Summer of Judgment; Part 1 of 2
<v Announcer>Summer of judgment. The Watergate hearings he's made possible in part by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. <v News Anchor 1>This is a police photograph of James W. McCord. He is one of five persons surprised and arrested yesterday inside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. <v President Richard Nixon>I was appalled at this senseless illegal action and I was shocked. <v News Anchor 2>District Court Judge John Sirica today said bail at $100,000 each for two former Nixon reelection campaign. <v New Anchor 3>Los Angeles Times quotes Watergate defendant James McCord as saying that Dean and former presidential aide Jeb Stuart Magruder knew in advance of the plans. <v President Richard Nixon>My presidency, I accepted the resignations of two of my closest associates in the White House, Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, two of the finest public servants. There can be no whitewash at the White House.
<v Sam Ervin>[gavel banging] Committee will come to order. <v John Dean>I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>What did the president know and when did he know it? <v Charles McDowell>[gavel banging] The Senate caucus room. It's a square ol' room. A little pompous but practical. Just across from the Capitol on Constitution Avenue. Hello, I'm Charles McDowell. In this room, Senate committees have investigated assorted embarrassments in our political history, from Teapot Dome to Joe McCarthy. And here 10 summers ago, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities held hearings on the darkest passage in American politics, Watergate. It started in 1972 as a break in at a campaign headquarters, police court stuff, but the burglars turned out to have White House connections. The effort to cover up those connections became a conspiracy in the White House to obstruct justice and to place the president above the law. When the truth came out, President Richard Nixon resigned. To get at the truth of Watergate, the Senate committee brought to this room a remarkable parade of burglars and fixers and men of standing, including the president's principal assistance and a former attorney general. The committee that examined them was a fascinating collection itself, headed by an old senator who seemed somehow to have sprung out of southern folklore to guide us through a constitutional crisis with country wit. Beyond the personalities and the whodunit aspects of the story, watergate was about big themes the constitutional separation of powers, the protection of individual rights, the function of a free press. The people of the United States were caught up in all this to a degree that might seem unlikely to anyone who didn't experience it. Day after day, week after week, we watched the drama played out in one disclosure after another. It was all on television. And through television the people became a part of the process of judgment in the summer of 1973. So let's go back to early 1973, President Nixon was settling into his second term. He'd won the '72 election by a landslide in spite of a potentially troublesome incident during the campaign. The arrest of burglars on a political spying mission inside Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate office building. The Nixon managers denied any part in such goings on. And most of the news media lost interest after a while. But some gritty investigative reporters and a stubborn judge, John Sirica, kept pursuing evidence of White House involvement in the break in. Watergate wouldn't go away. So the Senate, prodded by the Democratic majority leader, Mike Mansfield, set up a special investigating committee looking around for a chairman who wouldn't seem too partisan or self-seeking. Mansfield was drawn to a '76 year old senator from North Carolina.
<v Charles McDowell>Sam Ervin was the man for the job. He was a Democrat but conservative, a former judge. His fellow senators knew him as a nonpartisan authority on the Constitution and the Bible. And as wily and old country boy as ever came out of North Carolina. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>Chairman is fond of pointing out from time to time that he is just a country lawyer. He omits to say that he graduated from Harvard Law School with honors. [laugh and applause] <v Sam Ervin>If the Senator from Tennessee will yield I'd like to say a word in my own defense on that point. I have a friend who introduced me to North Carolina audience who say he understood I was a graduate of the Harvard Law School but thank God nobody would ever suspect it.
<v Charles McDowell>I went to Morganton, North Carolina, to visit Senator Ervin, now 86 years old and retired for some recollections of that historic summer of Watergate. Senator Ervin, why you? How did you come to be chosen as chairman of the Watergate Committee? <v Sam Ervin>Mike Mansfield, I thinks one of the finest human beings I've ever known. And he wanted the investigation to be fair. And not only want it to be fair, but he wanted to appear to be fair. So the first thing he did was rule out for membership among the Democrats, any Democrat that was suspected of being-wanting to be president or vice president, that included most Democrats in the Senate. And uh so I haven't done that. He told me he won't he chairman for three reasons. The first was that I had had more judicial experience than anybody in the Senate. The second was I was the most nonpartisan Democrat he had in the Senate. And the third was that nobody could just accuse me of ever having harbored vice presidential or presidential ambitions.
<v Charles McDowell>What did you expect to discover at the beginning? Did you think it would reach the president? <v Sam Ervin>I didn't imagine how the president was involved. <v Charles McDowell>You did not? <v Sam Ervin>I thought we would find that some of his overzealous aides had overstepped the bounds of political decency. <v Charles McDowell>Did it dawned on you slowly or of a moment that the president was involved? <v Sam Ervin>Well, I became suspicious that the president wasn't uh toting fair with a, to use a North Carolina term, with the country in a the matter, because as soon as a committee was set up before they had had an organizational meeting or had hired a signal aide, President Nixon issued a public statement in which he said under the doctrine of executive privilege, he would not permit any of his aides or former aides to testify before the committee. But I have noticed a longtime that a person is uh being investigated or tried, and they have an information or have power that would exonerate them they can't run fast enough to catch the fact finder.
