Richard Nixon Discusses the Pentagon Papers
Case: Recorded Conversations With Aides
Richard Nixon/Alexander Haig
June 13, 1971; 12:18 P.M.
Operator: General Haig, sir. Ready.
Haig: Yes sir!
Nixon: Hi Al. How, uh, what about the casualties last week, you got the figure yet?
Haig: Uh, no sir, but I think it's going to be quite low, uh.
Haig: It should be as
Nixon: Should be.
Haig: [Unclear] last week or better
Nixon: Yeah, could, should be less than twenty, twenty I would think, yeah.
Haig: So [unclear] be very
Nixon: [Unclear] when do you get that, do you, will you know?
Haig: We don't get it officially until Monday afternoon, but we can get a reading on it.
Nixon: Right, well, Monday afternoon officially, well let's wait till then, fine OK. Nothing else of interest in the world today?
Haig: Yes sir, very significant, this, uh, Goddamn New York Times exposé of the most highly classified documents of the war.
Nixon: Oh that, I see-
Nixon: I didn't read the story but, uh, you mean that, that was leaked out of the Pentagon?
Haig: Sir, it, uh, the whole study that was done for McNamara, and then carried on after McNamara left by Clifford, and the peaceniks over there. This is a devastating, uh, security breach, of, of the greatest magnitude of anything I've ever seen.
Nixon: Well, well, what, uh, what's being done about it then - I mean I didn't, uh
Nixon: Did we know this was coming out?
Haig: No we did not, sir, uh.
Haig: There are just a few copies of this multivolume report.
Nixon: Well what about the, well what about the, uh, let me ask you this though, what about the, uh, what about Laird, what's he going to do about it, is, uh, now, I'd, I'd just start right at the top and fire some people. I mean whoever, whatever department it came out of I'd fire the top guy.
Haig: Yes sir, well, I'm sure it came from defense, and I'm sure it was stolen at, uh, at the time of the turnover, of the administration.
Nixon: Oh, it's two years old then.
Haig: I'm sure it is, and they've been holding it for a juicy time, and I think they've thrown it out to affect Hatfield-McGovern, that's my own estimate. But it's, it's something that it's a mixed bag, it's a, it's a tough attack on Kennedy, uh, it shows that the genesis of the war, uh, really occurred during sixty-one.
Nixon: Yeah, yeah, that's Clifford, [unclear, laughing?] - I see
Haig: And, uh, it's brutal on President Johnson; they're gonna end up in a massive gut-fight in the Democratic Party on this thing.
Nixon: Are they?
Haig: It’s, uh, there're some, uh, very
Nixon: But also massive against the war.
Haig: Against the war, uh.
Nixon: It's a Pentagon study, huh.
Richard Nixon/William Rogers
June 13, 1971; 1:28 P.M.
Rogers: Hi Mr. President.
Nixon: Hi Bill.
Rogers: [Unclear] that wedding was just great.
Nixon: Well, it was, uh, the, the, gotta give Pat and Tricia the credit, they really worked, and that White House staff - weren't they great?
Rogers: Everything, it was absolutely superb. And I thought the press coverage was excellent - uh.
Nixon: Th, uh, TV was, uh, really, you didn't see it probably.
Rogers: I saw some of it, thought it was [unclear]
Nixon: It was, really, really came out [unclear], all three networks did it, just really couldn't have done better.
Rogers: I don't know how you could have done any better, I mean there were, there were no snide remarks or anything, just [unclear]
Nixon: [Unclear] really, really handled it well.
Rogers: It couldn't have been better.
Nixon: Uh, incidentally, uh, one thing I was gonna mention that, uh, we, uh, the, uh, casualties this week are gonna be less than twenty again unless they have some, something they haven't, uh, unless something has come up, unless they have some MIAs that they're putting in, in fact it could be fifteen I think.
Rogers: Is that right?
Nixon: Yeah, so we're, we're now coming into that period [unclear] which we said we would. [laughter]
Rogers: You know, I heard on the radio just a little while ago, that this is the first time that there's been no combat activity involving United States troops in South Vietnam.
Nixon: [Unclear] day
Rogers: [Unclear] last twenty-four hours, no combat at all.
Nixon: Good, good.
Rogers: Wasn't that good.
Nixon: Well there were three days last week apparently, I, I just [unclear] talking to Haig, and he said there were three days, there were no, no, no killed in action at all.
Rogers: Isn't it wonderful!
Nixon: And as [unclear] through Thursday there were only four, so, Friday, Saturday may have picked up some, but as I said they all, they sometimes pick up some who have been missing, and that they just decide that - that they're gone now, and they just let 'em go.
Nixon: Yeah, you know I was, uh, [unclear] I don't know whether you, I didn't read the piece, but Haig was, is, uh, was talking to me about it that, uh, he's, uh, that, that piece in the Times is of course a, a massive security leak from the Pentagon you know.
