoming a judge, refuses to grant a temporary restraining order (becoming the only one of 29 judges to so refuse). [Judge Gesell later becomes the only other judge to be assigned Watergate-related cases, which appointment is made by Judge Sirica.]
June 30, 1971 — The Supreme Court allows newspaper publication of the Pentagon Papers on a 6-3 vote. In a per curiam opinion, it upholds the Times’ and Post’s right to publish. (New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713)
July 24, 1971 — A Special Investigations Unit is established within the WH, with Krogh (representing Ehrlichman and the Domestic Council) and David Young (representing Kissinger and the NSC) as co-heads. [Later known as the Plumbers Unit, their job is to ferret out and stop leaks of classified information and also to de-classify materials that no longer contain sensitive information. Liddy, a former FBI agent, and Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent, are soon chosen by Krogh to become the Plumber’s lead operatives.]
August 8, 1971 — Young and Krogh meet with Ehrlichman to discuss possible initiatives, including reviewing the files of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding. [It was felt that Ellsberg may have told Fielding of his plans for some 54,000 more pages of classified documents that Ellsberg had access to through his employment by defense contractor, The Rand Corporation. Later, when questioned by prosecutors, they cannot recall specifically using the word “break-in” to describe how they might go about gaining access to Fielding’s files.]
August 11, 1971 — Young and Krogh send memo to Ehrlichman seeking approval of a “covert operation” to examine Fielding’s files. Approval is granted, with Ehrlichman’s notation, “If done under your assurance that it is not traceable.” [According to the U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, a covert operation (also as CoveOps or covert ops) is “an operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor.” Ehrlichman based his entire defense on the proposition that he had approved a secret mission and not necessarily an illegal one, but was convicted anyway.]
August 24-25, 1971 — Liddy and Hunt make recognizance trip to Fielding’s office in Los Angeles. [This is also where Liddy seeks to impress a waitress by holding his hand over a candle until his flesh burns. Liddy photographs are developed by CIA, which immediately cuts off further assistance. ]
September 4, 1971 — Liddy and Hunt return to LA to supervise Plumbers break-in into Dr. Fielding’s office. [When the Cubans doing the actual break-in were unable to gain entry by picking the lock, Liddy ordered them to break a window and make it look like someone was after drugs. This assured that a police report was filed on the incident, such that the illicit entry would later be pinpointed precisely. Krogh was informed that the break-in uncovered no helpful materials, but Fielding later testified that he’d found his Ellsberg files on the floor. It has been pointed out that Liddy, who technically was supervising the break-in, was the only involved individual without long-standing CIA connections.]
C. Liddy’s Campaign Intelligence Plan
A separate campaign organization was established, to be led once again by John Mitchell (who had headed Nixon’s 1968 election campaign), with leadership drawn from Mitchell’s DOJ aides and from Haldeman’s WH aides. There was tension between these staffs, exacerbated by Mitchell delay in giving up his position as Attorney General. Magruder acted as chief of staff, reporting to both Mitchell and Haldeman (but through his assistant, Gordon Strachan). Tasked by Haldeman to develop a campaign intelligence plan, Dean recruited Liddy from the Plumbers Unit to develop and implement it.
October, 1971 — Dean is assigned responsibility for developing a campaign intelligence operation for CRP. He soon recruits Liddy to design and implement it, promising up to $1 million in campaign funds for its support.
December 8, 1971 — Liddy leaves WH staff to become CRP general counsel, with added responsibility for developing campaign intelligence plan. [Jeb Magruder, who is CRP’s acting head until Mitchell resigns as Attorney General, soon learns that Liddy expects $1 million in support. He concludes that only Mitchell can approve that large of an expense item, so he arranges a meeting in Mitchell’s DOJ office.]
January 27, 1972 — First Liddy presentation in Mitchell’s AG office, with Dean and Magruder present. Liddy’s $1 million plan, known as “Gemstone” is presented on charts prepared by the CIA, and includes proposals for mugging, bugging, kidnapping and prostitution. Plan is not approved and Liddy is asked to revise his proposal.
February 4, 1972 — Second Liddy presentation in Mitchell’s office, again with Dean and Magruder present. It is now a $500,000 plan. Mugging, kidnapping and prostitution have been dropped, but it now includes specific targets for bugging. Meeting ends when Dean points out that this meeting should not be occurring in the AG’s office. [Dean later claimed that he had informed Haldeman of aggressive campaign tactics being considered by CRP and secured his agreement that the WH should have nothing further to do with them. However, there is no record of such a meeting and Haldeman ultimately concluded it was a later fabrication by Dean.]
March 1, 1972 — Mitchell resigns as attorney general to become head of CRP.
March, 1972 — Charles Colson calls Magruder to urge proceeding with Liddy intelligence plan. [Although Liddy and Hunt are in his office at the time, Colson later argues that he had no idea of the plan’s specifics.]
March, 1972 — Magruder disburses $37,000 to Liddy to cover expenses Liddy had incurred to date in connection with his intelligence plan. [This act undercuts Magruder’s claim that Mitchell had approved Liddy’s plan, which came later in the month (if at all)]
March 27, 1972 — Due to friction with Magruder (he’d threatened to kill him), Liddy is moved as CRP general counsel to become counsel to CRP Finance Committee, but retains his intelligence plan responsibilities. [Both Dean and Strachan had counseled Magruder not to fire Liddy over this “personal matter.”]
March 30, 1972 — Magruder and Fred LaRue meet with Mitchell in Miami to discuss pending items, including Liddy’s revised intelligence plan, now priced at $250,000. [Stories differ as to whether plan is approved, with Magruder claiming it was and Mitchell and LaRue that it was not. Regardless, Magruder acts as though he has secured Mitchell’s approval. Dean was not present at this third meeting.]
April 7, 1972 — New campaign finance law comes into effect, replacing the Corrupt Practices Act of 1925, which DOJ had admitted they didn’t enforce. The new law requires, for the first time, disclosure of donor names. [CRP had raised some $10 million in advance of the effective date. Two contributions were received just after the deadline, from prominent Democratic donors. Liddy opined that they were legally received, but took the money to Miami and laundered it through Barker’s business account, returning with some $125,000 in newly issued $100 bills, which were given to CRP treasurer Hugh Sloan and stored in CRP’s safe.]
II. Watergate Break-in and Beginning of the Cover-up
The three week period from the Break-in arrests to Mitchell’s resignation set the stage for all that followed.
The Watergate break-in was a bumbled affair, at best, seemingly undertaken by the Keystone Cops. Indeed, it was originally described by the WH press office as “a third-rate burglary.” There is still no agreement on the motive for the actual break-in – and a series of books have been written which raise questions as to who knew in advance, what the real mission was, and who was responsible for its planning and implementation.
There is no attempt here to resolve these questions, merely to note that they exist. The bottom line, however, is that it was clearly an illegal act and fully appropriate that those involved to have been prosecuted. The lingering question remains, now as then, just how high up the chain of command any knowledge of the break-in went.
It has never been shown that anyone on WH staff (as distinguished from CRP staff), particularly Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Nixon (and except for Dean), had absolutely any advance knowledge of the planned break-in. Those that knew of Liddy’s plans, however (certainly including Dean, Magruder and perhaps Mitchell), quickly embarked upon a cover-up, which drew in many more individuals and ultimately made the scandal much worse.
One possible interpretation is that Nixon returned from the Bahamas, where he’d been relaxing; he and his senior aides demanded the truth, only to learn that the trail, if followed closely, might well end up at Mitchell’s doorstep. Nixon then fired his best friend. Instead of throwing him to the wolves, however, Nixon and his senior aides chose to let the investigation take its natural course. After assuring themselves that Colson was not the instigator (and, therefore, there was no actual WH involvement), they dispatched Dean to CRP to protect WH interests and be sure the problem was “contained” at CRP. Bad as the fallout might be, it would involve CRP and not the WH. Because of his own risk of prosecution from the two meetings in Mitchell’s office, Dean turned out to be the worst possible choice. His orchestration of the cover-up was mainly to protect himself. When it collapsed, he sold out his colleagues and sought immunity for his own criminal acts.
In response to the break-in, the US Attorney’s office undertook a massive investigation, ultimately involving over a hundred FBI agents and extensive use of a specially-dedicated grand jury.
In the course of the cover-up, Dean and Magruder enlisted any number of here-to-fore uninvolved individuals at CRP (without disclosure of their own criminal liability), who were later convicted and imprisoned for their role in “helping the President.”
Dean also committed a number of criminal acts, in addition to obstruction of justice: He not only rehearsed Magruder for his perjured testimony in two appearances before the grand jury (characterized as subornation of perjury), but also destroyed evidence, embezzled campaign funds, and arranged to receive investigatory updates from the FBI, which he improperly shared with the burglars’ defense counsel.
May 3, 1972 – As J. Edgar Hoover’s body lay in state, an anti-war demonstration is held by Daniel Ellsberg, William Kunstler and others. The WH arranges for a counter-demonstration, bringing the Cubans up from Miami to provide protection. [Issue later investigated by WSPF Plumbers Task Force is whether Charles Colson could be prosecuted for inciting violence. See Nick Akerman’s memo of June 5, 1975.]
May 28, 1972 — First illegal entry into DNC offices at Watergate office building, wiretaps supposedly planted on phones of Larry O’Brien and Spencer Oliver. Magruder is told that Oliver’s tap works, O’Brien’s doesn’t.
June 17, 1972 — Second illegal entry is made into DNC offices in Watergate office building, supposedly to repair tap on O’Brien’s phone. James McCord, CRP’s head of security, and four Cubans are caught red-handed and arrested on site. [The Cubans are found to possess uncirculated $100 bills, which the FBI soon traces to Bernard Barker’s Miami bank account. Liddy and Hunt are arrested sometime thereafter. Papers announce Nixon’s lead over McGovern is largest poll margin in history. It has been pointed out that Liddy, the supposed leader of the break-in team, is the only member without extensive, long-term CIA connections].
June 18, 1973 — CRP issues press release denying any culpability. [This is seen as first overt act in the ensuing cover-up.]
_________Liddy approaches Attorney General Richard Kleindienst at Burning Tree Golf Course, saying Mitchell wants him to get McCord out of jail before his true identify becomes known. Kleindienst refuses, but does not report the incident.
June 19, 1972 — Strachan takes it upon himself to destroy possibly embarrassing materials in his (ie: Haldeman’s) files that have been sent over from CRP by Magruder.
_________Dean (returning from Manila) becomes involved. Dean meets with Liddy at 11:15am that morning, who admits it was his team that was caught and says it was because Magruder was pressing him for more information. Dean reports results to Ehrlichman and Haldeman. [This is supposedly when Hunt is ordered out of the country, but testimony differs on just who originated that idea (which was quickly countermanded by Dean in any event after speaking with Colson.)]
_________Dean meets with Mitchell, Magruder, LaRue and Robert Mardian in Mitchell’s apartment that evening to begin orchestrating the cover-up in earnest.
June 20, 1972 — First recorded Nixon/Haldeman conversation following Watergate arrests. Haldeman notes contain word “Watergate”, but conversation is overlaid by a distinct buzzing sound [This becomes known as the 18½ Minute Gap.]
____________ GSA brings contents from safe in Hunt’s EOB office to Dean’s office for his review. [This is where Dean separates out Hunt’s address book and two Hermes notebooks, which he secrets in his file cabinet, as well as Hunt’s draft cables about Diem’s assassination, which are not turned over to the FBI.]
June 22, 1972 — Edward Bennett Williams files complaint against CRP on behalf of the DNC, claiming damages from break-in. [He quickly embarks on extensive deposition schedule, which is of great concern to CRP and Nixon White House. They finally convince Judge Richey to postpone this suit when criminal indictments are handed down in September. There are credible allegations developed by the Ervin Committee that the DNC was tipped off as to the pending break-in and had prepared the suit in advance.]
June 23, 1972 — Second recorded Nixon/Haldeman conversation following Watergate arrests, where the President agrees to Dean’s recommendation to get the CIA to tell the FBI not to proceed with two interviews. [The release of this tape (the “Smoking Gun”) on August 5, 1974, undermined Nixon’s contention that he had no involvement and he resigned the presidency three days later. It subsequently developed that everyone has misunderstood the context of his actions, which were taken to prevent disclosure of several significant Democratic donors to CRP. Even Dean has written in his 2015 book: “In short, the Smoking Gun was shooting blanks.”]
________ Watergate Grand Jury I begins to hear evidence concerning the break-in. [The office of the US Attorney for the District of Columbia assumed responsibility for the ensuing investigation, which was led by principle associate Earl Silbert, along with his colleagues Seymour Glanzer and Douglas Campbell. They are the ones who directed the FBI’s investigation.]
June 28, 1972 — Liddy fired from CRP for refusing to answer FBI questions about break-in.
________ Ehrlichman and Dean give Acting FBI Director Pat Gray a portion of the contents from Hunt’s EOB safe, principally documents from Hunt’s efforts to reconstruct a cable supposedly connecting the Kennedy administration to the 1973 assassination of Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem. [Gray later burns these in his vacation home fireplace, so their precise nature remains unknown. Interestingly, there really was such a cable, which had been kept hidden by the Kennedy administration. It is known as Cable 243, now available on-line. This is also the timeframe where Dean says Ehrlichman told him to “Deep Six” certain documents. ]
July 1, 1972 — Mitchell resigns as head of CRP, supposedly because of his alcoholic wife, Martha. [WH tapes, however, have Haldeman telling Nixon that he urged Mitchell to resign in advance of possible troubles down the road.]
July 14, 1972 — Sloan resigns as CRP Treasurer, after refusing to participate in the cover-up. His deputy, Bart Porter does consent to help and is later convicted for his perjured testimony.
August 16, 1972 — Magruder testifies before grand jury, after Dean helps to rehearse him for his perjured testimony concerning Liddy’s supervision and their meetings in Mitchell’s office.
August 28, 1972 — Krogh gives sworn deposition before US Attorneys (in lieu of actual grand jury appearance), during which he perjures himself, by denying any knowledge of why Liddy and Hunt might have flown to California. [In his orchestration of the cover-up, Dean had told Krogh that the President wanted him to lie about people connected with the Fielding break-in. Krogh would become the first WH official to be indicted in the expanding Watergate scandal.]
________ Colson testifies before grand jury.
August 30, 1972 — Nixon announces Dean has conducted investigation into Watergate and concluded no one from WH was involved. [This could be seen as the “First” Dean Report, since Dean had been asked to ascertain whether Colson or anyone else on the WH had been involved. Dean neglected to disclose his own participation in the two meetings in Mitchell’s AG office. If he had, he would certainly have been terminated from the WH staff.]
September 13, 1972 – At the end of their investigation, Silbert submits a 21 page Prosecutive Memorandum on the Watergate break-in to Henry Petersen (who heads DOJ’s Criminal Division), just before the indictments are handed down, essentially saying “Here’s what we know. We’re going to indict those we can convict for sure. Once convicted, we’ll see if they name any higher-ups.”
________ Magruder again testifies before grand jury.
September 14, 1972 — Mitchell testifies before grand jury.
III. Indictments and Break-in Trial
Indictments of seven individuals came three months after the break-in arrests, following an extensive investigation. Nixon’s opponents, unsatisfied that no senior people were included, launched their own investigations. Ted Kennedy’s investigation was first, but was seen as being too political, so it was replaced by the Ervin Committee (which promptly hired many of Kennedy’s people, particularly Carmine Bellino, his chief investigator). Judge Sirica was lobbied and lauded for turning the break-in trial into a search for “the truth” of who was really behind the break-in.
But the cover-up largely held, even though Silbert had been telling Hunt and McCord all along that his plan was to convict and sentence them to prison – and then immunize them from further prosecution so they couldn’t refuse to testify, and haul them back before the grand jury.
September 15, 1972 – Silbert has grand jury indict seven original Watergate burglars: four Cubans, McCord, Liddy and Hunt.
September 21, 1972 — Judge Richey orders DNC civil suit filed by Edward Bennett Williams be stayed in light of criminal indictments.
October, 1972 — Senator Edward Kennedy launches his own Watergate investigation via his Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Practices and Procedures, which he chairs, assigning five full-time staff members. As chairman, he issues committee subpoenas to obtain telephone and credit card records of dirty trickster Donald Segretti.
November 7, 1972 — Nixon re-elected to second term, beating George McGovern by 61% majority, the second largest margin in US history, and winning electoral votes in all states except Massachusetts and DC. 24,000 US Troops in Vietnam.