<v Charles McDowell>The other fact finders on the Watergate Committee intentionally were chosen from among senators who were not especially well-known or outwardly ambitious for higher office. For the Democrats, besides Ervin, Herman Talmadge of Georgia, Joseph Montoya of New Mexico and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. <v Daniel Inouye>I tried my best to convince my colleagues that we were not prosecutors. Somehow we gave the impression to the people in the United States that we were out to determine the guilt or innocence of persons involved. That was not our job. <v Charles McDowell>Three Republicans sat on the committee with the four Democrats. Up and coming Howard Baker, who'd been a tiger as a trial lawyer in Tennessee, became vice chairman. The other Republicans were Edward Gurney of Florida, who emerged as President Nixon's chief defender on the committee. And Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, a maverick whose sense of moral outrage came out in very tough questions. <v Lowell Weicker>I think a lot of people feel because of the tough questions that I posed, that I started out, you know, being quote against Richard Nixon or a Nixon hater. Not so at all. That took a lot of learning over a lot of months before I got to the point where I felt that there were some problems as far as the president and the presidency were concerned.
<v Charles McDowell>Sam Dash, the Georgetown University law professor who became the committee's chief counsel, reflects on what the committee knew as it began its investigation in March and April of 1973. <v Sam Dash>There was some newspaper reporting suggesting uh perhaps White House involvement. There was all suggestion, there was no evidence, no indication that could establish any relationship. Our investigation began there. <v Charles McDowell>Fred Thompson, a political friend of Howard Bakers from Tennessee, was the minority counsel. This young Republican came to Washington thinking the hearings would last only about a month and assuming there wouldn't be much evidence of wrongdoing among the higher ups at the White House. <v Fred Thompson>Well, when I started, I hoped and believed that the hearings would clear, clear up any questions about who was involved and who was not involved. And I certainly believe that at that time, there's no reason to believe the president or any of the people who had responsible positions under the president were involved.
<v Charles McDowell>Dash and Thompson recruited a staff of investigators. They worked around the clock in crowded offices in the Senate basement, sorting out a tangle of leads and interviewing prospective witnesses. Gradually, they began to piece together a complex and bizarre story of diverted campaign funds, wiretaps and still more burglaries. Early on, a dispute developed over the order of witnesses to be put on the stand in the caucus room. <v Fred Thompson>And there was some sentiment for calling the big names first and getting it out and and and really kind of going to the horse's mouth. The Haldeman's, the Ehrlichman's, and the Mitchells and really find out what was there, if anything and getting it over with. I think there was a lot of sentiment that this was something that for the sake of the nation and everyone else should not be dragged on uh forever. So there was some thought to booing that. Senator Baker, I think initially favored that approach. Some others on the Democratic side, Sam Dash, I think primarily wanted to go uh kind of bottom from the bottom to the top and bring in the the lesser lights, the witnesses and piece a case together as much as you would in a trial. And after discussion, that was that was the way in which the committee decided to proceed.
<v Charles McDowell>May 17, 1973, After the two frantic months of preparation, the hearings began. The three commercial networks and public television were there with live coverage. These would become the most extensively televised congressional hearings before or since. Scott Armstrong, a committee investigator, remembers the shock when he walked into the room. <v Scott Armstrong>That first day, when we walked into the hearing room and suddenly saw all those cameras. It just it was a circus that we hadn't expected. I think all of us somewhat recoiled from the notion that the kind of public scrutiny that was gonna be given us and the committee and the way in which it looked into the White House, it made us very self-conscious and wondering if we were fully prepared. <v Charles McDowell>At 10:02 a.m., Senator Ervin brought down the gavel. <v Sam Ervin>The aim of the committee is to provide full and open public testimony in order that the nation can proceed towards the healing the wounds that now afflict the body politic. The nation, the history itself watching us, we cannot fail our mission.
<v Howard Baker, Jr.>We will inquire into every fact and follow every lead. Unrestrained by any fair where that lead might ultimately take us. <v Charles McDowell>The atmosphere that first day was like the first day of school, part ceremony, part uncertainty, nothing really heavy on the schedule. Reflecting Dash's build from the bottom plan, the first witness was not a show stopper, but one Robert Odle. <v Sam Ervin>Councilman, call the first witness. <v Sam Dash>Will, Mr. Robert Odle, please come to the witness table. <v Charles McDowell>He was the former office manager of the committee to reelect the president, known as CREEP. <v Robert Odle>I would like to use this opportunity to make just one brief point. I joined the staff of the committee for the reelection of the president more than two years ago, because I believed in President Nixon and in his hopes and dreams for America. <v Charles McDowell>The public's fascination with Watergate mounted by the day as the intense coverage by the news media soaked in. There were complaints from people who missed their soap operas. After the first week, the networks began taking turns covering the sessions like. The infant public television service covered live in the daytime from Washington and then rebroadcast the hearings in primetime every night into the wee hours. Aggressive investigative reporting in newspapers and magazines, particularly the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for The Washington Post, had laid the basis for the Senate investigation. As for the relatively new medium of television, its importance to these hearings, to the process of public judgment cannot be overestimated.
<v Sam Dash>I wanted every American citizen to be able to hear and see the witnesses for themselves and make their own judgments, not had the judgment of somebody else. And the only way to do that, if they couldn't come to the caucus room and see and hear the witness themselves, is to watch it. And the only thing we had today and God bless it, we have it is through television. And it was that and not because we wanted publicity for the committee, but in order to be able to bring all of America into a democratic process, which is the working of their Congress. And it worked. <v Charles McDowell>I think it did work. The public's curiosity and concern were reflected early every morning in the lines that formed on Constitution Avenue to get into the hearings. Watergate also was the talk of Main Street from mid-August in that summer of 1973. Millions of Americans sat in their living rooms and watched this remarkable story played out in the caucus room by real people, some of whom became as familiar as the neighbors. In the course of the hearings, over a million and a half letters poured into the committee. Most, but not all were favorable. Terry Lansana, one of Sam Dyche, is principal assistance.