November, 1972 — Bob Woodward obtains names of Watergate grand jurors, supposedly from the Clerk’s office. After discussion with Washington Post management, he and Carl Bernstein set out to interview them about their ongoing investigation. [The grand jury is supposed to operate in complete secrecy, such that interviewing them could be seen as interfering with a judicial proceeding.]
November 15, 1972 — Dean goes to Camp David to meet with Haldeman and Ehrlichman. [Dean later claims that he played Colson’s tape of Hunt’s increasingly strident monetary demands, which they stoutly deny.]
December 4, 1972 — Bernstein interviews Watergate grand juror, later described in their book as “Z” (whom they falsely claim was a CRP secretary). [Bernstein’s seven pages of typed notes from this interview do not surface until Jeff Himmelman finds them in Ben Bradlee’s files while researching his 2014 book.]
December, 1972 — Separate grand juror complains to Silbert about Bernstein approach, who informs Sirica. [The Post’s lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams, is dispatched to meet with Sirica to smooth things over and to deny (falsely, it develops) that Bernstein actually met with any grand juror. Williams and his wife are exceptionally close to Sirica: they are god-parents to Sirica’s daughter]
December 19, 1972 — Sirica scolds media representatives gathered in his courtroom (without mentioning Woodward or Bernstein by name) and instructs them never to approach any Watergate grand jurors.
December, 1972 — Mollenhoff has series of private meetings with Sirica, urging aggressive role as judge in the break-in trial, he then writes a news column predicting such conduct and praising him for it. He writes about his Sirica meetings in two later books. [This sort of ex parte meeting with a judge about to preside at trial is a clear breech of professional ethics. Had it become known, Sirica could not have tried the break-in case.]
January, 1973 — Sirica takes Silbert aside in private and instructs him on how Sirica would handle a trial in which a cover-up has been suspected. Sirica later writes about this meeting in his book. [This ex parte meeting with a prosecutor is a clear breech of professional ethics. Had it become known, Sirica could not have tried the break-in case.]
January 8, 1973 — Watergate break-in trial begins before Judge Sirica. Defendants are Hunt/Liddy/McCord and four Cubans.
January 11, 1973 — Hunt pleads guilty. [His proposed plea bargain with prosecutors had involved only three counts, but Sirica, seeking to discourage any pre-trial deals, insisted that any guilty pleas be to all pending charges, so Hunt ended up pleading guilty to all six charges, which was no plea bargain at all.]
January 15, 1973 — All four Cubans plead guilty, again in concurrence with Sirica’s demand that they plead guilty to all counts. [One goal of the cover-up was to get all burglary defendants to plead guilty, thereby avoiding any actual trial — which Sirica was bound and determined to use to get at “the truth” of who was responsible for the break-in. Liddy, “the iron man of Watergate,” refused to talk to anyone. While neither testified at trial, McCord was the loose cannon. He declined any financial help and would not speak to his former colleagues. Ultimately, it was McCord and his letter to Sirica that triggered the cover-up’s collapse.]
Mid-January, 1973 — Dean later claims that this was when he destroyed Hunt’s address book and two Hermes notebooks, originally found in Hunt’s EOB safe, which Dean had separated out and stored in his office safe. [Dean hid this action from prosecutors for at least eleven (and possibly 18) months — until after he had reached a plea bargain to plead guilty to a single felony count.]
January 30, 1973 — After trial, Liddy and McCord are convicted on all counts. [Sirica expresses frustration in not being able to get to “the truth” during the trial and calls for a Senate investigation. He also submits list of people whom he demands prosecutors call before the grand jury.]
___________ Haldeman testifies before grand jury.
February 7, 1973 — Senate establishes its Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (Ervin Committee), replacing Kennedy’s investigation (which is seen as too political), on 77-0 vote. [This followed party line votes limiting the scope of their investigation solely to the 1972 presidential election. Majority members are Sam Ervin (D-NC), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Joseph Montoya (D-NM), Herman Talmadge (D-GA); Minority members are Howard Baker (R-TN), Edward Gurney (R-FL), Lowell Weicker (R-MA). Weicker claims his only interest in participating is to sink President Nixon.]
Mid-February — While Nixon is nearby in the Western White House in San Clemente, Ehrlichman and Haldeman meet with Dean and Richard Moore, another WH counsel, at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, CA to analyze and prepare for Ervin Committee hearings. [This meeting is later characterized by WSPF prosecutors as proof of Haldeman and Ehrlichman’s participation in the cover-up. The issue is, “At what point do steps taken to protect yourself politically become an obstruction of justice?”]
March 17, 1973 — Sam Dash, majority counsel, is eager to line up witnesses. He meets privately with Sirica and urges maximum sentencing with possible reduction conditioned on defendants’ cooperation with Ervin Committee. [Dash then writes about this meeting in his later book. This sort of ex parte meeting is a clear violation of existing ethical standards, let alone the questionable constitutionality of a judge conditioning sentence reduction on legislative testimony.]
IV. The Cover-up’s Collapse: The Critical Week of March 19th
The five week period between the release of the McCord letter and the departures of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean and Kleindienst mark the public unraveling of Dean’s cover-up. Nixon fights the inevitable, with all of his political skills, but ultimately agrees to fire his two top WH aides. Nixon’s many opponents and the Democratically-controlled Congress see a way to undo Nixon’s historic re-election victory by re-casting Dean as a hero.
Initially at least, Dean’s cover-up had seemed to be going rather well: Liddy was the only one who knew about his relationships with Dean and Magruder, along with the real content of those meetings in Mitchell’s office, and he had clammed up completely. Hunt and the Cubans knew nothing other than that which they’d been told by Liddy, and seemed willing to take direction from their lawyers, who were urging them not to cooperate with prosecutors. McCord, however, was a different matter entirely. He wouldn’t accept any expense money, he’d fired his initial lawyers (who were urging him to plead guilty) and he resisted any idea of casting suspicion on the CIA (which seemed heavily involved through its Liddy/Hunt connections). But McCord knew very little. While he was CRP’s head of security, McCord didn’t socialize with the rest of the CRP staff (not coming from either DOJ or the WH) and really had no idea of what else had been going on within the campaign organization.
Regardless, it was McCord who broke first. While he couldn’t add any specifics to his accusatory letter, his action triggered the cover-up’s collapse. It panicked Magruder, who sought reassurances from Dean, Mitchell and others that they would continue to stand behind his perjured testimony. When those assurances were slow in forthcoming, Magruder decided to hire his own criminal defense lawyer, who quickly urged him to seek a plea bargain by turning on Mitchell. Knowing of Magruder’s decision to seek counsel, Dean also folded his cards and actually beat Magruder in the race to seek a deal from prosecutors.
During the course of ten meetings or phone calls with prosecutors during the month of April, Dean’s story changed from “my testimony can deliver Magruder and Mitchell,” to “there was a conspiracy, which included Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Nixon.” Whereas the career prosecutors refused to give Dean immunity, the Ervin Committee and WSPF prosecutors saw Dean’s revised story as the only way to reach Nixon and his top aides – and they bought into it entirely.
March 19, 1973 — McCord, very fearful of spending time in jail, goes rogue. He delivers letter to Sirica alleging a cover-up has occurred. [McCord letter is publicly released by Sirica on March 23rd.]
__________ Ehrlichman meets that evening with Nixon, where they discuss the status of the Watergate scandal. [A review of this tape, where they are blithely unconcerned with possible developments (including McCord possibly going off the reservation), makes it difficult to believe they were knowing participants in any cover-up.]
March 20, 1973 – Following up their ex parte meeting, Sirica calls Dash to invite him to break-in sentencing hearing that coming Friday.
March 21, 1973 — Dean’s “cancer on the Presidency” meeting with Nixon, where he says they are being blackmailed by Hunt, who has demanded $135,000, in anticipation of being led off to prison after his March 23rd sentencing. Nixon discusses possibility of meeting Hunt’s monetary demands (to buy time for them to get their own story out), but no decisions are reached. [Dean did not tell Nixon about his own role in orchestrating the cover-up. Two weeks later, in meetings with prosecutors, Dean said that he’d tried to explain the situation to the President in this meeting, but that Nixon simply did not understand. For almost all of the scandal’s unfolding, the battle between prosecutors and Nixon’s defense team was over what Nixon had done after this meeting – the point at which both he and Dean agreed he’d first learned any details of a cover-up.]
___________ Nixon meets later that afternoon with Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Dean. They remain troubled by Hunt’s blackmail demand. Nixon seems to have concluded that the best way to protect themselves would be for them to release Hunt’s threatened information. Nixon’s idea was to call for a renewed investigation and require his staff to testify without claim of executive privilege. [They are going to deliver the same message the next day to Mitchell, who is coming down from NYC. The tone of the tape suggests they believe Mitchell to be hopelessly guilty, having approved the break-in in Miami, and that Nixon’s decision is seen as something equivalent to asking Mitchell to walk the plank.]
__________ At some point this same day, LaRue speaks to Mitchell and gets approval to pay that portion of Hunt’s demand that will cover his existing legal expenses, which total $75,000. [LaRue later testifies that he customarily cut defendant’s money requests and never sought permission to pay any larger amount in this instance, either. This statement completely undercuts WSPF prosecutors’ later theory that Nixon had personally approved the payment of Hunt’s blackmail demands. Since the only number Nixon heard from Dean was $135,000; if he had ordered that amount paid, no one would have dared to reduce the specified amount.]
__________ At 10pm that evening, a cash payment of $75,000 is made to William Bittman, Hunt’s criminal defense lawyer. This brings the total of such moneys paid to the burglary defendants or their counsel to $425,000. It also turns out to be the last of the monetary payments. [The timing of the payment (coming the very evening after Dean’s meeting with Nixon) is later believed by WSPF prosecutors to be a direct result of Nixon’s order that Hunt’s blackmail demand be met. WSPF documents indicate that this is what they told the grand jury and the HJC Impeachment Inquiry staff.]
March 22, 1973 — Nixon again meets with Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean – with Mitchell present for the first time — to review situation. They decide that Dean will write a report, which Nixon will then use as the basis for saying new information has come to his attention, so he is calling for a renewed investigation and will require his staff to appear without claim of executive privilege. Dean agrees to go to Camp David to devote full attention to preparing that report. In a post-meeting conversation, Nixon attempts to explain his decision to Mitchell (which contains Nixon’s famous – and misunderstood — “Stonewall” quote). [Note that if this scenario had played out, there would have been no major scandal involving WH personnel, but any such disclosures would have sunk Dean, who has committed any number of felonies while orchestrating the cover-up. This is why he couldn’t write any such report and chose to retain criminal defense counsel and to seek a plea bargain with prosecutors instead.]
March 23, 1973 — Dean goes to Camp David to prepare a report for President to use to call for renewed investigation. [This could be seen as a “Second” Dean Report. It is significant, since Dean later claimed that he’d never been asked to prepare any such Dean Report.]
__________ Sentencing hearing is held by Judge Sirica that morning, where he dramatically reads McCord’s letter. While postponing McCord’s sentencing, other defendants are provisionally sentenced to maximum prison terms (up to 35 years), with possible reduction upon cooperation with prosecutors and Ervin Committee (as Dash has secretly urged). [McCord gets the message. He and his counsel meet with Dash to discuss his Ervin Committee appearance within an hour of the sentencing hearing.]
March 26, 1973 — McCord memo outlining what Liddy had told him about his campaign intelligence plan. [Memo seems to have been prepared for Silbert team, in connection with McCord’s forthcoming grand jury appearances.]
March 27, 1973 — At Silbert’s request, Sirica grants Hunt immunity from further prosecution and he is brought back before the grand jury (where he can now no longer refuse to testify under the Fifth Amendment). [This is what Silbert had promised Hunt he would do all along. Hunt claims his Hermes notebooks, which he swears he had left in his EOB safe, will confirm all of his actions were undertaken at direction of his WH superiors.]
________ Magruder, concluding that their cover-up has collapsed in light of McCord’s letter, panics and informs Dean of his decision to retain criminal defense counsel and asks Dean for recommendations.
March 28, 1973 — Dean is recalled from Camp David by Haldeman, when he admits he is unable to produce his promised report. [He retains Democrat insider Charles Shaffer as criminal defense counsel. Shaffer had been personally recruited by Attorney General Robert Kennedy for his “Get Hoffa” squad at DOJ (where he teamed up with James Neal, who later headed WSPF’s Watergate Task Force, to prosecute two cases against Jimmy Hoffa) and was then personally dispatched to the Warren Commission staff by Robert Kennedy to ascertain whether organized crime had played any part in President Kennedy’s assassination. Dean could not have picked a lawyer who was better connected to the Kennedy family.]
________ Hunt continues to testify before grand jury
________ McCord meets with Ervin Committee in executive session (which soon leaks)
March 29, 1973 — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury.
March 30, 1973 — Ehrlichman replaces Dean as head of internal Watergate investigation and begins to interview all the involved parties. [This is later seen as another overt act in the continuing cover-up.]
April 1, 1973 — Magruder flies to Bermuda to meet with and retain Republican James Bierbower as his criminal defense counsel (upon Dean’s recommendation); informs Dean of his action.
__________ — Senator Weicker announces at press conference that CRP had paid someone to spy on nine Congressional offices in 1972.
April 2, 1973 — Shaffer has first meeting in career prosecutor’s office with Glanzer; perhaps triggered by Magruder confiding in Dean that he has retained counsel. Discussions center on Dean’s interest in obtaining immunity in exchange for his testimony. [Note that Dean wins the race to first get to the prosecutors to bargain for immunity, but only because Magruder was informing him of his own actions and because the counsel Dean recommended to Magruder was away at a convention in Bermuda.]
April 3, 1973 — Senator Ervin announces an end to any further closed sessions of his Committee (due to leaks from McCord session on March 28th).
__________ — Magruder meets again with Mitchell and LaRue, seeking reassurance regarding their continuing to support his perjured testimony. [Afterwards, he and LaRue agree there is no sense in trying to protect Mitchell anymore and that both should approach career prosecutors to seek deals. Magruder’s panic and running around like Chicken Little – begging people to help support his perjured testimony — is what really causes the cover-up to collapse.]
April 3, 1973 — Weicker publicly calls for Haldeman’s resignation due to broad range of alleged campaign abuses.
April 5, 1973 — Shaffer meets with Glanzer at his home late at night “on emergency basis”. Says Dean can “deliver Mitchell” and also “deliver Magruder”, not mentioning Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Colson or Nixon. Immunity discussions for Dean continue.
_________ — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury
_________ — Gray’s nomination as FBI Director is formally withdrawn.
_________ — Sirica grants McCord immunity from further prosecution and McCord begins testimony before grand jury. [Interestingly, prosecutors later say that McCord could not supply any specifics and was not believed by grand jurors. Thus, it was Magruder’s panic and not McCord’s letter that really triggered the cover-up’s collapse. Regardless, it was Silbert’s decision (to prosecute those whom they could convict and then see if their story changed) that brought the pressure that ended the cover-up.]
April 6 1973 — Shaffer meets with Silbert and Glanzer at their offices; again discussion centers on Dean’s interest in immunity in exchange for his testimony.
April 7, 1973 — Magruder again meets with Bierbower, but still resists telling his lawyer the whole truth.
April 8, 1973 — Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell have first face-to-face meeting with Dean at Shaffer’s offices in Rockville, Maryland. [This is an off-the-record meeting to demonstrate Dean’s potential value as a witness–to whet their interest in granting him immunity. Dean mentions payments to the break-in defendants, but does not characterize them as “hush money”, nor does he allege anything about a cover-up until after being fired on April 30th. Dean later writes that Shaffer told him that prosecutors were looking to indict him and that his only out was to start talking about a conspiracy (and thus to make himself invaluable as a witness against Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Nixon). This is key to whether the cover-up defendants received a fair trial, because this “change” in Dean’s story was not disclosed to their defense counsel, as required by Brady v Maryland.]
April 9, 1973 — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury.
_________ — The New York Times quotes sources as saying McCord has told grand jury that Ken Parkinson, CRP’s attorney, had channeled money to defendants after break-in.
_________ — Mollenhoff meets with Magruder, telling him that he cannot avoid being indicted. [Mollenhoff later claims this meeting convinced Magruder to confess all to his newly retained counsel.]
_________ — (Evening) Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell again meet with Dean and Shaffer at Shaffer’s offices in Rockville, MD.
April 10, 1973 — Washington Post reports that McCord and the Cubans had received monthly payments in exchange for silence.
_________ — Magruder meets with Bierbower and his associate, Jim Sharp, fully disclosing his involvement with the Liddy campaign intelligence plan and subsequent cover-up.