<v Sam Dyche>We were flooded with mail, thousands of letters every every week. We received over 100 to 200 telegrams a day. I received telephone calls on my home throughout the night and at the office during the day. Many people in this country perceived this to be a national call-in show where they could, in fact offer questions that they wanted to asked to these very important figures in government and have them, in fact, ask and get their questions put on every day. And I thought that was an extremely healthy kind of participation by the citizens of this country in what they perceived to be a quiz show. But one of the very high nature and a very important nature, democracy had never worked quite this way before, never had a nation participated so intimately in an investigation of its government. <v Charles McDowell>The early witnesses here in the caucus room could have been characters out of a crime story in the tabloids. The cop on the Beat the Wire man who tapped telephones. The bag man who delivered hush money. Gradually, the witnesses constructed the story. Members of the committee to reelect the president planned the burglary. The object was information to embarrass the Democrats. Members of the White House staff were involved in authorizing hush money for the burglars, and it was all coming out because the break-In was botched at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate. On the night of June 17, 1972, the committee quizzed a policeman whose beat was the Watergate.
<v Fred Thompson>So at the time, what you're saying is the time from when you believe Baldwin to have seen you to the time that you were apprehended. The defense was a period of five minutes. <v Carl Shoffler>At the most. Yes. <v Charles McDowell>Next, the committee heard from one of the burglars, James McCord. He demonstrated how to bug a telephone. <v James McCord>Cover would be taken off with the telephone. And two of the wires connected with this would be interconnected in series with the wiring within the phone itself. <v Charles McDowell>McCord was known as a good wire man. But the good wire man was not proud of his part in Watergate. <v James McCord>My participation in the Watergate operation on my part. For whatever reasons I may have had at the time, whatever rationale I may have had at the time was there was a mistake and a very grave mistake, which I regret. <v Sam Dash>He thought that he was a patriot. He thought he was doing things for his country. Perhaps he had to know better. But he did have a higher perception of his goals, and that he did at least think that he was doing something for his president and doing something for the White House, even though it was something he should have known better about doing. And that when he realized that the White House and the president were not going to back him up and they were not going to stand behind him and admit that, yes, we authorized this and this was a White House operation and that he was going to go down in history as simply a burglar, a common criminal macaw James McCord couldn't stomach.
<v Sam Dash>That is a fact. Now, Mr. McCord, that you presently stand convicted on a multi-count federal indictment, charging burglary, electronic surveillance and conspiracy arising out of the break in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate? <v James McCord>That's correct. <v Sam Dash>And are you now awaiting sentence on that conviction? <v James McCord>That is correct. <v Charles McDowell>A few months before the start of the hearings, McCord had written a letter to Judge John Sirica, who presided over his trial in federal court. McCord revealed political pressure from the White House to remain silent. The judge made the letter public. It was the first crack in the cover up. <v Sam Dash>When the wall of silence cracks, that crack begins to widen, widen, widen, and the wall crumbles. And that any good investigator once that first crack and we got it. McCord was it. <v James McCord>Political pressure from the White House was conveyed to me in January 1973 by John Caulfield to remain silent. Take executive clemency by going off to prison quietly. And I was told that while there, I would receive financial aid and later rehabilitation and a job.
<v Sam Dash>He saw that one of the strategy-strategies of the White House was to blame it all on the CIA too and of he was a great loyalist to the CIA, and therefore he decided that he was going to revolt against that. <v James McCord>Angered, speaking of my own feelings and at the time the letter was written, angered because of what appeared to me to be a ruthless attempt by the White House to put the blame for the Watergate operation on CIA where it did not belong. I sought to head it off by sending a letter to Caulfield. Dear Jack, I am sorry to have to write you this letter. If Helms goes and the Watergate operation as late at CIA's feet where it does not belong, every tree in the forest will fall. It will be a scorched desert. <v Charles McDowell>James McCord's presentation had been somber. Anthony Ulasewicz, a former New York City policeman, brought a touch of Damon Runyon humor to the caucus room. Cheerfully, he told the committee of his role as the hustling messenger between the burglars and the White House. Besides messages, he delivered hush money to some of the burglars from Herbert Commbok, Richard Nixon's personal attorney and unofficial fundraiser.
<v Terry Lenzner>I take it you were having these conversations. Phone booth. Phone booth. Between yourself and Mr. CommBank, that's correct. And we loaded down with change. Mr. Laswell. Yes, indeed. And how did you carry that change? <v Anthony Ulasewicz>Well, when I started out, I started with kind of a little box deal. When I finished up, I had a bus. Guys, one of these things that you play with quarters and dimes and nickels. Did you report that back to Mr. Palmer, reported that back to Mr. come back and had to wait his call back again. All of these were again precluded. I call him wait, come back. And I began to call him. Come back. Come back. <v Lowell Weicker>Cause I think he was quite a character on television. But the issue. Was what he was doing. <v Lowell Weicker>I suppose that I like many others. I can't fault in any way what is a wonderful sense of humor. Missed your last words, but I must confess that a long time ago I lost my sense of humor on the activities that you describe here today. I tell my friends, as a matter of fact, but it seems that today's Watergate job becomes tomorrow's testimony. And I would only ask you this question to try and appropriately frame the description which you gave to me.
<v Lowell Weicker>You know where Mr. Liddy is right now? <v Anthony Ulasewicz>Yes, sir. <v Lowell Weicker>Where? <v Anthony Ulasewicz>He's in prison,. <v Lowell Weicker>Mr. Hunt. <v Anthony Ulasewicz>He's in prison. <v Lowell Weicker>Mrs. Hunt. <v Anthony Ulasewicz>She's dead,. <v Lowell Weicker>Mr. Barker. <v Anthony Ulasewicz>In prison, I believe. <v Lowell Weicker>Mr. Gonzalez. <v Anthony Ulasewicz>In prison. I'm not certain of that. <v Lowell Weicker>Mr. Sturgis. <v Anthony Ulasewicz>The same. <v Lowell Weicker>Mr. Martinez. <v Anthony Ulasewicz>Same. <v Lowell Weicker>I think what we see here is not a joke, but a very great tragedy, I have no further questions. <v Lowell Weicker>If indeed you look at Euless of which is funny, then I can assure you politics is going to get dirtier and dirtier in this country. That's the reason why I blew the whistle on him. <v Terry Lenzner>Senator Weicker, Weicker's reaction to my questioning of Tony last was was very negative by the same token. I felt personally that day after day of tension and drama. It would not hurt to have some balancing humorous incidents.
<v Charles McDowell>Jeb Stuart Magruder had been the deputy director of the Committee to reelect the President. This ambitious young executive coolly explained how the break in and a whole scheme of political espionage had been masterminded by the reelection committee committee. And he charged that John Mitchell, the former attorney general of the United States, had personally authorized the Watergate break in when he was running the Nixon campaign. G. Gordon Liddy, the counsel for the reelection committee, was the author of the plan. <v Sam Dash>Now, did there come a time when you had a third and final meeting with Mr Mitchell on the Liddy plan on or about March 30, 1972? <v Jeb Stuart Magruder>Yes, we had. There had been a delay in the decision making process at the committee because of the EITI hearings. Mr. Mitchell was on vacation at Key Biscayne. I went down to Key Biscayne. Mr. LaRue was there. And we met and went over approximately 30 to some 30 some decision papers, mainly relating to direct mail and advertising. The other parts of the campaign, the last topic we discussed was the final proposal of Mr. Liddy's, which was for approximately 250000 dollars. We discussed it, brought up, again, the pros and cons. I think I can honestly say that no one was particularly overwhelmed with the project. But I think we felt that the information could be useful. And Mr. Mitchell agreed to approve the project. And I then notified the parties of Mr. Mitchell's approval. What was that project specifically? It was specifically approval for initial entry into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. And that at a further date, if the funds were available, we would consider an entry into the presidential contenders headquarters and also potential at the Fountain Blue Hotel in Miami that also include use of electronic surveillance, included electronic surveillance and photography of document, of photographing, of documents.
<v Charles McDowell>At one point, Senator Baker asked him to explain why the committee to reelect the president had authorized a burglary. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>If you were concerned because the action was known to you to be illegal, because you thought it improper or unethical, that you thought the prospects for success were very meager and you doubted the reliability of Mr. Liddy. What on earth would it have taken to decide against that plan? Not very much, sir. Was the incentive not right or the prospects for success so tantalizing that you felt it irresistible? <v Jeb Stuart Magruder>Let me. I-I knew you would get to this line of questioning. So why don't I give you what I think is the appropriate response here? I had gone to college as an example under and had had a course in ethics as an example under William Sloane Coffin, who I respect greatly and have great regard for. He was quoted the other day as saying, Well, I guess Mr. Magruder failed my course in ethics, and I think he's probably correct. Tells me my ethics are bad. And yet he was indicted for criminal charges. He-he recommended on the Washington Monument grounds that that students burned their draft cards and that we have mass demonstrations shut down the city of Washington. Now, here are ethical, legitimate people who I respected and I respect Mr. Coffin tremendously. He was a very close friend of mine. I saw people that I was very close to breaking the law without any regard for for any other person's pattern of behavior or belief. And I believed as firmly as they did that the president was correct in this issue. So consequently and let me just say, when when these subjects came up and although I was aware they were illegal and I'm sure the others did. We had become somewhat inured to using some activities that would help us in accomplishing what we thought was a cause of legitimate costs. Now, that is absolutely incorrect. Two wrongs do not make a right. I fully accept the responsibility of having made an absolute disastrous decision or at least participated. I didn't make the decision, but I certainly participated in it.