_________ — Shaffer telephones Silbert to say Dean is thinking of approaching Attorney General Richard Kleindienst directly to discuss a grant of immunity.
April 11, 1973 — Dwight Chapin and Gordon Strachan testify before grand jury.
_________ — (Evening) Sharp calls Silbert to discuss immunity for Magruder. [This is Magruder’s first contact with prosecutors. His dawdling has allowed Dean to get there a full week ahead, on April 2nd.]
April 12, 1973 — Washington Post reports McCord has testified that Liddy told him that wiretap transcripts had been provided to Mitchell.
_________ — Bierbower and Sharp meet with Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell to discuss immunity for Magruder in exchange for his testimony.
_________ — Shaffer meets with Glanzer and Silbert, confides Dean’s embezzlement of CRP campaign funds (of some $4,000), saying he wants them to hear it from him before they learned it from Strachan.
April 13, 1973 — Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell meet with Magruder at Bierbower’s offices. [Meeting includes an overview presented by Magruder on an off-the-record basis as an indication of his value as a witness. Silbert calls Sharp that evening to offer a plea to a single felony count, which is accepted by Magruder later that night. Magruder has now leap-frogged over Dean, to be the first to achieve a plea bargain – but Magruder is not a lawyer and has not retained one who is as wise in the ways of political Washington, as is Dean’s lawyer, Shaffer.]
April 14, 1973 — (Saturday) Ehrlichman delivers the report on his own Watergate investigation to Nixon, with Haldeman present. He meets with Kleindienst the following day to share the same information with him.
_________ — Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell spend five hours at Bierbower’s offices debriefing Magruder, who then goes to WH to meet with Ehrlichman, where he volunteers details of his cooperation with prosecutors.
_________ — (Evening) Henry Petersen, head of the Criminal Division, confers with US Attorney Harold Titus, Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell; learns of Dean and Magruder allegations concerning Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Petersen drafts “brief statement” for Nixon, which he then discusses with Kleindienst.
_________ — Shaffer later meets with Glanzer at his home to discuss various developments in Watergate case. [Shaffer’s exceptionally close friendship with Glanzer is troubling, as is his even closer relationship with James Neal, who becomes head of WSPF’s Watergate Task Force. Largely because of these connections, Dean’s role is really never closely investigated.]
April 15, 1973 — (Sunday) Petersen and Kleindienst obtain face-to-face meeting with Nixon, where they present their “brief statement” describing Magruder and Dean allegations and urge immediate discharge of Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Kleindienst recuses himself from further involvement due to his closeness with Mitchell.
_________ — Dean and Shaffer meet with Silbert and Glanzer at Shaffer’s office. [Silbert announces he has informed Petersen of Dean’s allegations. Dean discloses confidential information regarding Plumbers break-in obtained in his role as counsel to the President. This is also the timeframe where Dean voluntarily discloses other events, unconnected with Watergate, in his pursuit of immunity. These become known as the “White House Horrors” and include the NSC Wiretaps, the Huston Plan, the Dairy Price Supports, and the Townhouse Project)]
_________ — Magruder meets with O’Brien, another CRP lawyer, and volunteers details of his cooperation with career prosecutors; O’Brien gets him to “X” a statement clearing O’Brien. O’Brien telephones Silbert; Silbert telephones Sharp to get him to shut Magruder up. Silbert states they want Magruder to enter plea the following Tuesday (April 17th). Concern is that Sirica may incarcerate Magruder immediately, so they agree to discuss again the next day. [Due to fear of immediate incarceration by Sirica if he pleads guilty, Magruder does not formally enter guilty plea until August 16th].
April 16, 1973 — David Young, co-head of Plumber Unit testifies before grand jury (on Plumbers break-in into Dr. Fielding’s office). [Young cooperates with prosecutors from the outset. He is given immunity and is never indicted for his role as co-plumber. Later, he frustrates WSPF Plumber Task Force members, because he continues to insist (and to testify) that the government had every right to search Fielding’s files on Daniel Ellsberg in the name of national security. He does not defend the method they used, which he says was not his responsibility; only that the government had a right to do so.]
_________ — LaRue meets with Silbert and confesses his role in cover-up. [LaRue had acted as paymaster, disbursing monetary payments to defendants and their counsel.]
_________ — Silbert informs Peterson of Fielding break-in.
_________ — (Morning) Dean meets with Nixon, discusses case developments and the form of his letter of resignation. [The entire tone of this taped conversation suggests Dean was certain that Nixon knew no more than Dean had told him on March 21st.]
_________ — Petersen meets with Nixon, to discuss possible immunity for Dean, which Nixon rejects as improper for any senior staff member. Petersen urges Nixon to meet with Dean. [Nixon’s motive in rejecting any immunity deals for any of his staff has been questioned: Was he really interested in no one getting off easily or was he intent on preserving his pardon authority as the only possible out for staff members?]
_________ — (Afternoon) Dean meets with Nixon for last time. [Nixon later claims to Petersen that Dean has claimed that he already has been promised immunity (which Petersen denies).]
April 17, 1973 — At news conference, Nixon announces “major new developments” in Watergate case and states that WH staff will appear voluntarily before Ervin Committee, under oath and without claim of executive privilege. He also discloses his meetings with Petersen, states new developments with real progress are being made in the investigation and implies that indictments are imminent. He adds that he has expressed the view that immunity should not be given to current or past members of his administration. [A little late, but this is what Nixon had wanted to do after his March 21st meeting with Dean, when he first learned any specifics regarding the cover-up.]
April 18, 1973 — Nixon telephones Petersen, who discloses knowledge of Plumbers break-in and urges Nixon to disclose details to Judge Byrne, then presiding over the Ellsberg prosecution in California. Nixon rejects idea at this time.
_________ — LaRue testifies before grand jury.
April 19, 1973 — Nixon meets with Petersen for an hour, who again urges disclosure to Judge Byrne. Kleindienst calls to concur and Nixon ultimately concedes.
_________ — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury.
_________ — Dean issues statement that he “will not be a scapegoat” in Watergate scandal. [Denny handwritten notes have the original prosecutors remembering this, saying, “Dean becomes antagonistic to E & H [Ehrlichman and Haldeman], whereas before he had given impression the H was clean & was restrained as to E’s involvement. This was around time of “scapegoat” statement by Dean.” Again, this substantial change in Dean’s story was never shared with defense counsel, as clearly required by law.]
________ — Glanzer telephones Shaffer to confirm no immunity deal has been reached for Dean (as requested by Petersen following his Nixon meeting). Silbert writes memo to Petersen confirming that no deal on immunity has been reached with Dean.
April 20, 1973 — Mitchell and Kalmbach testify before grand jury.
_________ — Nixon twice talks with Petersen by phone.
_________ — Shaffer telephones Silbert to say that Dash has called and wants to meet with Dean on an informal basis. [This is Shaffer’s way of playing the prosecutors off against the Ervin Committee to see who will give his client the best immunity deal.]
_________ — Washington Post and The New York Times run separate stories reporting payments were made to Watergate defendants.
_________ — Ehrlichman and Haldeman jointly retain John Wilson as their criminal defense counsel.
April 22, 1973 — (Sunday) Dean vacates his WH office over the weekend, boxing up many counsel files for later negotiation with career prosecutors in attempt to bargain for personal immunity. [Later, some of these files are given to Sirica. When WH seeks their return, he orders copies distributed to prosecutors and to Ervin Committee.]
April 23 1973 — Nixon speaks three times with Petersen by phone.
_________ — Under District Court order in a separate civil suit, CRP’s Finance Committee is required to turn over lists of pre-April 7, 1972 campaign contributions (which had not been required under federal law). [The existence of this list is later used by WSPF prosecutors to justify why they only went after CRP donations and not Humphrey campaign donations (where they claimed that they had no list)]
_________ — (Evening) Shaffer meets with Silbert and Glanzer. Glanzer later tells WSPF prosecutors, “By this time, discussions had turned into a political game. Dean was bargaining with Senate for immunity and the prosecutor’s attempts at agreeing on a plea were in vain.” [Denny/Rient memo]
April 24, 1973 — Nixon talks with Petersen by phone.
April 25, 1973 — Nixon talks with Petersen by phone.
April 26, 1973 — Nixon twice talks with Petersen by phone.
_________ — Magruder resigns from Department of Commerce.
_________ — Press stories appear claiming Gray had destroyed documents given to him by the WH.
April 27, 1973 — Nixon twice talks with Petersen by phone.
_________ — Gray resigns as acting FBI director; WH announces Bill Ruckelshaus nomination as replacement.
_________ — Judge Byrne reveals Silbert memo saying Hunt and Liddy had burglarized Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office.
_________ — Ehrlichman interviewed by FBI about Fielding break-in, results of which are later released to Judge Byrne.
April 28, 1973 — Nixon twice speaks with Petersen by phone. [After some nineteen such discussions, in person or by phone, Petersen succeeds in convincing Nixon that he has to fire Haldeman and Ehrlichman.]
April 29. 1973 — Shaffer calls Glanzer at home to discuss status of Watergate case.
April 30, 1973 — Nixon announces resignations of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Kleindienst, as well as Dean’s termination, and the nomination of Elliott Richardson, then Secretary of Defense, as his new Attorney General. Nixon adds that he has given Richardson permission to appoint “a special supervising prosecutor”. [Nixon knows that Richardson has presidential ambitions and believes that positioning someone between him and Henry Petersen might be helpful in determining just who is going to be indicted. This idea boomerangs on Nixon, as Richardson soon cedes all supervision to an independent special prosecutor, whose office soon employs almost a hundred people.]
_________ — Krogh takes leave of absence as Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Young resigns from NSC, and Strachan resigns as general counsel of USIA.
_________ — Titus forwards Silbert’s memo to Richardson saying Watergate case is being vigorously pursued and urging that career prosecutors be allowed to remain in charge.
V. Ervin Committee and Special Prosecutor Investigations
Dean’s criminal defense lawyer, Charles Shaffer, whom Glanzer describes as “a brilliant and resourceful attorney,” strings prosecutors along while he negotiates an immunity deal with the Ervin Committee. The Ervin Committee, in turn, will make Dean out to be a hero, in order to add drama to its hearings and to justify its grant of immunity.
The need to confirm a new Attorney General comes back to bite Nixon when the Democratically-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Ted Kennedy, refuses to confirm Richardson unless he appoints a special prosecutor of their choice (who turns out to be Archibald Cox), who is given “total and unreviewed independence” from DOJ.
This absolute power quickly becomes abusive, as Cox (who had been an integral part of JFK’s 1960 campaign, served as solicitor general under RFK, and counselled Ted Kennedy during his lead opposition to Nixon’s Supreme Court nominees) hires more than fifteen of his former colleagues from the Kennedy/Johnson DOJ and announces his intent to investigate every aspect of the Nixon administration.
What followed was a constitutional inversion, where the very lawyers who were removed from office by Nixon’s 1968 election now wielded independent authority to investigate and prosecute the duly elected administration, which was powerless to stop them or even to launch investigations of its own.
Highly partisan Watergate Special Prosecution Force prosecutors quickly bought into the “Dean as hero” approach, since he is their only path to reaching Nixon and his top aides. They also played Sirica like a fiddle, getting him to buy into the idea of Dean’s relative lack of culpability.
May 1, 1973 — Summary of 4/27 FBI interview of Ehrlichman given to Ellsberg counsel by Judge Byrne, who then make it public.
_________ — Dash cheers up Ervin staff, who believe announced resignations have co-opted Ervin hearings, pointing out there have been no indictments and any trials are a long way off. [Later, suspicions are raised that WSPF prosecutors deliberately held off the cover-up indictments for ten months, so that the Ervin Committee could continue its more politicized “legislative trial.”]
May 2, 1973 — The New York Times reports Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Dean, Magruder and LaRue had coordinated the cover-up and all were expected to be indicted in the near future.
_________ — Hunt continues and Magruder begins to testify before grand jury.
_________ — Members of Senate Judiciary Committee publicly call on Richardson to appoint a special prosecutor (as offered by Nixon in April 30th speech).
_________ — Ervin Committee votes to request Richardson make raw FBI files available to all Committee members. [Weicker had been precluded under Kleindienst’s prior decision to only allow access to chairman and ranking member. This put him in a far better position to learn more about the FBI’s investigation – and to leak his discoveries.]
_________ — Judge Byrne acknowledges having had second meeting with Ehrlichman and confirms their discussion centered on his possible appointment as FBI Director.
_________ — Ehrlichman has second FBI interview concerning Fielding break-in.
_________ — (Evening) Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell meet with Dean and Shaffer at Shaffer’s Rockville office from 9:30pm to 2am. [They later say that it was at this meeting that Dean first began to focus on Nixon, “thus changing dramatically from his previous stance.” [Denny/Rient memo]. Again, the lack of disclosure of this observation to defense counsel stains the impartiality of the entire cover-up prosecution.]
May 3, 1973 — Ehrlichman and Haldeman testify before grand jury.
_________ — Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell again meet with Dean at Shaffer’s Rockville office. Shaffer says Dean has highly classified documents that were in his possession when he was terminated (probably another reference to the White House Horrors, particularly the Huston Plan and the NSC wire tapes). Prosecutors decline to grant Dean any immunity, saying his best course of action is to appear before the grand jury and tell his story. [This is key. After all is said and done, Silbert and his team of career prosecutors decline to enter into a plea bargain with Dean, since they have concluded that his role was so central to the wrongdoing. The Ervin Committee, desperate for its own witnesses, along with the highly politicized special prosecutors, will reach the opposite conclusion, since they see Dean as their only path of reaching Haldeman, Ehrlichman and the President himself.]
_________ — (Evening) Weicker meets with Dean and Shaffer at Shaffer’s Rockville office. Dash says Shaffer later admitted purpose of meeting was to feel Weicker out about getting immunity for Dean from the Ervin Committee. [Immunity grants required a 2/3rds vote by Committee members, so Weicker’s role was critical. Weicker, who was already Dean’s neighbor in Old Town Alexandria, later bought Dean’s home, which enabled Dean to relocate to Los Angeles.]
May 4, 1973 — Weiker approaches Dash and Ervin with startling revelations from Dean about the two meetings in Mitchell’s office concerning Liddy’s intelligence plan.
_________ — Frampton’s inventory of prosecutorial documents notes McCord gave statement about “’pressure” on him to plead guilty to avoid the break-in trial before Sirica.
_________ — Dean files document with Sirica containing keys to safe deposit box he says contains Watergate-related documents (which really appear to be counsel files he purloined from Ehrlichman’s old files that had been stored in Dean’s WH office.).
_________ — Ervin Committee staff interviews Ehrlichman in executive session, prepares 33 page summary, which is leaked on July 11.
_________ — Ervin Committee staff interviews Haldeman in executive session, summary of which is leaked on July 13.
_________ — (Evening) Shaffer calls Glanzer at home to inform him that Dean will not testify before grand jury the following day, as had been agreed, stating that he will testify instead before Ervin Committee under grant of immunity.
May 5, 1973 — Alexander Haig, then the Army’s vice chief of staff, becomes “temporary” WH chief of staff.
May 7, 1973 — Ervin writes Richardson asking him to allow any Committee member or their staff to have access to summary FBI reports on Watergate investigations.
_________ — Newsweek reports that Dean will testify he now believes Nixon knew of cover-up.
_________ — Richardson announces decision to appoint special prosecutor, offering Senate Judiciary Committee the opportunity to evaluate and informally confirm his choice.
May 8, 1973 — Ervin Committee holds tentative vote to grant Dean immunity. Weicker supplies critical Republican vote necessary to achieve required two-thirds majority
_________ — Ervin Committee announces public hearings will begin May 17 and that it will compel testimony from Dean under grant of immunity.
_________ — Colson interviewed by FBI about Plumbers break-in.
_________ — Columbia University awards Pulitzer Prize to Washington Post for its 1972 Watergate coverage
May 9, 1973 — In testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee on his confirmation, Richardson insists on retaining ultimate responsibility for overseeing work of special prosecutor, but later is forced to recede.
_________ — Ehrlichman again testifies before grand jury.
_________ — Krogh officially resigns as Undersecretary of Department of Transportation (following revelations about Plumbers break-in).
_________ — Washington Post reports Garment (who has taken over as counsel to the President) has begun legal effort to retrieve sensitive WH files taken by Dean.
_________ — Ervin Committee releases tentative list of witnesses (in expected order) including Rob Odle, McCord, Hunt, Liddy, Magruder, Colson, Dean, Herb Kalmbach, Maurice Stans, Mitchell, Gray, Ehrlichman and Haldeman.
_________ — (Evening) Nixon makes speech to “New Majority” fundraising dinner in DC, text released to public.
_________ — (Evening) Dash meets Dean and Shaffer in Shaffer’s Rockville office. Meeting lasts until 2am. [Both later claim this is their first meeting, which is problematic since Silbert’s memo places Ervin Committee competition over Dean as emerging on or about April 20th. Discussion is said to center on importance of Dean having immunity, which also is doubtful since Ervin Committee held informal vote granting such immunity the day prior. Perhaps effort here is to avoid admitting that Dean’s lawyer was bargaining with Committee for immunity while he was still employed as counsel to the President.]
May 10, 1973 — Dean issues statement through counsel that he will testify truthfully, saying WH did have discussions about ending Watergate, but they always ended in the decision not to tell the truth. [Here, the false impression is created that Dean was advocating full disclosure, when he was actually the one resisting it because it would highlight his role as leading the cover-up. There were many opportunities, as the scandal grew worse, where WH disclosure would have been beneficial. Ehrlichman in particular was an advocate of fuller disclosure, but this was always resisted by Dean.]
_________ — Senator Ervin characterizes public hearings (to begin on May 17th) as “the most important investigation ever entrusted to the Congress.”
_________ — Mitchell and Stans indicted by New York-based grand jury in the Robert Vesco case. [Vesco was accused of making a $200,000 campaign contribution in exchange for the SEC being lenient in its investigation of Investors Overseas Services].
_________ — Fred Buzhardt, former general counsel of Department of Defense, is named special counsel to the President, concentrating solely on Watergate matters.
_________ — Dash calls Silbert, who complains about leaks from Ervin Committee critical of Silbert’s investigation, as well as publication of Dash comments concerning their April 20th meeting that was to be off-the-record. Leaks are attributed to Terry Lentzner of Dash’s staff. Dash also tells Silbert the Committee will proceed with public hearings, but states this may be re-evaluated if cover-up indictments are forthcoming. [Indictments would have ended any idea of defendants testifying before the Ervin Committee, which is probably why WSPF prosecutors held off issuing them for ten months – well after the Ervin Committee had ended its own “legislative trial”.]
_________ — Summary of Colson’s May 8th FBI interview given to Ellsberg defense counsel by Judge Byrne, who then make it public.
_________ — (Evening) Dash again meets with Dean and Shaffer in Shaffer’s Rockville office, meeting again lasts until 2am.
May 11, 1973 — Judge Byrne dismisses all charges against Ellsberg due to “government misconduct”.
May 13, 1973 — Jack Caulfield takes leave of absence from Treasury, where he had been Assistant Director of ATF.
_________ — Dash again meets with Dean and Shaffer in Shaffer’s Rockville office.
May 14, 1973 — Newsweek prints interview with Dean in which he denies ever being asked to render any Dean Report to Nixon (as had been announced by the President on August 29, 1972).
_________ — Sirica takes possession of offered portion of Dean’s WH counsel papers, orders copies given to prosecutors and to Ervin Committee. [Again, these seem to concern the infamous “White House Horrors” which have nothing to do with the Watergate burglary]
_________ — Richardson informs Senate Judiciary of four names under consideration (Harold Tyler, David Peck, both then Federal Judges in New York; William Erickson of Colorado Supreme Court, and Warren Christopher, former Deputy Attorney General in Johnson Administration). [He adds that he is in no way discussing this appointment with anyone at the WH.[
_________ — Ehrlichman and Haldeman again testify before grand jury.
May 15, 1973 — Richardson informs Senate Judiciary that Judge Tyler has turned down the special prosecutor position.
_________ — Ervin Committee formally votes to ask Sirica to grant Dean immunity to testify before that committee. [This is believed to be the very first use of Congressional immunity, which was a crime fighting innovation included in the Organized Crime Prevention Act of 1970, which Dean had worked on while he was at DOJ.]
_________ — Dash meets with Dean and Shaffer in Dean’s home in Old Town Alexandria.
May 16, 1973 — Richardson informs Senate Judiciary that Christopher has turned down the special prosecutor position, due to lack of total independence. [Judiciary committee members are quoted in the press as saying his nomination is in trouble and he cannot be confirmed without agreeing to total independence for special prosecutor]
_________ — Dash writes Silbert requesting all materials developed in their investigation into thirty named individuals be provided to Ervin Committee staff.
_________ — Buzhardt meets at DOJ with Petersen, Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell to discuss prosecutor’s demands for WH documents and any recorded phone conversations.
_________ — Dash again meets with Dean and Shaffer in Dean’s home in Old Town Alexandria. [In his later book, Dash boasts about having helped to draft Dean’s 240 page opening statement before the Ervin Committee during these meetings. The Committee’s political decision to cast Dean as the hero of Watergate, in contrast to the original prosecutors’ decision not to, has had long term impact on our misunderstanding of the Watergate scandal.]
_________ — Young testifies before grand jury.
May 17, 1973 — First day of public hearings by Ervin Committee; Odle and Kehrli testify as to CRP and WH organization. [Sheppard’s name comes up in first question of Kehrli.]
_________ — Richardson offers special prosecutor position to Archibald Cox, who is reported by Boston Globe to have been Kennedy’s choice all along.
May 18, 1973 — McCord testifies before Ervin Committee.
_________ — Cox informs Richardson he will accept the position, as long as he has unlimited scope to investigate and is not constrained only to Watergate. Richardson announces proposed appointment to Senate Judiciary Committee.
_________ — Petersen circulates memo to all Criminal Division section chiefs requesting identification of matters that could fall within Special Prosecutor’s jurisdiction.
May 19, 1973 — Richardson submits agreed-upon Guidelines to Senate Judiciary Committee, promising special prosecutor will have “full, unreviewed independence”. [The result is constitutionally suspect: it will soon become apparent that what Richardson has done is to cede to a team of some hundred people, led by Democrats from the Kennedy/Johnson DOJ, the unfettered right to investigate the entire Nixon presidency, which they proceed to do. Indeed, Vorenberg announced at their first press conference that they would investigate every allegation of wrong-doing made against the Nixon administration – and asked the public to submit any suggestions.]
_________ — GAO reports that Kalmbach raised at least $210,000 for Watergate defendants, plus transfer of $350,000 from the WH.
May 20, 1973 — Ervin on ABC’s Issues and Answers criticizes DOJ for waiting until after election to bring the break-in defendants to trial – neglecting to mention that this was a decision made solely by Judge Sirica, who refused to allow his back injury to interfere with his intent to preside over the break-in trial.
May 21, 1973 — Senator Symington releases Vernon Walter’s CIA memo describing the June 23, 1972 meeting at the WH, wherein the CIA was asked to request the FBI to postpone interviews of Ken Dahlberg and David Ogarrio. [This shows that the effort to get the CIA to influence the FBI investigation was well known before release of the Smoking Gun. The only item not made public was Nixon’s own involvement in that decision.]
_________ — Richardson and Cox appear jointly before Senate Judiciary Committee to review and discuss special prosecutor position, as well as proposed Guidelines for Special Prosecutor.
_________ — Peterson sends Silbert the Office of Legal Counsel’s analysis of resolution of any disputes between Legislative and Executive Branches regarding grants of immunity.
May 22, 1973 — Third day of Ervin Committee hearings, continuation of McCord, plus Caulfield.
_________ — Nixon issues 4,000 word statement, admitting a cover-up occurred, but denying any personal complicity.
_________ — Silbert replies to Dash that DOJ has policy of not turning grand jury information over to Congress without court approval, but says ultimate decision will be made by Cox after assuming office. [This later will be a key issue in the propriety of the grand jury’s transmittal of the “Roadmap” to the House of Representatives on March 1, 1974.]
_________ — Titus letter to Dean saying he is target of grand jury investigation and there will be no grant of immunity by DOJ. Offers deal on single felony count, which Dean rejects.
_________ — The New York Times reports that Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell are posed to resign over appointment of Special Prosecutor, but have postponed action pending meeting with Cox, scheduled for following day.
May 22-23, 1973 — Ehrlichman gives 187 page deposition in DNC v McCord civil suit, which is made public on June 5.
May 23, 1973 — Fourth day of Ervin Committee hearings (Caulfield, Tony Ulasewicz, Gerald Alch).
_________ — Senate Judiciary Committee votes to recommend Richardson’s confirmation as attorney general.
_________ — Cox meets with Titus, Silbert, et al, telling them they need to stay until he is up to speed.
May 24, 1973 — Fifth day of Ervin Committee hearings (Alch, Bernard Barker, Alfred Baldwin).
_________ — Petersen forwards his section chief reports identifying possible pending cases of interest to special prosecutor to Cox.
_________ — Titus issues press release announcing the career prosecutors had met with Cox and been urged to stay on the Watergate case, adding that a comprehensive indictment could be expected within 60-90 days. [Point here is that the cover-up investigation was all but finished before Cox’s appointment as Special Prosecutor, which politicized the entire investigation. WSPF prosecutors quickly removed the career prosecutors and also postponed any cover-up indictments for ten months, while they investigated other aspects of the Nixon presidency.]
_________ — DOJ later releases Cox letter to Titus saying “as soon as I have taken office in the Department, I would of course expect to be consulted before any decisions are made”. [Cox is legitimately worried that the career prosecutors, who’ve already broken the case, will seek indictments before Cox even has a chance to get started.]
May 25, 1973 — Richardson sworn in as attorney general at WH ceremony; immediately appoints Cox as special prosecutor in subsequent ceremony at DOJ, which is attended by Ethel Kennedy, Senator Edward Kennedy and top Kennedy assistant, James Flug.
_________ — Cox memo to Petersen requesting copies of records of any instructions, oral or written, to Titus concerning Watergate investigation.
_______ — Senator Herman Tallmadge (Ervin Committee member) tells reporters the Committee should focus on question of Nixon’s involvement and remove the cloud of uncertainty-in contrast with Ervin, who was reported to favor a more gradual, circumspect development of the evidence. [Dash later wrote that he was advised by Senator Kennedy’s staff, who had been conducting their own investigation since the previous September, that the Ervin Committee should go slowly, to let pressures build against Nixon. WSPF prosecutors soon reach that same conclusion.]
May 27, 1973 — Cox meets with fellow Harvard Law professors, James Vorenberg and Philip Heymann, who become his top lieutenants as associate special prosecutors.
May 28, 1973 — (Memorial Day Monday) Cox first meeting with members of the press (Neiman Fellows’ reunion at Harvard, with both Anthony Lewis and James Doyle attending). Later, spends the afternoon in review session with Vorenberg, Heymann and Flug, who advocates a wide scope for WSPF investigations. [Vorenberg’s extensive notes from this afternoon session are among his papers at the Harvard Law Library]
_________ — Release of Newsweek magazine (cover dated June 4), which reports grand jury has agreed to indict Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Magruder.
May 29, 1973 — Cox, Flug, Vorenberg and Heymann return to Washington, DC. James Neal arrives from Tennessee. [Neal is close friend of Dean’s lawyer, Charles Shaffer. They both served in DOJ’s “Get Hoffa” squad and tried two cases in Tennessee against Hoffa. It is possible that it was Shaffer who recommended Neal be retained as lead WSPF trial counsel. The closeness of these two lawyers assured that Dean would receive special treatment by WSPF prosecutors. After all, Dean is seen as only path to Nixon, so WSPF prosecutors fully buy into his story.]
_________ — (circa) Cox letter to Titus, et al, concerning reporting relationships. Earlier draft shows Cox had “explicitly disapproved” Titus issuing any statement.
May 31, 1973 — Memorandum to Cox from John Hart Ely, another HLS colleague, discussing whether a sitting president can be indicted while still in office and deciding in the affirmative.
June 6 1973 — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury
________ Cox submits 13 page brief to Sirica, who is hearing Ervin Committee’s application for Dean’s immunity, urging he condition approval on their ending public hearings so that they don’t taint the jury pool and make the cover-up case un-prosecutable. Sirica, who has already called for the creation of the Ervin Committee, decides to face that potential problem once indictments are handed down. [Cox’s main point, that public hearings will taint the jury pool, is most valid — but airily dismissed as a concern when cover-up indictments are handed down some ten months later.]
June 8, 1973 — Colson and Ehrlichman continue to testify before grand jury
June 12, 1973 — Sirica formally orders use immunity for Dean and Magruder, as voted by Ervin Committee
June 14, 1973 — Magruder testifies before Ervin Committee under grant of immunity.
June 15, 1973 – First WSPF press conference, wherein Vorenberg states “Many leads and suggestions have come to us . . . we will pursue them all. We are, at the outset, taking a broad view of the Special Prosecutor’s jurisdiction.” [One of the key WSPF actions was postponing the cover-up indictments (which had been promised by career prosecutions in 60-90 days) for nine months, so that the Ervin Committee hearings could go forward.]
________ Cox formally appoints Neal to head the Watergate Task Force and watch over Silbert’s ongoing investigations, informs Silbert and asks Neal for daily briefing of their activities. [Silbert’s team has broken the cover-up and Cox seems worried that they might go ahead and indict cover-up defendants.]
June 18, 1973 — Heymann memo to Cox, et al, detailing advantages of allowing Ervin Committee hearings to continue unabated. [This is key, because by postponing the cover-up indictments (which were virtually done), which would have effectively prevented prominent witnesses from appearing before the Ervin Committee, WSPF prosecutors allowed a “legislative trial” to go forward.]
__________LaRue testifies before grand jury under informal grant of immunity.
June 19, 1973 — Associated Press reports that Cox met privately with Sirica “After Cox met with newsmen, he conferred privately for 15 minutes with U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica and Sirica, without further explanation, scheduled a hearing for today.” [Ex parte meetings between judges and counsel for only one side are essentially banned by legal codes of ethics.]
June 25, 1973 — Dean begins testimony before Ervin Committee, saying Nixon knew as early as September 15, 1972 of cover-up. While never saying so directly, Dean’s 240 page statement is seen as accusing Nixon, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman of knowing participation in CRP cover-up. [It is Dean’s carefully choreographed testimony (all coordinated in advance with Dash) that electrifies the Nation and turns the Ervin Committee hearings into “must see” TV. In reading Dean’s statement today, it is noticeable that he never explicitly accuses Nixon of any wrongdoing.]
June 27, 1973 — Buzhardt submits memo to Ervin Committee detailing Dean’s cover-up involvement and posing appropriate questions. Senator Montoya is assigned task of asking Dean about allegations, which he simply reads aloud. [The net effect is that Dean’s role in the cover-up is never explored in any detail by the Committee.]
________ — LaRue pleads guilty to single felony count of obstruction of justice; WSPF releases letter assuring his lawyer of no further charges and urging judge to allow on bail until after his testimony in the cover-up trial.
June 30, 1973 — Silbert, Glanzer and Campbell formally withdraw from Watergate investigation. [Freed from the burdens of their intimate knowledge of the Watergate scandal, newly-arrived WSPF prosecutors build their whole case on Dean’s revised story, making him the centerpiece of their prosecution — and ending any thought of investigating his own cover-up involvement.]
_________ — US Troop strength in Vietnam falls below 200 and remains so for remainder of the Nixon Presidency.
July 1, 1973 — LaRue testifies before Ervin Committee.
A. Battle over the WH Tapes
Alex Butterfield’s revelation of a WH taping system set off an instant legal pursuit, along with the false impression that the tapes themselves would certainly resolve any ambiguities regarding Nixon’s culpability and that of his senior aides.
Unlike a Hollywood movie, however, the tapes did not end the uncertainty. Much of Watergate took place “off stage” where nothing was recorded and recollections devolved into “he said, she said” differences. When finally released (and some still remain unreleased), they turned out to contain tantalizing hints of what might have happened, but they also turned out to be of such poor quality that transcribers “reached” for the words they hoped had been uttered – and transcripts changed significantly, depending on who was doing the transcription.
As with much of Watergate, the public’s understanding of the four or five key tapes is amazingly incorrect.
July 13, 1973 — Alex Butterfield tells Ervin Committee staff about the existence of the WH taping system. He was then subpoenaed to testify before the full Committee on Monday morning.
July 14, 1973 — Silent Coup later asserts that Haig learned of Butterfield’s revelation on Saturday night, but did not inform Nixon until Monday morning, when it was too late to quash the subpoena for Butterfield’s appearance.