<v Howard Baker, Jr.>This is a decision really that is going to affect history that was made in only almost a casual way. <v Jeb Stuart Magruder>Yes, sir. <v Charles McDowell>Jeb Magruder gave the appearance of a man who was sorry for what he'd done. And he helped the committee. Not so, Magruder's superior, John Mitchell. The former attorney general didn't remember much. What he did remember was not heavily layden with regret. Mitchell, in the phrase of the day, was stonewalling. He had tried to protect the president from knowledge of Watergate in the beginning and now he would loyally try to protect him from the consequences of it. <v Charles McDowell>John Mitchell's allegiance to Richard Nixon went back several years to the time Nixon joined Mitchell's New York law firm. The law partners also became close personal friends. In 1969, the new president made Mitchell his attorney general for three years. Mitchell advanced his president's promises of law and order in America. But Mitchell was in on some unlawful conniving. It was in his office at the Justice Department that G. Gordon Liddy proposed a scheme of wiretaps and break ins against the Democrats in the 1972 campaign. Mrs. Mitchell, the outspoken Martha, raised eyebrows in the Washington establishment. Her late night phone calls to reporters made headlines. Mitchell never got along with the inner circle around the president at the White House. But he remained fiercely loyal to Richard Nixon. He agreed to head the reelection campaign and resigned as attorney general. Two weeks after the Watergate break in, he left the campaign and went back to New York after the Senate hearings he was indicted for trying to block a government investigation of financier Robert Vesco in exchange for a contribution to the Nixon campaign. He was acquitted on that charge. Mitchell later served 19 months in prison for his part in the Watergate cover up. Now disbarred, Nixon's old law partner works in Washington as a business consultant.
<v Speaker>My reaction was um representative of most of my colleagues that here was a valiant soldier standing up for his General. <v Charles McDowell>The Ervin Committee wanted to know if Mitchell had indeed authorized the Watergate break in, as Jeb Magruder said he did. Mitchell denied it. The senators tried to get some idea of what the president had known about Watergate. Mitchell didn't make it easy for them. <v Edward J. Gurney>When do you think the president found out about Watergate and the cover up? <v John Mitchell>I haven't any idea, Senator. I haven't any idea at all. <v Charles McDowell>Why hadn't Mitchell taken it upon himself to tell the president that his reelection committee was behind the break in? Not only had he kept quiet about that, he hadn't told the president about earlier proposals for illegal activities. Mitchell himself called those plans the White House horrors. He had not told the president about any of it, Mitchell said in order to protect him. <v Sam Ervin>Now you state that you are kept silent concerning the things you knew because you considered the uh the um election-re-election of President Nixon of such extreme importance.
<v John Mitchell>That is correct, sir. <v Sam Ervin>I wondered if un your statement ought not to be changed a little bit. You say that you didn't want President Nixon to find out about the White House horrors. Isn't the fact that is-isn't it the fact that you didn't want the American people to find out about it? <v John Mitchell>Well, I think that one and the same because as I testified before, that if the president had found out about it, obviously he would have pursued his responsibilities in that area very vigorously. <v Sam Ervin>And um you were afraid to tell the president, rather, you were, well I won't say afraid, but you uh preferred not to tell the president and didn't tell the president because you didn't want to president to do what you call lowering the boom. <v John Mitchell>That's exactly correct. <v Sam Ervin>And if he had lowered the boom why the thing would've been exposed. <v John Mitchell>I don't think there's any doubt. <v Sam Ervin>And the American people would've learned about it. <v John Mitchell>They would have learned about it. <v Sam Ervin>And it might have affected the votes of the American people. <v John Mitchell>It's quite conceivable. <v Sam Ervin>Yes.
<v John Mitchell>I don't expect to that extent were that some of us might believe, I think that's a matter for debate, but it certainly could very well have affected the election. <v Sam Ervin>You know, I have a high opinion of the American people and that I think the president had lowered the boom, if you had told the president, the president lowered the boom and had come out, performing his constitutional duty to see that the laws be faithfully, take care the laws be faithfully executed, I think he would have made his election more sure than ever. <v Charles McDowell>Some of the senators were incredulous that Mitchell could even have listened to Gordon Liddy's astonishing proposal for assorted lawbreaking in the campaign. After all, he was attorney general of the United States. <v Lowell Weicker>There is one man that is has got to stand above all else in this nation in the sense of enforcing our laws. It's the attorney general of the United States. I know that Mr. Mitchell figures where he toughed it out on behalf of his boss, but I don't think there's anything to boast about there. I think he should tough it out on behalf of the people of the United States.
<v Lowell Weicker>I must confess, Mr. Mitchell, that as I sat here and listened to your testimony, the only difficulty I find with it is that it is sometimes difficult to realize that we have sitting before the committee, not some administrative assistant to some deputy campaign director, but we have the campaign director sitting before this committee. And indeed, we don't have some deputy assistant attorney general sitting before the committee. We have the attorney general of the United States sitting before the committee. <v Charles McDowell>Senator Weicker kept pressing Mitchell. Why hasn't he been appalled by the Liddy schemes? Why hadn't he reacted in a way that would put an end to this kind of thing that eventually led to the plan for a burglary at the Watergate? <v Lowell Weicker>On the 27th of January, 1972, Gordon Liddy presented a plan in your office and the office of the attorney general of the United States. And uh that uh plan, complete with visual aids, included elaborate charts of of of electronic surveillance and breaking and entering and prostitution and kidnaping and mugging. Now, you've indicated that uh in hindsight probably should have thrown him out of the office.
<v John Mitchell>Out of the window I think I said. <v Lowell Weicker>Maybe even out of the window. In hindsight. The life of every American is or to a great degree is liberty, protection of all of his rights, it's in the hands of the attorney general of the United States. And do you mean to tell me that you sat there through that meeting and in fact, actually had the same man come back into your office for a second meeting without in any way uh alerting appropriate authorities in this particular case, the president of United States? <v John Mitchell>That is exactly what happened, Senator. And as I say, in hindsight, it was a grevious error. <v Charles McDowell>Senator Baker tried to understand Mitchell's concept of the presidency. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>Is the presidency so shrouded in mystique? Is there such an aura of magnificence about the presidency? Is there such an awesome responsibility for a multitude of problems and undertakings of this nation that the presidency in some instances must be spared the detail, must be spared the difficulty of situations which in more ordinary circumstances might be considered by some, at least, to be frank, open declarations of criminal offense. Is the presidency to be protected in that way? Is the splendor of the isolation so great that the president must be protected? And if so, in what cases?