July 16, 1973 — Butterfield testifies before Ervin Committee, publicly disclosing existence of WH taping system. [Nixon was in Bethesda Naval Hospital with pneumonia. His Memoirs describe the division of opinion on whether to destroy the tapes once their existence became known. In view of this conflicting advice, Nixon hesitated and subpoenas soon followed.]
July 18, 1973 — Newspapers report a second private meeting between Cox and Sirica. [Defendants later use reports of these two meetings in their effort to have Sirica replaced as trial judge – but to no avail.]
July 17, 1973 — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury
July 19, 1973 — Gray testifies before grand jury
July 20, 1973 — Gray continues to testify before grand jury.
July 20, 1973 — Liddy refuses to take oath as witness before House Armed Services Committee investigative hearing.
July 23, 1973 — Cox has grand jury subpoena tapes of eight specific presidential conversations (later clarified to include a ninth). Ervin Committee authorizes subpoenas of all materials relating to criminal acts in connection with the 1972 presidential election. Sirica demands grand jurors appear in his court to officialize their subpoena. [Cox’s subpoena is upheld by DC Circuit, which rejects Ervin Committee’s parallel subpoena as violation of Separation of Powers.]
July 24, 1973 — Ehrlichman testifies before Ervin Committee, asserting that Fielding break-in was legal and undertaken for national security purposes.
July 25, 1973 — Buzhardt informs Sirica that Nixon will not comply with WSPF tape subpoena.
August 3, 1973 — Bittman testifies before grand jury.
August 7, 1973 — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury
August 8, 1973 — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury.
August 13, 1973 — Grand Jury II empaneled to investigate non-Watergate matters, including campaign contributions, political espionage, Plumbers and ITT. The sole focus of Grand Jury I remains on Watergate.
August 14, 1973 — Hunt continues to testify before grand jury.
August 16, 1973 — Magruder formally pleads to single felony count
August 22, 1973 — Young continues to testify before grand jury.
August 23, 1973 — Petersen and Young testify before grand jury
August 29, 1973 — Sirica orders WH compliance with grand jury subpoena for nine tapes.
September 10, 1973 — Ehrlichman testifies before grand jury.
September 11 1973 — Oral arguments before DC Circuit on grand jury subpoena for nine WH tapes.
_________ Ehrlichman continues to testify before grand jury
September 13 1973 — Ehrlichman continues to testify before grand jury.
_________DC Circuit issues unanimous memorandum urging parties to settle the tape subpoena issue out of court, asking for response by September 20. Cox submits six-page proposal to WH for tape summaries with third-party authentication, but no agreement is reached with WH attorneys. [Cox’s six page proposal description is in WSPF files at National Archives.]
September 18, 1973 — First of two WSPF interviews of career prosecutors (Glanzer and Campbell) regarding their initial meetings with Dean and his counsel (Shaffer) during April, as Dean sought to become a government witness. [Interviews were done by WSPF attorneys Peter Rient and Judith Denny, in anticipation of negotiating Dean’s plea bargain. Their concern was that the career prosecutors had inadvertently given Dean informal immunity during their many sessions. Denny took handwritten notes, which were memorialized in a formal memo dated November 15th. Her notes and the formalized memo contain numerous exculpatory statements by Dean that should have been turned over to defense counsel.]
September 20, 1973 – WH and WSPF prosecutors inform DC Circuit that they cannot reach a compromise on the grand jury subpoena for the nine WH tapes, but decline to disclose the nature of their discussions.
October, 1973 — Worried that Sirica’s questionable rulings will result in any convictions where he has presided at trial being overturned by the DC Circuit on appeal, Cox meets privately with Chief Judge David Bazelon and suggests hearing all appeals from Sirica cases with the appellate court sitting en banc from the outset (sua sponte en banc), such that Bazelon’s liberal bloc would always be in the majority and there could be no chance of an unfortunate reversal. [Bazelon appears to have taken Cox’s advice to heart, since all twelve appeals from Sirica’s criminal Watergate trials being heard sua sponte en banc. In contrast, none of the four appeals from Judge Gesell’s criminal Watergate trials were heard in that manner. The appalling thing is that at the height of the Watergate scandal and WSPF efforts to get Nixon “at all cost”, prosecutorial and judicial corruption reached even to the DC Circuit court.]
October 1, 1973 — Segretti pleads guilty to three felony counts of distributing illegal campaign literature before Judge Gesell.
_________ Rose Woods informs Nixon that she has inadvertently caused a five minute erasure while transcribing one of the tapes. [Buzhardt concludes that it is not a subpoenaed tape, but the subpoena is later clarified to include it (hence the original eight subpoenaed tapes become nine – and the erasure becomes far more consequential)].
October 10, 1973 — Second of two WSPF interviews of Glanzer and Campbell. First was on September 18th. Denny’s handwritten notes say “H was clean and E’s involvement was restrained.” [Results of both interviews were memorialized on November 15th, but Denny’s handwritten notation is edited away. It now reads, “Haldeman was clean cut. Dean’s praise of Ehrlichman was restrained.” Prosecutors’ failure to disclose this material to defense counsel is clear violation of their obligations under Brady v Maryland.]
October 11, 1973 — Krogh indicted on two counts of false testimony before a grand jury. Case assigned to Judge Gesell. [This is the first indictment of a Nixon WH staff member. WSPF memos say it was done to isolate Krogh from his former colleagues and to get him to turn on Ehrlichman, who is their real target. To this point, Krogh had publicly taken full responsibility for the Fielding break-in.]
October 12, 1973 — DC Circuit confirms Judge Sirica’s order to turn over nine subpoenaed tapes for his review, directing Sirica to listen and decide if they are relevant to the special prosecutor’s inquiry.
B. The Saturday Night Massacre
Appalled at Richardson’s abdication and the hundred strong staff that Cox has assembled and the increasingly wide scope of their investigations, WH lawyers seek a compromise in the tape litigation: verified transcripts in lieu of turning over the actual tape recordings – and idea which Cox himself suggested during negotiations.
Miscommunications between Haig and Richardson, exacerbated by the realization that Dean may walk free from his own transgressions, leads Nixon to take the dramatic action of ordering Cox’s removal– which results in the Saturday Night Massacre.
October 19, 1973 – (Morning) Formal entry of Dean’s guilty plea to single felony count, along with announcement of his agreement to work with special prosecutor. Dean’s sentencing is postponed indefinitely. [Sirica will change this abruptly after the Vesco jury acquits Mitchell and Stans in their New York trial and jurors say that Dean’s testimony lacked credibility.]
________ (Afternoon) WH, joined by Senators Ervin and Baker, announces Stennis Compromise, wherein Senator John Stennis will “certify” accuracy of nine tape transcripts in lieu of tapes themselves.
________Richardson informs WH that Cox has unexpectedly rejected the Stennis Compromise. [This is critical to an understanding of the Saturday Night Massacre. Haig had assured Nixon that Richardson was prepared to fire Cox if he didn’t go along with the Stennis Compromise (a form of which – third party certification — Cox himself had suggested). Now, after the Compromise has been publicly announced, Richardson sheepishly admits he cannot deliver Cox and is not prepared to fire him. It is little wonder that Haig concludes that Richardson has led them badly astray.]
October 20, 1973 — Cox questions “rule of law” in hastily arranged press conference at National Press Club.
________ Saturday Night Massacre: President orders Richardson to fire Cox; Richardson resigns instead. Ruckelshaus (now Deputy AG) also refuses and is terminated. In the late afternoon, Robert Bork, then solicitor general, agrees to fire Cox and disband WSPF, merging it back into DOJ’s Criminal Division. [A nation-wide “firestorm of protest” follows over the Columbus Day weekend, with all three networks claiming some sort of coup, and the WH reconsiders.]
October 23, 1973 — WH attorney Charles Allen Wright delivers Nixon’s letter to Sirica agreeing to turn over the nine subpoenaed tapes. [In banking on the Stennis Compromise, the WH had allowed the time for appealing the DC Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court to expire. They thus had little choice but to turn over the subpoenaed tapes.]
________ In responding to the Saturday Night Massacre, the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) announces beginning of Impeachment Inquiry.
October 31, 1973 — Buzhardt informs Sirica that two of the nine subpoenaed conversations were never actually recorded and do not exist. [Sirica begins Evidentiary Hearing regarding WH compliance with tapes subpoena, which will last for seventy-eight days, before he refers matter to the grand jury. WSPF prosecutors will brag in their later book that they used this hearing to destroy WH credibility.]
November 1, 1973 — Acting AG Bork announces Leon Jaworski as new special prosecutor. [Jaworski was personally recruited by Nixon’s now chief of staff, Alexander Haig.]
November 2, 1973 — WSPF re-established as independent unit by Bork’s order.
_________ Frampton learns from Dean that he has withheld and then destroyed materials from Hunt’s safe, including his Hermes notebooks (which Hunt has been claiming would confirm his version of events).
November 5, 1973 — Jaworski is sworn in as special prosecutor, along with revised Guidelines requiring six of eight affirmative votes from congressional committees for his removal from office.
_________ Ben-Veniste reveals in court that Dean destroyed some of the contents of Hunt’s safe (after hiding those materials from prosecutors for eighteen months). No action is taken against Dean.
_________ Attorney Sam Powers is retained to represent WH in Evidentiary Hearing, after being interviewed by Buzhardt and Garment in Miami. [They also had sought a meeting with Nixon to complain about his lack of cooperation with their defense efforts, but were told he was too busy to meet with them.]
November 6, 1973 — Powers arrives at the WH and makes first appearance before Sirica. Hounded by the press and unaccustomed to such unrelenting publicity, Powers soon returns to Florida. The WH search for eminent trial counsel goes on, with few takers.]
November 7, 1973 – Full Senate votes to authorize Ervin Committee to subpoena Nixon and sue for access to the WH tapes.
First Week of November – Woodward later claims that Deep Throat informs him of “deliberate erasures” on one or more of the WH tapes. [This is one of the most puzzling instances in all of Watergate. It seems that this is a reference to the 18½ Minute Gap, which is not even known by Buzhardt until several weeks later. It could be a reference to Rose Wood’s earlier inadvertent erasure, but it could also have come from someone who deliberately erased the remainder of that tape. Or not. The involved parties are all dead, so it is unlikely this issue will ever be completely resolved.]
November 8, 1973 — Woodward writes story in Washington Post claiming WH official says there are suspicious problems with the tapes, but does not claim there to have been deliberate erasures. [Note the material difference between this news article and the claim in Woodward’s later book (described immediately above) that Deep Throat had claimed there were “deliberate erasures”.]
November 9, 1973 — Sirica hands down final Watergate sentences, which were substantially reduced. Liddy’s is left at 35 years. [Sirica’s “provisional” sentences had been imposed on March 23rd and Sirica had refused to allow defendants to be out on bail pending their appeals.]
November 13-14, 1973 — WH and WSPF attorneys go to NSA to make two copies of each of the subpoenaed tapes. [Buzhardt told Shepard on November 13th that he had discovered the 18½ Minute Gap while he was making copies with NSA expert the night before. Powers remembers that Buzhardt played the tape with him on the 14th and that was when Buzhardt discovered the gap was longer than the five minutes first claimed by Rose Woods.]
November 15, 1973 — Memo of 26 pages summarizing WSPF interviews of original Watergate prosecutors’ dozen meetings or contacts with Dean and his lawyer (Shaffer) in previous April, as Dean sought immunity as a government witness. [Memo contains startling admissions, documenting Dean’s changed story from accusations against Mitchell and Magruder to allegations of a conspiracy involving Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Nixon (Silbert uses the term “escalated”). This memo is devastating to Dean’s credibility and should have been turned over to defendants’ counsel as required in Brady v Maryland, but it was not.]
November 19, 1973 — Dean testifies before grand jury under grant of immunity.
November 20, 1973 — Dean continues to testify before grand jury.
November 21, 1973 — Buzhardt discloses existence of 18½ Minute Gap in private meetings with Jaworski and then Sirica, who insists on immediate public disclosure in Evidentiary Hearing that afternoon.
November 26, 1973 — Nixon personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, begins testimony on 18½ Minute Gap. Sirica demands WH turn over full reels containing subpoenaed conversations, rather than just those segments themselves, which were the subject of the grand jury subpoena.
November 29, 1973 — Dwight Chapin indicted for perjury. Sirica assigns case to Judge Gesell.
November 30, 1973 — Krogh pleads guilty before Judge Gesell to conspiracy to violate Fielding’s civil rights, although he was originally indicted for perjury. [This alternative plea, while certainly creative, was designed to bolster their Ehrlichman prosecution, who had authorized a covert operation to examine Fielding’s files on Ellsberg.]
________ Memo to WSPF leadership detailing how Dean had asked them to subpoena his files so he could resist discovery by defendants’ counsel, while still having access to them.
December 6, 1973 — WSPF files their reply brief on Liddy’s appeal of his conviction in the break-in trial.
C. Focus on President Nixon
Easily among the most unappreciated actions of WSPF prosecutors is their mistaken notion that Nixon himself must have personally approved payment of Hunt’s blackmail demands. They reached this conclusion because the final payment to Hunt’s lawyer occurred on the very evening of March 21, 1973, the same day that Dean had informed Nixon of Hunt’s blackmail demand.
They envisioned a scenario where, following Nixon’s meeting with Dean (which was on tape and clearly showed no such decision had been made), Nixon must have instructed Haldeman to phone Mitchell and approve the payment. Mitchell, in turn, must have contacted LaRue, who made the payment that night. For this scenario to be plausible, everything had to have happened in this particular sequence – but the timing just didn’t work as the prosecutors had hoped.
They could prove Haldeman’s call to Mitchell, right after the Nixon/Dean meeting (which the WH said was to invite Mitchell to a meeting the following day). Try as they might, however, they could not show any afternoon call from Mitchell to LaRue. Worse, it was clear from the tape that Dean told Nixon that Hunt’s was demanding $135,000 – and LaRue only paid $75,000 that evening, which was the amount of Hunt’s outstanding legal bills. When asked about this change, LaRue stated that he’d reduced this amount on his own volition, saying they had followed a practice of never paying the full requested amount and that he had never discussed paying the larger amount in seeking Mitchell’s approval for paying the $75,000. It seems clear that if Nixon had ordered payment of the only number he’d heard — $135,000 – LaRue wouldn’t have dared to reduce it.
These facts, however, only came out during LaRue’s testimony in the cover-up trial. In the interim, WSPF prosecutors had secretly assured grand jurors of Nixon’s alleged involvement (which seems the major reason they named him a co-conspirator in their cover-up indictment) and HJC staff (which seems the major reason they voted to recommend Nixon’s impeachment). It is important to note that no prosecution witness ever asserted this scenario – in private meetings with prosecutors or in court testimony; it was solely an assertion by WSPF prosecutors.
In the last analysis, the rationale for WSPF allegations against Nixon himself were rendered moot once the Smoking Gun tape was released. What would have been gross prosecutorial abuse on their part (regarding Nixon’s alleged action on March 21, 1973), was obviated by the mistaken impression from the tape that he’d been a part of the cover-up since June 23, 1972.
December 11, 1973 — Sirica transmits tape of Dean meeting with Nixon of March 21, 1973, containing his “cancer on the presidency” disclosures and their discussion of Hunt’s blackmail demands, to WSPF prosecutors. [WSPF prosecutors say in their later books how shocked and appalled they are at Nixon’s statements during this meeting.]
December 14, 1973 — Jaworski, Ruth, Lacovara and Ben-Veniste meet privately with Judges Sirica and Gesell. [This is an unprecedented and indefensible ex parte meeting, particularly with so many prosecutors present, as well as the judge to whom Sirica will assign all Watergate cases that he doesn’t try himself. Moreover, it is difficult to believe that they did not discuss the key March 21st tape, which Sirica had turned over to prosecutors only three days prior.]
December 23, 1973 — John Doar is hired as chief counsel for HJC’s Impeachment Inquiry.
December 27, 1973 — Jaworski sends letter to Sirica, providing time-frame for anticipated indictments. [This letter refers to their December 14th ex parte meeting, which is the only reason we know it had occurred. It remains unclear just why Jaworski included this reference in his letter.]
December 28, 1973 — DC Circuit orders release of Hunt and Barker from jail, pending appeals of their sentences (which Sirica had refused to allow). [Hunt’s release occurs on January 2 and Barker’s on January 4 – which was almost nine months after their sentencing for the Watergate burglary. Since it is customary to allow white collar defendants to be released while their appeals are pending, Sirica’s refusal is believed to have been his way putting additional pressure on them to assist prosecutors and congressional investigators. Liddy is never released, pending his own appeals.]
January 2, 1974 — Ruth memo to Jaworski urges WSPF staff come to aid of HJC Impeachment Inquiry, which he says is foundering.
_________ Lacovara memo to Ben-Veniste concerning ex parte meeting he and Kreindler had with Sirica on January 2nd, in response to a rumor Sirica had heard at a New Year’s Eve party the evening before. [Memo is troubling because it illustrates how nonsensical the rumor was and how extraordinarily close Sirica had become to WSPF prosecutors and to the Ervin Committee’s majority counsel, Sam Dash.]
January 8, 1974 — Jaworski responds to Ruth memo of January 2nd, saying WSPF job is to prosecute violations of the law, not to assist the HJC in the impeachment of a President.
January 4, 1974 — Prominent Boston attorney, James St. Clair, joins WH counsel’s office to assume lead role in public defense of Nixon. [Shepard helps St. Clair to assemble a staff of some dozen attorneys, but they are hardly a match in responding to the thirty Ervin Committee attorneys, the sixty WSPF prosecutors, and the forty-five HJC lawyers.]
January, 1974 — Ben-Veniste and Frampton detail in their subsequent book their excitement of discovering that the final “hush money” payment to Hunt’s lawyer was made on the evening of March 21st, following Dean’s “cancer on the presidency” meeting with Nixon. [They conclude (wrongly) that this must have occurred because Nixon himself ordered it done. It is important to appreciate that no witness has ever testified in support of this accusation. It was solely a based on a deduction by WSPF prosecutors.]
January 7, 1974 — Lacovara sends memo to Jaworski, titled “Criminal Responsibility for Joining Ongoing Conspiracy”, hypothetically describing Nixon’s alleged actions – ordering payment of Hunt’s blackmail demand — as becoming a part of the ongoing cover-up conspiracy (which they are sure now occurred following his March 21, 1973 meeting with Dean).
____________Grand Jury III empaneled to investigate matters similar to those of Grand Jury II, whose term is due to expire. [Supposedly, this was one reason for the four prosecutors’ meeting with Sirica the previous month.]
January 11, 1974 — Kreindler’s notes from WSPF senior staff’s first review meeting of the cover-up indictments proposed by the Watergate Task Force. These contain discussions of cases against Kleindienst, Gray, Caulfield and Porter. [What appears to have happened at these meetings is members of the Watergate Task Force would present their case for internal review by WSPF senior staff (consisting of Jaworski, his deputy Ruth, special counsel Lacovara, and associate counsel Vorenberg, with Jaworski assistant Kreindler taking notes), who would then discuss the Task Force recommendations. There was, of course, no DOJ review outside of the WSPF staff. Because being named in the comprehensive cover-up indictment was tantamount to a death sentence, even if you were ultimately acquitted, these notes make fascinating reading – something like being in the jury room while the potential defendants’ fates were being decided.]
January 14, 1974 — Ruth responds to Jaworski memo of January 8th, saying WSPF help to HJC should only be done as a last resort, but believing it has become necessary.
January 18, 1974 — Sirica suspends Evidentiary Hearing and refers issue of 18½ Minute Gap to the grand jury. [No indictment is ever forthcoming, even after an extensive grand jury investigation, possibly because the government’s panel of tape experts had the Uher 5000 recorder serviced, after which it no longer created a buzz (ie: they inadvertently destroyed critical evidence, thereby precluding any prosecution).]
January 21, 1974 — Jaworski final memo to Ruth, saying their exchange is not helpful and complaining about political bias of WSPF staff, as well as the constant refrain that “the President must be reached at all cost.” [This is an exceptionally strong confirmation from Jaworski’s own hand that Cox and Vorenberg had assembled a highly-politicized and biased WSPF prosecutorial staff.]
________CRP deputy treasurer Herbert Porter indicted for one count of lying to the FBI, pleads guilty on January 28.
January 24, 1974 — Krogh sentenced to 2-6 years by Gesell, with all but six months suspended.
January 27, 1974 — Lacovara submits memo to Jaworski urging a private meeting with Sirica to inform him of WSPF recommended approach regarding grand jury sending sealed report (“the Road Map”) to HJC. [This is a clear example of WSPF staff recommending an ex parte meeting to lobby Sirica on something soon going to come before him for a ruling – which is a violation of professional ethics and evidence of clear prosecutorial abuse.]
January 29, 1974 — Hunt and Krogh continue testifying before grand jury
January 30, 1974 — Haldeman testifies before two Watergate grand juries, without taking the Fifth Amendment, even though he has been informed that he is a target. [Haldeman, the only non-lawyer among the principal Watergate figures, appears to have taken an interesting defensive position: I will tell you exactly what I did – and assure you that everything I did was on behalf of the President. I didn’t think my actions were criminal, I certainly had no such intent, but that’s not for me to decide.]
January 31, 1974 — Kreindler’s notes from second indictment meeting, recording discussions of Caulfield, Parkinson, Bittman, Strachan and Colson. Differences in standards being applied, particularly between those for Parkinson, Bittman and Colson, are startling. [Jaworski, for example, notes that case against Colson is not strong, but will sign the indictment anyway, because he Colson is so scared that he will seek a plea arrangement right away (so prosecutors will never have to actually put on their case at trial). Vorenberg’s staff meeting notes of this same session record similar points, but have Jaworski saying it’s not a strong case, but he’d “like to nail” Colson.]
February 4, 1974 — Petersen continues to testify before grand jury.
February 6, 1974 — Full House votes to authorize HJC to investigate grounds for impeachment.
________ Rient memo to Ben-Veniste detailing some nineteen instances where Dean’s Ervin Committee testimony differed or was not supported by the White House tapes. [This was prepared after Jaworski had publicly announced on a Sunday talk show that WSPF prosecutors had no reason to question Dean’s veracity – and been criticized for his statement by Judge Gesell — but no follow up action was ever taken in light of Rient’s memo. Thus, while Mitchel, Ehrlichman and Haldeman are indicted for perjury in their testimony before the Ervin Committee, Dean (who easily has as many “mis-statements”) is not. ]
_________ Ben-Veniste memo to Lacovara detailing possible charges against Hunt’s attorney, William Bittman. [The Watergate Task Force was unanimous in its recommendation that Bittman be indicted along with the other cover-up defendants, both in the original indictment and later, when his withholding of evidence was discovered. But Jaworski and Ruth stoutly resisted this action – perhaps because Bittman’s role as Hunt’s attorney complicated their intended narrative of the cover-up being done solely by Nixon loyalists or perhaps because Bittman was a Democratic icon. Either way, Bittman’s omission is extremely troubling to any idea of even handed prosecutions.]
_______ Young continues to testify before grand jury.
February 11, 1974 — Jaworski meets privately with Sirica, who importunes him to hurry the cover-up indictment, since he wants to appoint himself to preside over the trial. [This ex parte meeting is also where Jaworski lobbies Sirica on proposed approach involving the Roadmap. As Lacovara anticipated, the idea of a sealed grand jury report is so aggressive that Sirica is resistant to the idea. Ultimately, however, Jaworski prevails, even agreeing to provide Sirica with a memo detailing their rationale.]
February 12, 1974 — Jaworski confidential memo to file which describes his ex parte meeting with Sirica of the day before.
February 12, 1974 — Watergate Grand Jury II expires.
February 14, 1974 — Vorenberg’s staff meeting notes for two weeks ending February 14th show the staff being upset upon learning from Jaworski that he’d already agreed (privately) with Sirica that Nixon would not be indicted while he remained in office. [They were upset that Jaworski had reached this conclusion with Sirica without informing them of this decision. There is no indication of any staff concern regarding Jaworski’s ongoing ex parte meetings with Sirica.]
____________Dean again testifies before grand jury.
February 16, 1974 — Kreindler’s notes from third indictment meeting, detailing discussion of overall case and extensive discussion of Colson.
February 19, 1974 — Ruth writes memo to Jaworski concerning timing of Vesco trial in NYC, which will then enable WSPF to proceed with cover-up indictments. [Jaworski notes on memo that Sirica expects the cover-up indictment to come quickly, which tends to confirm the existence of an agreement with Sirica to hurry the indictments.]
_________Hunt and Bittman continue to testify before grand jury
February 20, 1974 — “Final Decisions” memorandum from fourth indictment meeting, This is a typed memo which details extensive discussion regarding Bittman’s situation. [Jaworski, a Lyndon Johnson protégé, aggressively resists including Bittman in the cover-up indictment. Bittman was a Democrat icon, who had protected then-President Johnson in 1964, when Bittman handled the Bobby Baker prosecution (who had been Secretary of the Senate when Johnson was Majority Leader). It is interesting to note that there is no record of any indictment discussion of Mitchell, Haldeman or Ehrlichman, their indictments apparently being presumed from the very outset.]
_________Colson continues to testify before grand jury.
February 22, 1974 — Lacovara memo to Jaworski, strongly objecting to Colson indictment, saying it did not meet the requisite DOJ standard, and noting concurrence by other senior staff. [Only copy of this memo was found in Jaworski confidential files, all other copies apparently having been destroyed (as per Vorenberg’s staff meeting notes, which contain the admonition, “Collect Memo”.)]
February 24, 1974 — Watergate Grand Jury I votes 19-0 to name Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator, but this action is kept sealed by prosecutors. [There is every indication that grand jurors were assured by WSPF prosecutors that they could prove Nixon had personally approved payment of Hunt’s blackmail demand, which would be why they took this action. A Petition is currently pending before Judge Lamberth of the DC District Court to unseal this portion of Watergate Grand Jury I’s transcripts.]
February 25, 1974 — Herb Kalmbach pleads guilty to violation of Federal Corrupt Practices Act, sentenced 6-18 months, fined $10,000. [Kalmbach raised much of the money used to pay burglary defendants’ legal fees and humanitarian payments – which were later characterized by Dean as “hush money”.]
________ Haig testifies before grand jury.
February 28, 1974 — Vorenberg notes for previous two week period reveal that Jaworski continued to discuss his ex parte meetings with Sirica at WSPF staff meetings, adding that Sirica had approved the format of the Lacovara report (the Road Map) – and that the grand jury had approved the recommended approach of naming Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator while also sending a sealed report to HJC.
D. Cover-up and Plumber Indictments
The indictments of Nixon’s top aides for the cover-up, quickly followed by Ehrlichman’s indictment for the Fielding break-in by the Plumbers, were seen as the penultimate step in reaching President Nixon. After all, if his senior aides were involved in the cover-up. then Nixon had to be, too. WSPF prosecutors would bag Nixon’s top aides – clearing the way for HJC’s impeachment of the President.
Dean, the President’s own former lawyer, would play the starring role in both initiatives. His own culpability would be forgiven and forgotten, in exchange for what appears to be newly altered testimony against his former colleagues.
March 1, 1974 — Comprehensive Cover-up Indictment: The grand jury indicts Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Colson, Mardian, Strachan and Parkinson for cover-up, along with nineteen unindicted co-conspirators. Separately, the grand jury asks Judge Sirica that its Report (the “Road Map”) and assorted materials be transmitted to the HJC. [Nixon is one of the unindicted co-conspirators, but action is sealed and remains undisclosed until it leaks on June 6th. The Road Map has never been made public, although there is a Petition now pending seeking its unsealing.]
__________Jaworski memo to his confidential Watergate file describes his two ex parte meetings with Sirica that both preceded and followed the formal indictment presentment. [He also notes that Haig had contacted him the night before, seeking some reassurance regarding WH personnel (Haig presumably meaning Nixon himself). Although Jaworski knew that Nixon had been named a co-conspirator, that portion would remain sealed, so Jaworski allowed Haig to think Nixon was in the clear. This is another example of where Haig, a military man and not a lawyer, was led astray by a lawyer’s skillful parsing of words – much to Nixon’s detriment.]
March 4, 1974 — WSPF files brief in response to McCord and Hunt appeals of their convictions in the break-in trial.
March 6, 1974 — Sirica holds hearing on sending Road Map to House of Representatives; opposition (by Haldeman and Strachan) to its transmittal is heard and denied. [Vorenberg’s staff meeting notes contain the notation that Jaworski had privately urged Sirica not even to hold such a hearing, since it would only provide the WH with the opportunity to delay the transmittal. One can only marvel at the casual manner in which Jaworski privately interacted with Sirica – apparently with the full knowledge and concurrence of his senior staff.]
March 7, 1974 — Grand jury indicts Colson, Ehrlichman, Liddy and Cubans for Plumber break-in of Fielding’s office in Los Angeles. [At Jaworski’s ex parte behest, Sirica assigns this case to Judge Gesell, who has already ruled favorably to prosecutors regarding a key element in their case – that there is no national security defense to the government’s Fourth Amendment violation.]
________WSPF spokesman confirms that Jaworski had informed the grand jury that it would not be responsible for them to indict Nixon, saying that the House of Representatives was the proper forum to hear any charges. [This seems to be deliberate misinformation, since they well knew that Nixon already had been named an unindicted co-conspirator. Thus, the WH was kept in the dark for three months (until disclosure of the grand jury’s action was sprung as a bargaining chip on May 5th.]
March 12, 1974 — Wilson writes Sirica demanding to know if Sirica has been meeting privately with WSPF staff regarding the sealed report (the “Road Map”) which had been presented on March 1st in connection with the cover-up indictments.
March 15, 1974 — Vorenberg’s staff meeting notes of March 14-15 indicate that Lacovara’s 2/22 memo objecting to Colson’s indictment had resulted in a second meeting. [There is no record of this subsequent meeting (and Colson was indicted in both cases), but Vorenberg notes that Lacovara’s earlier memo should be collected, which is probably why only one copy survived. Destruction of the Lacovara memo may be seen as destruction of evidence of prosecutorial abuse.]
________ Silbert submits memo to Senate Judiciary Committee, which is deciding on his confirmation as US Attorney, defending his handling of the Watergate break-in prosecution, saying he never could figure out the motive for the Watergate burglary. [This is particularly noteworthy, because the same could be said today: along with many other continuing mysteries of Watergate, there has been no agreed-upon resolution of this critical issue.]
Mid-March, 1974 – In an ex parte phone call with Judge Gesell, who is trying to decide when to schedule the Plumbers’ trial, Plumber Task Force head William Merrill assures Gesell that the trial should only last two weeks, particularly if no national security issues come into play. [This is a continuation of WSPF urging that there is no national security defense to the government’s Fourth Amendment violation – which lay at the core of the Plumbers’ prosecution. Merrill later wrote that it was vitally important for the Plumbers’ prosecution to precede the cover-up prosecution, because it would be superfluous afterwards. Speaking privately to the judge about all of this is a clear violation of prosecutorial ethics.]
March 18, 1974 — Sirica orders Road Map sent to House of Representatives, principally on the basis that it is a factual and non-accusatory document.
March 19, 1974 — Judge Sirica turns seventy and is require to step down as Chief Judge, thereby losing the ability to assign cases to specific judges (including himself).
March 20, 1974 — Haldeman and Strachan appeal Sirica order on Road Map to DC Circuit.
March 21, 1974 — DC Circuit en banc hearing on Haldeman/Strachan appeal of Road Map being sent to HJC, denied that same day.
March 26, 1974 — Government brief case containing the Road Map and other grand jury materials is transferred to House of Representatives
April 1, 1974 — WSPF files reply brief on appeal of Cubans’ conviction in the break-in trial.
April 2, 1974 — Oral argument before DC Circuit regarding Judge Gesell’s dismissal of Ervin Committee subpoena for all White House tapes.
April 5, 1974 — Chapin found guilty on two of three counts of perjury in trial before Judge Gesell.
April 9, 1974 — Democratic majority of House Impeachment Inquiry agrees to allow St. Clair a limited role in their proceedings. [Majority counsel, Jerry Zeifman, later claims in his book that Hillary Rodham (Clinton) had been tasked with analyzing whether a President could be represented by counsel in a House impeachment inquiry (the House action being somewhat similar to a grand jury, where counsel is not allowed) and had deliberately ignored applicable precedents in concluding that he could not.]
April 16, 1974 — Jaworski issues prosecutorial subpoena for 64 additional presidential tapes. [It is this subpoena that ends up in the Supreme Court in US v Nixon. It is significant that this subpoena was not issued by the grand jury, which had already issued its indictments, but just by the special prosecutor. Ultimately, the WH would argue that this action was taken on behalf of the HJC Impeachment Inquiry, who could not obtain those materials directly – but the argument came very late and was not successful.]
April 17, 1974 — News coverage of Sirica attending a Georgetown cocktail party the night before, which was given in Jaworski’s honor –and suggesting that this undermines perceptions of his impartiality.