<v John Mitchell>It is my opinion and my concern with respect to this particular presidency that he should not have been involved in connection with these matters that bore directly upon his election. And he should have been protected from the knowledge of it. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>Why? <v John Mitchell>In the interest of, in the interest of his re-election. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>Why isn't that a presidential great decision? Why of all decisions that might be made by the man, the candidate for president of United States, why shouldn't he be permitted to make that decision? What is it that arrogates that authority to someone else other than the president to take a material step that will significantly affect not only his election prospects and chances, but his presidency, if he is elected? <v John Mitchell>Because of the consequences of that would obviously flow from it? <v Howard Baker, Jr.>Why shouldn't he make that decision? <v John Mitchell>If he were to make the decision, there would be no alternatives. He would have a choice of being involved and what you all referred to as a cover up, or he would be involved in the disclosures which would affect his reelection.
<v Howard Baker, Jr.>All of those things were inferior and important to the ultimate reelection of the president? <v John Mitchell>I have no doubt about it at that time, and I have no doubt about it now. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>Isn't it unfair that he's now undergoing the hostility and the suspicion of a nation in this respect with the allegations of cover up, with the lingering suspicion about what he knew? <v John Mitchell>Well, that. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>That greatly isn't that far more unfair? <v John Mitchell>That's a statement that I'm not prepared to accept, Senator. I do not believe the nation feels that way. And I don't believe that anybody has come to point. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>I think, Mr. Mitchell, I think. <v John Mitchell>Come to the point where they have one shred of evidence that he was knowledgeable of the breakin or the coverup. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>I-I think you and I are talking about two different things. I'm talking about suspecion. <v John Mitchell>Obviously, because we generally get along fine. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>Well, we still do get along fine. And I'm delighted that I have this opportunity to probe into a great mentality of a great man. <v Fred Thompson>Well, Senator Baker found himself in a very unique role. He never made any bones about the fact that he wished that his friends Richard Nixon and John Mitchell and some of the others, you know, John Mitchell picked up the phone one day and asked Howard Baker if he'd like to be on the Supreme Court of the United States. I mean, you don't uh you you you don't proceed as if those things never happened. What you do is acknowledge them and and do what you got to do.
<v Charles McDowell>After two and a half days of testimony, the committee excused John Mitchell, but not before the normally controlled Sam Dash made an indignant observation. <v Sam Dash>Now, Mr. Mitchell, do you draw the strin-distinction and you've made it from time to time that it was your purpose, not to volunteer anything a distinction between not volunteering and lying? <v John Mitchell>Well, it depends entirely on the subject matter. <v Sam Dash>When you're asked a direct question and you don't volunteer the direct answer, you might say you're not volunteering, but actually you're lying in that respect. <v John Mitchell>Well, I think we'd have to find out what the specifics are of what particular occasion and what case. <v Sam Dash>Well I'll go back to the February- the July 5 question of the FBI as to whether or not you had any information on the DNC break-In. And your answer, only what you read in newspapers. <v Sam Dash>I found that John Mitchell tried to evade us and to avoid answering questions. He got the award for stonewalling. <v Charles McDowell>Surely the most memorable witness of the summer was John Dean, the former counsel to the president. Unlike so many of the president's men, Dean came here to tell all he knew. His testimony became the standard against which all future witnesses would be tested. Until Dean, the hearings were about burglars and fixers. After Dean, the hearings were about the president and the obstruction of justice.
<v Charles McDowell>John Dean was a young man in a hurry. Soon after he came to Washington, he was serving the most powerful men in government. At the age of 30, he landed a job in the Justice Department, working directly with John Mitchell, then the attorney general. They became good friends. After two years, he went to the White House as counsel to the president. But he wasn't able to get close to Richard Nixon. The White House inner circle, men like Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, blocked his access. Then came the Watergate break in. Soon, Dean was coordinating the cover up. That made him important to the president and he was in and out of the Oval Office. When the cover up began to fall apart, Dean suspected his superiors were setting him up as a scapegoat. He went to the prosecutors with his story. Soon afterward, Dean was fired. It happened the same day that Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Richard Kleindienst resigned. Two months later, John Dean emerged as the star of the Senate hearings. He also was the key government witness in the trial of the major Watergate defendants. His cooperation got him a relatively light prison term of 4months for obstruction of justice. He now lives in California with his wife, Maureen. Disbarred, he works as a freelance writer and radio producer.
<v John Dean>This is John Dean the third. <v Sam Ervin>John Dean was the most devastating witness I've ever heard. And I've as a lawyer and a judge and a legislator house, spent many years of my life listening to witnesses. <v Charles McDowell>From the beginning, it was obvious that John Dean could be an important witness. As counsel to the president he knew the internal workings of the White House and he was willing to talk, but he wanted immunity and he didn't want to tell what he knew to the staff and committee in advance as other witnesses were asked to do. <v Sam Dash>He was worried that the um that our Republican members of the committee, as well as the Republican staff of our of our committee would report back to the White House his cooperation. And therefore, if he had to appear before our staff or our committee, there'd be no cooperation. I figured out a way to work with John Dean and avoid that danger. I suggested to him that we have what I called non meetings, that I would go outside the Senate office building, meet with him at any place he suggested, he suggested his home.