April 28, 1974 — Mitchell and Stans acquitted on all charges in Vesco trial in NY. [Juror interviews suggested that they did not find Dean’s testimony to be credible. This seems why Sirica moved up Dean’s sentencing to before the cover-up trial, rather than afterwards, as had already been agreed.]
E. Release of the WH Transcripts
In a desperate move to discredit Dean, the WH released transcripts of some fifty presidential conversations, which they claimed would absolve Nixon and show that Dean had played a far different role during Watergate than had been portrayed by the Ervin Committee or was being relied upon by WSPF prosecutors.
The release, however, boomeranged and the media’s focus shifted seamlessly from Dean’s cover-up role to the accusation that the tapes showed that Nixon was petty, vengeful and all too human in his private conversations.
April 30, 1974 — President Nixon addresses the nation regarding Watergate and saying he was sending tape transcripts to the HJC. [Stacked behind the President were some fifty black three ring binders containing the promised tape transcripts.]
_________Publication of White House Transcripts (in connection with their concurrent transmittal to the HJC). [This is the infamous “Blue Book” of some fifty tape transcripts, which Shepard edited. It was hoped that publication would undermine Dean’s claims and show a lack of presidential involvement in the whole matter. The reaction, however, was the opposite of what was hoped. What was actually on the tapes didn’t really matter. Helped by the media, the public was appalled by Nixon’s pettiness and his use of foul language (ie: the infamous “explicative deleted” notation). Nixon was pilloried for not being “presidential”.].
May 3, 1974 — Lacovara memo to files detailing his ex parte meeting the day before with Judge Sirica. [Apparently, they spoke about the possibility that WSPF would seek to disclose certain grand jury matters in their response to defendants’ motions. This sort of “advance notice” through ex parte contact is highly suspect.]
May 5, 1974 — Jaworski informs Haig and St. Clair of Nixon’s being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the cover-up indictment. [This comes as a substantial surprise to the WH, since they felt they had been publicly and privately assured to the contrary. Jaworski does this in the course of bargaining for access to a portion of the requested WH tapes, but the WH still does not agree to turn over any additional tapes.]
May 6, 1974 — Buzhardt testifies before grand jury.
May 9, 1974 — Opening of HJC impeachment hearings.
May 10, 1974 — Magruder sentenced by Judge Sirica to term of ten months to four years for cover-up role. Sentence to begin June 4th.
May 15, 1974 — Chapin sentenced by Judge Gesell to 10-30 months in prison.
May 16, 1974 — Kleindienst pleads guilty to refusal to answer pertinent questions before a Senate Committee. Sentenced by Judge George Hart to 30 days, fined $100, sentence is suspended. [WSPF documents show great anger by the ITT Task Force in this decision, since Kleindienst was their biggest potential defendant. The Task Force head and two others quit in protest. This was one of the problems with having five Task Forces: each competed with the others in wanting to nail the top guys, which meant that Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Colson were targets of multiple task forces. This would never have happened in a normal criminal investigation.]
May 20, 1974 — Sirica orders enforcement of Jaworski subpoena for 64 tapes.
________ WSPF files brief in DC Circuit defending Sirica’s naming himself to preside over cover-up trial.
May 23, 1974 — DC Circuit upholds Judge Gesell’s dismissal of Ervin Committee subpoena for all WH tapes.
May 30, 1974 — Neal memo to Jaworski concurring in Colson’s plea bargain, while noting that Colson was much less involved than the other defendants – and that both cases against Colson were relatively weak.
May 31, 1974 — Supreme Court grants Jaworski’s motion for a writ of certiorari on 64 tape subpoena. [Jaworski had surprised many with his decision to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the delay of going through the DC Circuit, but he pulled it off.]
June 3, 1974 — Colson formally pleads guilty to single count in Plumbers case, subject to condition that he be sentenced by Judge Gesell. Other indictments against him are dismissed. [Colson’s plea comes as a complete surprise to WH lawyers. Earlier, he had sought CIA documents which the government had refused to release. Judge Gesell had stated he had concluded those documents were critical to Colson’s defense and threatened to dismiss the case if they were not produced. On the very day that the government was to confirm its refusal, Colson announced his decision to plead guilty. Moreover, his plea is truly unique: that he had violated Ellsberg’s civil rights by intentionally circulating derogatory information about him (in seeking to diminish his effectiveness as an anti-war spokesperson). This is later claimed by Plumber Task Force head William Merrill to be one of the two most significant outcomes of the Plumber prosecution. What nonsense! One can only imagine the outcry should such a standard be attempted to be enforced today.].
June 4, 1974 — Magruder surrenders to begin his prison term.
June 5, 1974 — Judge Sirica gives cover-up defendants a list of the nineteen persons named as unindicted co-conspirators in the March 1st grand jury indictment.
June 6, 1974 — Grand jury’s naming of Nixon as co-conspirator immediately becomes public through an article in LA Times.
_________ WH files writ of certiorari in response, asking Supreme Court to decide whether grand jury had authority to name Nixon as a co-conspirator.
June 7, 1974 — DC Circuit denies writ of mandamus sought by Mitchell to remove Sirica as judge in cover-up trial. [Defendants alleged bias and specifically sought an Evidentiary Hearing into whether Sirica had met secretly with the Special Prosecutor. ACLU joined them as amicus on this motion. WSPF reply brief did not even respond to request, since they could hardly deny such meetings had occurred. The court rendered its decision, sitting en banc, in an unsigned single sentence order that denied the requested relief, without even providing an opportunity for oral argument. By skipping both oral argument and a written opinion, the Court effectively denied defendants any basis for arguing to the public that this constituted an abuse of process.]
June 12, 1974 – At WSPF request, Buzhardt submits an affidavit to the court asserting that he has reviewed documents sought by Ehrlichman in his defense and found none of them to be helpful in that regard. [Note this stands in contrast to the documents sought by Colson.]
June 13, 1974 — Buzhardt suffers heart attack and is hospitalized for a week.
June 14, 1974 — DC Circuit, sitting en banc, hears all appeals from convictions in the Break-in Trial.
June 15, 1974 — — Supreme Court agrees to hear expedited appeal of Sirica’s order to produce 64 tapes (US v Nixon), skipping DC Circuit review, along with St. Clair petition challenging grand jury’s authority to name Nixon as unindicted co-conspirator.
June 20, 1974 — Jaworski files brief in Supreme Court in US v Nixon
June 21, 1974 — Colson sentenced 1-3 years in prison, fined $5,000, by Judge Gesell
________ St. Clair files reply brief in US v Nixon, [Brief’s introduction raises the issue of whether WSPF prosecutors are acting on behalf of the HJC, but this is a recent idea and there was no time for it to be developed further in their brief.]
June 25, 1974 — HJC publishes transcripts of eight Nixon/Dean conversations, including “Stonewall” quote from tape of March 22, 1973. [This recording is of exceptionally poor audio quality, tempting transcribers to “reach” for wording they’d like to have been uttered. The stonewall quote (“I don’t give a shit what happens, I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover-up or anything else, if it will save it, save the plan. That’s the whole point.”) seems to be more like “if it will save ‘em, save it for them,.” which also makes much more sense in the conversation’s context.]
June 26, 1974 — Plumbers break-in trial begins before Judge Gesell, coming before cover-up trial, just as hoped by lead Plumbers prosecutor, Merrill.
__________St Clair appears before HJC for two days to defend the President.
June 28, 1974 — Purported exchange of three letters between HJC Chairman Rudino and Jaworski, resulting in Doar spending several late evenings at WSPF offices with Ruth, reviewing newly revised prosecutorial memo on Nixon himself. [Supposedly, Rudino somehow learned of and then demanded this prosecutorial memo, saying his committee would subpoena it if it were not produced. Their “compromise” was to allow Doar to see it on a confidential basis – but this enabled him to do so without WH counsel learning of its existence or of Doar’s secret meetings, which would have occurred had there been an actual subpoena. WSPF’s newly produced prosecutorial memo strongly urged the conclusion that Nixon had personally approved payment of Hunt’s blackmail demand on March 21, 1973.]
July 8, 1974 — Supreme Court hears oral argument regarding special prosecutors subpoena for 64 tapes. [St. Clair urges that WSPF is acting as agent for HJC, which cannot properly obtain tapes directly, but argument is not well developed. Shepard attends as Nixon’s official representative.]
July 9, 1974 — Judge Gesell orders Petersen grand jury testimony released to HJC Impeachment Inquiry.
_________Sirica denies defense motions for separate trials and for moving the cover-up case outside of the District of Columbia.
July 12, 1974 — Ehrlichman, Liddy and two Cubans found guilty in Plumber break-in trial before Judge Gesell. [Gesell had ruled (as expected) that there was no national security defense to the government’s Fourth Amendment violation, which precluded Ehrlichman raising this as a defense. Trial took just over two weeks, as predicted by Merrill (but only if national security issues could be kept from consideration). Merrill would later write that this finding was the other most significant outcome from his prosecution, but prosecutor’s ex parte discussions with Sirica and Gesell taint the fairness of the trial.]
___________ The Ervin Committee issues its final report.
___________ Dwayne Andreas, CEO of ADM, is acquitted in corporate contributions case in MN. [Interestingly, the two Watergate cases tried outside of DC – this case and that of Robert Vesco – ended in jury acquittals. In both cases, the defendants were represented by Edward Bennett Williams. Williams also defended Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, against threatened charges of obstruction of justice. He convinced WSPF prosecutors to allow Steinbrenner to plead to being “an accessory after the fact” in Steinbrenner’s hometown of Cleveland (where he was fined $15,000, but without any jail sentence. With only two exceptions – that of Ken Parkinson and of former Democrat John Connally – all cases tried before DC juries ended in convictions. Sirica’s refusal to allow the cover-up case to be tried outside of the District, where the pre-trial publicity had been overwhelmingly negative, virtually guaranteed convictions by a poisoned jury pool – just as Cox had predicted eighteen months before.]
F. Nixon’s Dramatic Demise
The end of the Nixon presidency came rather suddenly. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the tapes must be turned over, the HJC voted to recommend three Articles of Impeachment, and key Members of Congress informed Nixon that his chances of avoiding impeachment were almost non-existent.
What really sunk Nixon, however, was the August 5th release of what has come to be called the “Smoking Gun” tape. WH lawyers, WSPF prosecutors and HJC staff had been arguing over Nixon’s conduct after Dean first informed him of Hunt’s blackmail demands on March 21, 1973. Unexpectedly, a recording of Nixon’s meeting on June 23, 1972 (some eight months earlier) recorded Nixon concurring with Dean’s recommendation that they get the CIA to tell the FBI not to interview two witnesses in their investigation of the Watergate burglary – a clear indication of obstruction of justice.
Nixon’s remaining support evaporated and he announced his resignation three days after this tape’s public release.
Some forty years later, it is clear that everyone has misunderstood the context of that conversation – it literally is not all that it appears to be – but though (as Shakespeare observes in Hamlet) “foul deeds will rise, though all the earth overwhelm them to men’s eyes”, this revelation comes far too late to help the Nixon presidency.
July 23, 1974 – George Wallace responds to Nixon’s question on their phone call that he no longer supports the President. Any remaining Southern Democrat support on HJC vanishes.
July 24, 1974 — Supreme Court rules (8-0) that 64 tapes must be turned over; eight hours later, over vigorous protest from Buzhardt, WH announces intent to comply. [Buzhardt urged an alternative response: Nixon would pardon everyone involved in the scandal, thereby mooting the case. He would then destroy the tapes, protecting forever the confidentiality of Oval Office conversations. He would then resign, but it would be a principled resignation (and the public would never know of his apparent involvement in the cover-up. Shepard was in Buzhardt’s office while this approach was advocated.]
July 25, 1973 — Supreme Court denies writ of certiorari to hear the appeal from Haldeman’s requested writ of mandamus to remove Sirica from presiding over cover-up trial.
July 27, 1974 — Dean financial letter for Pre-Sentence Report delivered to his sentencing officer (forwarded to Sirica on 7/29). [Sirica has hurried this up. Following the Vesco acquittal, he now wants Dean to be sentenced and already in prison before his testimony in the cover-up trial.]
___________ HJC adopts Article I of impeachment resolution, urging the full House to impeach Nixon for obstruction of justice. This is the Watergate cover-up resolution.
July 29, 1974 — John Connally is indicted in Milk Producers case.
__________ HJC adopts Article II of impeachment resolution, misuse of powers (violating oath of office). This is the abuse of powers resolution.
July 30, 1974 — HJC adopts Article III of impeachment resolution, failure to comply with House subpoenas (mainly for the WH tapes).
July 31, 1974 — Gesell sentences convicted defendants in Fielding break-in case, including Ehrlichman and Liddy.
August 2, 1974 — Dean sentenced by Sirica to term of one to four years for role in cover-up. Sentence to begin September 3, the scheduled date for the first day of cover-up trial. [This is the stiffest sentence handed down to date for any cover-up defendant. In his later book, Sirica indicated that he imposed this sentence to increase Dean’s witness credibility in the cover-up trial and in direct response to the Vesco acquittal. A week following the cover-up convictions, Sirica then reduced Dean’s sentence to time served, resulting in the shortest actual sentence of any major Watergate defendant. Sirica’s actions appear to have worked a fraud on the cover-up jury and the American public.]
August 5, 1974 — WH releases transcripts of remaining tapes, including three Nixon/Haldeman conversations of June 23, 1972 (“Smoking Gun”), along with presidential statement. [The accompanying statement, demanded by the President’s lawyers, affirms that Nixon had not previously shared this information with them. In essence, after hearing this tape (and reaching an erroneous interpretation regarding its content), they abandoned their defense of the President.]
August 7, 1974 — Senators Goldwater and Scott, along with GOP minority speaker Rhodes, call upon Nixon, telling him that he doesn’t have the votes to survive his pending impeachment. [While many think this meeting triggered Nixon’s resignation, it seems much more likely that he had already decided to resign and that this was a staged event, designed to make his resignation seem more like an actual impeachment.]
August 8, 1974 — In an evening speech to the nation, Nixon announces his intent to resign the following day.
August 9, 1974 — Nixon’s resignation becomes effective at noon, as he flies across the country to his home in San Clemente. Vice President Gerald Ford is sworn in as President immediately after noon.
August 14, 1974 — DC Circuit, sitting en banc, denies Haldeman’s petition questioning validity of Grand Jury I, which had been extended beyond its original term by Act of Congress.
August 19, 1974 — McBride memo to Jaworski summarizing status of WSPF investigation of then Governor Ronald Reagan. [While Reagan had nothing to do with Watergate, he was a possible GOP presidential candidate in 1976 and WSPF files show that he was the object of their investigation, along with President Ford, Vice President Rockefeller and Ford’s vice presidential candidate, Bob Dole. WSPF prosecutors had absolute, unreviewed power to investigate whomever they pleased – and it corrupted them, absolutely.]
August 20, 1974 — House “accepts” HJC’s impeachment report by vote of 412 to 3. [The House could no longer impeach Nixon, since he’d already resigned. This was a symbolic gesture, saying that they would have done so, had he remained in office.]
August 22, 1974 — DC Circuit, in hearing Ehrlichman’s motion for a delay of cover-up trial, then scheduled to begin on September 3rd, instead suggests during oral argument that a three to four week delay would be appropriate – but there is no formal ruling.
September 3, 1974 — Dean begins confinement at Fort Holabird, MD. Cover-up trial was scheduled to begin on same date, but postponed one month at suggestion of DC Circuit due to RN resignation. [Dean later brags that he’d never spent a single night in jail, but was instead enrolled in the Witness Protection program – and had spent his days in a WSPF office working on his book.]
September 8, 1974 — Ford grants full, unconditional pardon to Richard Nixon. [Ford’s people (and others) claim that Nixon’s acceptance of the pardon is an admission of guilt. Many believe that the public’s reaction to Ford’s pardon cost him his 1976 election.]
September 9, 1974 — WSPF brief filed in response to Chapin appeal.
September 13, 1974 — Ludicrous Lacovara memo to Jaworski concluding Ford’s pardon is invalid because Richardson had agreed to WSPF independence, which Ford could not later undermine. [Jaworski noted that he was only asking if the pardon were properly drafted to cover all contingencies and that he would be too embarrassed even to raise Lacovara’s point in court.]
September 20, 1974 — DC Circuit denies Strachan’s petition for writ of mandamus ordering his separation from cover-up trial.