<v Charles McDowell>Sam Dash began going to John Dean's house late at night to meet with Dean and his lawyer, Charles Shaffir. There the real story of Watergate began to come out. Clearly, Dean was indispensable and Dash had to convince the committee and staff to bring him to the witness table on his own terms. <v Fred Thompson>Of course I raised hell about that. And um uh it was a question of whether or not Dean was gonna have to abide by those rules that we had or whether or not he had become irresistible. And I lost. He had become irresistible. <v Charles McDowell>Dean's prepared statement, 245 pages long, laid out what he knew about others involvement in the Watergate affair and his own role as the coordinator of the cover up. In a sometimes shaky monotone, he told a tale that could devastate the Nixon administration. <v John Dean>It's a very difficult thing for me to testify about other people. It's far more easy for me to explain my own involvement in this matter. The fact that I was involved in obstruction of justice, the fact that I assisted another in perjured testimony, the fact that I made personal use of funds that were in my custody. It's far easier to talk about these things myself than to talk about what others did. Some of these people I'll be referring to are friends. Some are men I greatly admire and respect, and particularly with reference to the president of the United States, I'd like to say this, it is my honest belief that while the president was involved, that he did not realize or appreciate at any time the implications of his involvement. And I think that when the facts come out, I hope the president is forgiven.
<v Charles McDowell>When Dean talked about what the president knew about Watergate, he was drawing on direct knowledge. He recalled a conversation in the Oval Office a few months after the break in, when he realized the president was aware of the cover up. <v John Dean>The president told me I'd done a good job and he appreciated how difficult a task it it had been. And the president was pleased that the case had stopped with Liddy. I responded that I could not take credit because others had done much more difficult things than I had done, as the president discussed the present status of the situation, I told him that all I've been able to do was to contain the case and assist in keeping it out of the White House. I also told him that there was a long way to go before this matter would end. And that certainly I certainly could make no assurances that the day would not come when this matter would not start to unravel. <v Charles McDowell>Dean told of another meeting with the president a few months later, when the cover up was increasingly difficult to manage. The convicted Watergate burglars were demanding money.
<v John Dean>I told the president about the fact there was no money to pay these individuals to meet their demands. He asked me how much it would cost. I told him I could only make an estimate that it might be as high as a million dollars or more. He told me that that was no problem. He also looked over at Haldeman and repeated the same statement. <v Charles McDowell>Dean said he was exasperated by the president's unwillingness to see how serious the situation was. <v John Dean>It was my particular concern with the fact that the president did not seem to understand the implications of what was going on. For example, when I had earlier told him that I thought I was involved in an obstruction of justice situation, he had argued with me to the contrary after I'd explain it to him. Also, when the matter of money demands had come up previously, he had very nonchalantly told me that that was no problem. I did not know if he realized that he himself could be getting involved in an obstruction of justice by having by having promised clemency to to Hunt. What I had hoped to do in this conversation was to have the president tell me we had to end the matter now. Accordingly, I gave considerable thought to how I would present this situation to the president and try to make as dramatic a presentation as I could to tell him how serious I thought the situation was that the cover up continue. I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency, and if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it. I also told him that it was important that this cancer be removed immediately because it was growing more deadly every day.
<v Charles McDowell>Dean felt he had warned the president. He was worried about his own culpability, too. He was afraid he was being made a scapegoat for Watergate. So John Dean went to the prosecutors. <v John Dean>I told the president that I'd gone to the prosecutors, and I did not believe that this was an act of disloyalty, but rather, in the end would be an act of loyalty. I told them I felt this matter had to end. I informed the president that I had told the prosecutors of my own involvement and the involvement of others. The president almost from the outset began asking me a number of leading questions, which was somewhat unlike his normal conversational relationships I'd had with him, which made me think that the conversation was being taped and a record was being made to protect himself. Although I became aware of this because of the nature of the conversation, I decided I did not know it for a fact that I had to believe that the president would not tape such a conversation. Toward the end of the conversation, the president recalled the fact that at one point we had discussed the difficulty of-in raising money, and that he said that one million dollars was nothing to raise, to pay to maintain the silence for the defendants. He said that he ha-he had, of course, only been joking when he made that comment. As the conversation went on and is impossible for me to recall anything other than the high points of it, I became more convinced that the president was seeking to elicit testimony from me and put in perspective, put his perspective on the record, and get me to agree to it. The most interesting thing that happened during a conversation was very near the end. He got up out of his chair, went behind the chair to the corner of the executive office building off office, and in a nearly audible tone said to me, he was probably foolish to have discussed Hunt's clemency with Colson. I do not recall that I responded.
<v Charles McDowell>Dean's disclosures had amazed the committee and the country, but many had trouble believing what they'd heard. <v Fred Thompson>When John Dean first uh appeared on the scene, um I did not believe the most substantial part of his testimony. My experiences is that nobody, nobody lies completely. And uh some people tell the truth completely, but nobody tells all false. And so I gave him credit for that. He's very smart, obviously. But I thought that he was twisting things to his favor. <v Daniel Inouye>I doubt if any one of us at the outset believed that it was too fantastic. <v Charles McDowell>For four days the committee questioned John Dean, taking him back through crucial passages in detail. Senator Baker asked the question that would be heard many times during that summer. <v Howard Baker, Jr.>But the central question at this point is simply put, what did the president know and when did he know it?
<v Charles McDowell>There was an effort by some of the Republicans to discredit Dean. They seized on information about Dean's own finances. He admitted he'd taken money from a White House safe for personal use. Part of it, to pay for his honeymoon. Dean maintained he'd planned to return the money. <v Edward J. Gurney>I recall in your testimony that you said that you had neglected or forgotten to get some money out of an account in New York, and that's why that you took the $4,850. Is that correct? <v John Dean>That is correct. I from time to time would call my broker when I uh felt I needed money and just ask him to send me money. <v Edward J. Gurney>Did you ever call him for $4,850 to replace this? <v John Dean>Not until early this year. I mean, not early this year. It was in uh March or April of this year. <v Edward J. Gurney>Why didn't you replace it uh shortly after this time? <v John Dean>Well, at one point I did put in back in what I had uh into the account. And uh and in November, when I was trying again to get a honeymoon and I took it back out again.
<v Edward J. Gurney>How much? <v John Dean>Uh Senator, I have no idea. <v Fred Thompson>The question was, if you didn't use the money for that. What did he use the money for? Did he put it in his pocket. Little things that you would ask uh any witness on cross-examination to question their credibility. <v Sam Dash>I don't believe that it did anything more to show than show that John Dean was an ambitious, opportunist type young man who might have engaged in some peccadilloes of that kind. <v Charles McDowell>At one point, Dean disclosed that the White House kept lists of its enemies. He admitted he'd participated in this effort to harass an assortment of people seen as unfriendly to the administration. <v Daniel Inouye>Mr. Dean, I would like to now refer to a memo dated August 16, 1971. And you have testified that this was prepared for Mr. Haldeman, Mr. Ehrlichman and others at the White House. It is dated August 16, 1971. It's classified confidential. Subject, dealing with our political enemies. I'd like to read part of this. This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our administration, stated a bit more bluntly how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies. In your testimony, you have submitted to several exhibits with lists of names politicals, members of Congress, members of the media and members of the entertainment field, etc. etc. and taking this memo together with that list.
<v John Dean>I might add also, Senator, before we go forward, I don't believe that list is complete in and of itself. It just happens to be a part that I received and had access to before my files were shut down. There may well be even additional names and additional information available on that. <v Daniel Inouye>Mr. Dean I believe one list would have been enough. <v Charles McDowell>It turned out that Senator Weicker himself had been a White House target. In an emotional speech he called for a higher standard of morality in the executive branch. <v Lowell Weicker>They're gonna be no more threats, no intimidation, no innuendo, no working through the press to go ahead and destroy the credibility of individuals. If the executive branch of government wants to meet the standards that the American people set for it in their minds, then the time has come to stop reacting and stop playing this type of a game. I say before you and I say before the American people in this committee that I'm here as a Republican. And quite frankly, I think that I express the feelings of the 42 other Republican senators that I work with and the Republicans of the state of Connecticut. And in fact, the Republican Party far better than these illegal, unconstitutional and gross acts which have been committed over the past several months by various individuals. Let me make it clear, because I've got to have bipartisan moment. Republicans do not cover up. Republicans do not go ahead and threaten. Republicans do not go ahead and commit illegal acts. And God knows Republicans don't view their fellow Americans as enemies to be harassed, but rather, I can assure you that this Republican knows that I serve with look upon every American as human beings to be loved and one. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
<v Charles McDowell>Dean's testimony produced a number of shocks, the enemies list was one of them, but it was Dean's story in its entirety, the implications of the whole pattern of operations in the White House that ultimately was so devastating. <v Sam Dash>I think John Dean's testimony turned the hearings around completely. I think we we were leading up to a um a raison d'être, a meaning for the what Watergate was all about it. It uh as I've indicated, transformed the meaning of Watergate from a political burglary to a message to the public that something dangerous had happened in the United States. <v Charles McDowell>John Dean's testimony changed the course of the hearings and of history. But at the time, when it was also hard for some people to believe, Dean was David challenging Goliath. Nobody had yet stepped forward to back him up. Dean stood alone and he knew it.
- Summer of Judgment
- Part 1 of 2
- Producing Organization
- Contributing Organization
- Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
- The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
- AAPB ID
- Program Description
- Focuses on the summer, 1973 hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. Includes excerpts from key testimony by John Dean, John Mitchell, John Erlichman, H.R. Haldeman and others.
- Broadcast Date
- Asset type
- United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities; Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
- Media type
- Moving Image
Associate Producer: Gamble, Joanna
Associate Producer: Ducat, Sue
Director: Sirianne, Mary Frances
Executive Producer: Winslow, Lindo
Host: McDowell, Charles
Producer: Green, Ricki
Producing Organization: WETA
Production Unit: Clevinger, Jill
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1860529-1-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape
Generation: Copy: Access
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the
University of Georgia
Identifier: 83065dct-1-arch (Peabody Object Identifier)
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Summer of Judgment; Part 1 of 2,” 1983-00-00, Library of Congress, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 28, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-512-mc8rb6ww1z.
- MLA: “Summer of Judgment; Part 1 of 2.” 1983-00-00. Library of Congress, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 28, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-512-mc8rb6ww1z>.
- APA: Summer of Judgment; Part 1 of 2. Boston, MA: Library of Congress, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-512-mc8rb6ww1z