VI. The Cover-up Trial
Through the combined efforts of the Ervin Committee, WSPF prosecutors and the HJC Impeachment Inquiry, Nixon had been driven from office. While he had escaped prosecution by Ford’s pardon, his senior aides could still be convicted and imprisoned. And, in that process, Nixon’s own guilt could be irretrievably established.
Building on Dean as their prime accuser (and to a substantially lesser extent Magruder), their real goal was now to “convict” Nixon in absentia.
Sirica, as the self-appointed presiding judge, would again play the starring role during this showcase trial. While the DC jury pool was hopelessly tainted and biased against the Republican defendants, any re-location of the trial to a less politicized venue (such as Richmond or Baltimore) would necessarily involve replacement of Sirica as trial judge – and an appellate path through the Fourth Circuit rather than the ultraliberal DC Circuit, which wasn’t about to let this opportunity to nail Nixon slip from their grasp.
__________ DC Circuit denies petitions by Mitchell and Haldeman for indefinite stay of cover-up trial (in light of the publicity from Nixon’s resignation).
September 26, 1974 — Jaworski urges Sirica to sever Strachan from cover-up case in light of comments at a hearing the previous week by two DC Circuit judges, which Sirica then ordered on September 30.
September 28, 1974 — Ervin Committee officially terminates its work and submits its final report.
September 30, 1974 — Strachan case severed from cover-up trial at urging of DC Circuit on basis of good-faith agreement with career prosecutors. [Case against Strachan, really brought to pressure this young lawyer to testify against his boss Haldeman, is ultimately dismissed, but not until March, 1975.]
October 1, 1974 — Cover-up trial begins with jury selection.
October 2, 1974 — Neal memo to his assistant, requesting summary of events trying to show that Dean’s story did not change over the course of his April meetings with the original prosecutors. [Memo shows concern over this avenue of attack, but since WSPF did not turn over Denny/Rient memo of November 15, 1973, it is unlikely that defendants’ counsel had full grasp of the extent of changes in Dean’s story.]
October 12, 1974 — Following sequestration of the cover-up jury, Jaworski announces his resignation as special prosecutor, effective October 25.
October 17, 1974 — President Ford testifies under oath about Nixon pardon before House
Judiciary subcommittee. [This is the only time in our history that a President has ever
testified under oath before Congress.
October 26, 1974 — Henry Ruth, who had been deputy from the outset, becomes special
prosecutor, replacing Jaworski.
October 28, 1974 Magruder begins first of five days of testimony at cover-up trial, ending
on November 4th. [WSPF internal document prepared to guide prosecutor through
Magruder’s direct testimony identifies over four dozen instances where his expected
testimony will conflict with his prior sworn statements or those of other government
LaRue’s testimony that his recollection was that he’d spoken to Mitchell on the morning of March 21st (i.e.: before Dean’s “cancer on the presidency” meeting with Nixon and therefore before Nixon could have ordered payment of Hunt’s blackmail demands) and made the decision on his own to seek approval only for Hunt’s $75,000 of legal expenses puts the kibosh on any idea that Nixon had personally approved payment of Hunt’s blackmail demands. [Fortunately for WSPF prosecutors, no one appreciates the significance of their inability to prove their prior assertions regarding Nixon’s role in the cover-up. Otherwise, their entire conduct toward President Nixon, thoroughout the Watergate scandal, have been called into question.]
November 8, 1974– Ed Morgan pleads guilty to back-dating Deed of Gift for Nixon’s papers, which were already at National Archives. He is sentenced to two years, all but four months being suspended.
November 9, 1974 — Agreement is reached permitting WSPF access to Nixon papers and tapes.
December 4, 1974 — Watergate Grand Jury I goes out of existence after thirty months. [Its life had been extended by Congress, making it the longest that a single federal grand jury had ever sat.]
December 9, 1974 — Congress passes the Presidential Recordings and Materials Act of 1974, seizing Nixon’s presidential papers. Extensive litigation follows, which is not finally settled until 2002, eight years after Nixon’s death.
December 11, 1974 — Harry Dent pleads guilty to campaign finance violations in connection with Townhouse Project, and is sentenced to one month unsupervised probation. [The Townhouse Project raised money for the 1970 bi-elections, but apparently without a designated treasurer. This prosecution, having nothing to do with Watergate, but everything to do with scaring off GOP donations, illustrates the dangers of giving special prosecutors unlimited jurisdiction.]
December 12, 1974 — DC Circuit affirms convictions of Liddy and McCord in break-in case.
December 29, 1974 – After three month trial, the cover-up case goes to the jury.
January 1, 1975 — Cover-up trial concludes with guilty verdicts for Mitchell, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman on all counts. Parkinson found not guilty. Mardian’s conviction later overturned on appeal.
January 8, 1975 — Upon his own motion, Sirica reduces sentences of Dean, Magruder and Kalmbach to time served, releasing them from confinement without any requirement of probation or parole. [Dean will have served four months, the least of any major Watergate figure. Magruder served six months. Later critics will argue that this “severe sentence, followed by instant release after trial” worked a fraud on the trial jury, as well as on the American public.]
VII. The Aftermath
In the intervening years, lots of books have been written challenging conventional wisdom regarding the rationale behind the original Watergate break-in. Only Shepard’s books challenge our understanding of the entire scandal and explain how improper collusion between WSPF prosecutors, the DC courts, and the HJC Impeachment Inquiry was able to drive Nixon from office, thereby undoing his historic 1972 re-election victory.
President Nixon and his senior aides went to their graves never knowing the truth of how they had been so improperly maligned, tried, convicted and imprisoned in clear violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to due process and a fair trial.
January 13, 1975 — WSPF files brief in opposition to Liddy’s petition for writ of certiorari
February 7, 1975 — DC Circuit, not sitting en banc, hears Chapin’s appeal from perjury conviction which had been tried before Judge Gesell. [This is one of four appeals from criminal trials held before Judge Gesell, none of which are heard en banc, in telling contrast to appeals from Judge Sirica, all of which are heard sua sponte en banc, as urged by Cox in his ex parte meeting with chief judge Bazelon.]
February 10, 1975 — McCord files petition for writ of certiorari challenging his conviction in break-in case.
February 21, 1975 — Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Mitchell sentenced by Sirica to terms of 2½ to 8 years. [Haldeman serves his term at Lompoc minimum security prison near Los Angeles, where he drafts a 46 page letter to James Neal, WSPF’s lead prosecutor, seeking to explain why he was not party to the cover-up conspiracy.]
March 10, 1975 — Special Prosecutor drops charges against Strachan.
March 12, 1975 — Maurice Stans pleads guilty to three technical counts in violation of Federal Election Campaign Act. Controversy ensues over whether he should be sentenced to jail for such minor violations.
March 14, 1975 — LaRue sentenced to six months in prison.
April 2, 1975 — Trial of John Connally begins in DC, where he’s represented by Edward Bennett Williams. Lady Bird Johnson testifies as a character witness.
April 17, 1975 — Connally acquitted on two counts in Milk Producers case. [Except for Ken Parkinson, this is the only acquittal of any Watergate case tried before a DC jury.]
April 18, 1975 — WSPF asks Court to drop remaining three counts against Connally.
May 2, 1975 — WSPF files reply brief in the appeal of the convictions in the Plumbers case.
May 14, 1975 — Stans fined $5,000 to three technical violations of campaign finance laws.
May 29, 1975 — McCord released from prison.
June 1, 1975 — Special Prosecutor subpoenas Nixon to appear before special representatives of Watergate Grand Jury III in San Clemente.
June 5, 1975 — Nick Akerman prepares 18 page memo to the file, detailing his ultimately unsuccessful efforts on behalf of the Plumber Task Force’s to pin violence at May 3, 1972 demonstrations (while J. Edgar Hoover lay in state) on Colson. [Memo demonstrates due process risk of concentrating unreviewed authority in a politically motivated special prosecution force.]
June 18, 1975 — DC Circuit, not sitting en banc, hears Ehrlichman’s appeal in Plumbers case, which had been tried before Judge Gesell.
June 23, 1975 Nixon begins three days of special grand jury testimony in San Clemente. [This appears to be a last chance, desperate attempt to nail the ailing former President in “perjury trap”: either he would have to “sell out” his former colleagues or would lie on their behalf, thereby subjecting himself to new charges of perjury, not covered by Ford’s pardon. While still recovering from phlebitis, Nixon ably defended himself and the last operating grand jury took no further action. The transcript of Nixon’s testimony is unsealed in 2011 by order of Judge Royce Lamberth.]
July 3, 1975 — Grand Jury III expires, without taking any action against former President Nixon.
1975 – Fred Thompson authors At that point in time, the inside story of the Senate Watergate Committee (Quadrangle, 1975)
July 14, 1975 — DC Circuit, not sitting en banc, affirms Chapin’s perjury conviction before Judge Gesell.
October 16, 1975 — WSPF Report released, detailing their investigations. Ruth resigns as special prosecutor and is replaced by Charles Ruff. [Vorenberg took lead role in preparing this formal Report, which is why his staff meeting notes are so critical to any understanding of WSPF conduct during Watergate.]
January 6, 1976 — DC Circuit oral argument regarding challenges to cover-up convictions. Court, sitting en banc, asked no questions at all. Separate afternoon hearing on Mardian’s challenge, based on counsel’s illness. Court also sat en banc, but with Leventhal recusing himself. Mardian’s conviction is the only one of twelve appeals from Sirica’s criminal Watergate trials which was reversed.
May 17, 1976 — DC Circuit, not sitting en banc, reverses convictions of Barker and Martinez in Plumbers case, and upholds those of Ehrlichman and Liddy in their trial before Judge Gesell.
October 12, 1976 — DC Circuit upholds cover-up convictions in long but unsigned opinion, except for Mardian’s, which is reversed and remanded for re-trial, but Mardian is never retried.
October 28, 1976 — Ehrlichman begins prison term.
November 2, 1976 — President Ford loses election to Jimmy Carter, former Governor of Georgia.
May 23, 1977 — Supreme Court denies writ of certiorari in cover-up convictions. [Four votes would have been necessary, but the vote was 3-5, with Rehnquist recusing himself. Nina Totenberg of NPR scooped the Court with her article on their deliberations, saying that Warren Berger had asked colleagues to postpone their vote for a week, while he lobbied for the critical fourth vote.]
April 12, 1977 — President Carter commutes Liddy’s sentence to maximum of eight years confinement.
May, 1980 — Edward Kennedy makes run for Democratic Presidential Nomination, loses to Carter in first ten state primaries and then withdraws.
December 9, 1982 — Leon Jaworski dies at age 79. Leaves papers to his alma mater, Baylor University. [Much later, it is discovered that they contain Watergate documents dating from his time as special prosecutor. These documents are returned to National Archives and opened as a result of Shepard’s FOIA request. They are found to contain, among other things, confirmation of Jaworski’s numerous ex parte meetings with Sirica.]
November, 1984 – James Hougan authors Secret Agenda, Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA (Random House, 1984)
April 23, 1985 — Sam Ervin dies at age 89.
November 9, 1988 — John Mitchell dies at age 75.
July 19, 1990 — Nixon Museum and Birthplace opens in Yorba Linda, CA
1991 – Len Colodny authors Silent Coup, the Removal of a President (St. Martin’s Press, 1991)
January, 1992 — John and Maureen Dean file lawsuit against St. Martin’s Press, et al, for defamation in collection with marketing of Colodny’s book, Silent Coup.
August 14, 1992 — Judge John Sirica dies at age 88.
June 15, 1993 — John Connally dies at age 76.
November 12, 1993 — Bob Haldeman dies at age 67.
April 22, 1994 — Richard Nixon dies at age 81and is buried at site of Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California.
February 14, 1999 — John Ehrlichman dies at age 74.
July 13, 2000 — Compromise reached on litigation over compensation for government seizure of Nixon presidential papers; settlement believed to be $18 million.
March 2, 2001 — William Bittman dies at age 69, opening 22 boxes of National Archive files for review.
February 17, 2003 — Presidential Tapes: Historical Record conference on presidential recordings held at Kennedy Library in Boston. Dean publicly admits to having been “chief desk officer” for the cover-up.
January, 2004 — Budget Reconciliation Act allows National Archivist to move Nixon’s presidential papers to Yorba Linda, with Nixon Library joining the Presidential Library System. Process expected to take several years.
May 29, 2004 — Archibald Cox dies at age 92; Sam Dash dies at age 79.
July 24, 2004 — Fred LaRue dies at age 76.
June 1, 2005 — Vanity Fair article in which Mark Felt admits to being Deep Throat. His senility, however, prevents any actual confirmation.
July 11, 2007 — Nixon Library officially joins NARA’s Presidential Library System.
February 22, 2008 — Judge Gerhard Gesell dies at age 82.
May 20, 2008 – James Rosen authors The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate (Doubleday, 2008)
June 17, 2008 — Shepard’s book, The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President, Inside the Real Watergate Conspiracy, is published by Penguin Sentinel Press.
May 19, 2010 — Naftali presents “first and final” Watergate Exhibit proposal, which he had drafted without any promised consultation with the Nixon Foundation.
May 24, 2010 — Shepard presents Five Watergate Conspiracies at Nixon Library. (Video available on his website)
April 1, 2011 — NARA’s Watergate exhibit opens at Nixon Library, without substantive change from original Naftali proposal.
November 10, 2011 — Nixon Watergate grand jury testimony released to the public by order of Chief Judge Royce Lamberth.
February 9, 2012 — Shepard presents Due Process and the Watergate Trials at Nixon Library. (Video available on his website)
May 8, 2012 – Jeff Himmelman authors Yours in Truth, A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee (Random House, 2012) [Book confirms that Bernstein actually interviewed at least one Watergate grand juror and that Bradlee possessed a seven page summary of that interview.]
April 25, 2013 – Shepard discovers Jaworski’s confidential Watergate file at National Archives, which has been made available due to FOIA request. [File contains documented proof of his series of ex parte meetings with Judge Sirica.]
September 23, 2013 – Shepard’s article on Leon Jaworski’s Telltale Memos is posted on The Atlantic’s website. [This is first public disclosure of Jaworski’s many ex parte meetings with Judge Sirica.]
March 3, 2014 – Max Holland authors Leak, Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat (University of Kansas Press, 2014)
July 29, 2014: Publication of Dean’s book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It (Penguin Books, 2014). [Book contains two significant admissions against interest: (i) says the 18 minute gap is “historically insignificant” (Appendix A) and (ii) says the Smoking Gun tape is totally misunderstood (footnote at pp. 54-55).]
July, 2015 – Shepard reviews Vorenberg papers at Harvard’s law library. [Vorenberg’s WSPF staff meeting notes contain surprising references to Jaworski’s ex parte meetings with Judge Sirica and other questionable actions by WSPF prosecutors.]
August 3, 2015 — Shepard’s book, The Real Watergate Scandal, Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot that Brought Nixon Down, is published by Regnery History Press.
August 8, 2015 — Shepard presents The Real Watergate Scandal at the Nixon Library. [Video available on his website]
September 15, 2015 — Shepard does GW Law School panel with NCC’s Jeff Rosen, Professor Stephen Saltzburg and Fox News’ James Rosen. [Video available on his website]
October 1, 2015 Shepard does first of nineteen presentations to Federalist Society chapters at various law schools.
October 27, 2015 Shepard does book presentation at National Archives in DC. [Video available on his website]
March 10, 2016 Shepard does presentation to Heritage Foundation in DC. [Video available on his website]
November 14, 2016 — Shepard participates on judicial ethics panel with District Judge Paul Diamond and NYU Professor Stephen Gillers at EDPA Judicial Retreat.
January 19, 2017 — Shepard is Historical Society speaker at Inner Temple Inn of Court in London, England.
January 20, 2017 — Shepard speaks to Rothermere American Institute, a graduate school at Oxford University.
January 30, 2017 — Shepard participates on judicial ethics panel with Ninth Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown and District Judge Andrew Guilford at Ninth Circuit’s Mid-Winter Judicial Workshop in Tucson, AZ.
April 7, 2017 — Shepard participates on panel with Ninth Circuit Judge McKeown during White House Fellows regional conference at Nixon Library.
May 11, 2017 – Shepard participates on judicial ethics panel with District Judge Andrew Guilford and Magistrate John Early at Orange County chapter of Federal Bar Association.
July 6, 2017 – Shepard participates on judicial ethics panel with District Judge Andrew Guilford and Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson at Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference in Fargo, ND.
August 23, 2017 – Filming date of Luntz Watergate Project, featuring Shepard, Dwight Chapin and Frank Gannon.