Nixon: It, it all is, it all relates to, it all relates, of course, to everything up until we came in.
Nixon: And it's, uh, it's very, it's hard on Johnson; it's hard on Kennedy; it's hard on Lodge. Of course the [unclear], the difficulty from our standpoint, and I suppose the Times is running it now because of McGovern-Hatfield, it's also hard on the Vietnamese, and [unclear] covert [unclear], but apparently the, McNamara had the study made, started, and then it was continued through, by Clifford. But, uh, it's really something, they said, according to Haig, four thousand, uh, secure documents had, were, were apparently just leaked to the Times.
Rogers: Isn't it awful.
Rogers: Of course McNamara looks lousy too; he comes out looking [unclear]
Nixon: Yeah. I didn't read the piece, but he looks, apparently, uh, by the time, you see the difficulty was McNamara started then Clifford got in, he makes McNamara look bad.
Nixon: And, uh, trying to make him look good.
Rogers: God, they're a bunch of scoundrels aren't they?
Nixon: This Goddamn Clifford you know, his, his, talking around, uh, if he's got something, he ought to say, he ought to tell us.
Rogers: Well, I'll, I'll [unclear]
Nixon: [Unclear] he's going to see, uh, your fellow Wednesday, but, uh
Rogers: Who is? He's going to see who?
Nixon: Clifford. Well I'm sure he's going to, he told, he said, said he was, uh, told the press that he was going to see Sullivan, er, uh, er, uh, may, to report to him, you know, the, [unclear, stammering] we asked for it. In other words we said, "Look if you got anything, what is it?" And he said, "Well I'll, I'll talk to Sullivan.”
Nixon: Sullivan called him.
Rogers: I, uh, Christ, I didn't know that Sullivan contacted [unclear]
Nixon: No, no, no, he did, at our suggestion.
Rogers: Oh, at our suggestion.
Nixon: Oh no, sure, sure. Because, see, when it came up, uh, Ron, I didn't want to have any, any interest shown in the White House, so, uh, we just said well, uh, have Sullivan say, "Well look, if we're negotiating here, if you've got something to pass on to Bruce, let us know." But he's a [laughter]
Rogers: Well I thought that, uh. I could take him on a little [unclear] - did Mel, was Mel on television [unclear]?
Nixon: He had, I think he was supposed to have been on one of the talk shows, but I, uh, yes I think he was, yeah, I didn't see it.
Rogers: Maybe [unclear] a chance to talk a bit tomorrow about what I should say Tuesday. I'll take him on as hard as you want me to.
Nixon: Yeah, well I would say this, that the real problem is of course how much we want to build him, but on the other hand, others may build him so that he has to be taken on, but we'll see what Mel did too. Mel may have, Mel said he was gonna do, take him on, but, uh
Rogers: Well, I think that if I take him on, I should do it with a, with a flick of my wrist [unclear]
Nixon: [Unclear] more in sorrow than in anger, my view, the view being, look, uh, after all, he was in this whole thing, and he left us with, uh, 550,000 men there, and so forth, and casualties [unclear] 300 hundred a week, now if he’s, uh, we, we, under those circumstances of course, if he's got information that, uh, he should, that, that, that it's, he owes it to pass it on, we, we're, and I think the idea too that my God, we've expl- , we're exploring every possible thing, you know Bruce brings up everything he can, every damn thing [unclear, both talking]
Rogers: [Unclear, both talking] Well I can, I can hit him, I can hit him pretty hard if I have to, because he's, he's very vulnerable.
Nixon: I don't know what he has, [unclear, both talking] probably through, don't you think, through some embassy or something, er, uh
Rogers: Oh I don't know. It's a political move, that's all it is.
Nixon: You think so.
Rogers: He doesn't have anything.
Nixon: They told me that Johnson is furious at him now, Johnson was at, uh, in New York, was speaking [unclear] talking [unclear] some sort of a party he was attending, and apparently he, he said, "Dammit,” he says, "the trouble with Clifford is that if, says he can, he can talk like this and go [unclear, "burning tree"?], and he says, "The president's got to go back to the damn office, and [unclear] he ought to tell him [unclear, both talking and laughing]
Rogers: That's really pretty good, isn't it.
Nixon: That's so true of Clifford [both laughing]. Uh, well, let's talk about it tomorrow then, and let's see what Mel said. And, uh, get a line where, uh, I'm deliberately having [unclear], uh, Ziegler-has played it, as you know, rather cool, and will continue to tomorrow, but, uh
Rogers: Well we can decide, I don't think, and we want to be sure we don't build him up as an individual.
Nixon: No, never [unclear]
Rogers: Because he's not known in the country.
Nixon: He's not known, and the story, uh, from what I have heard, is not getting a helluva a lot of attention nationally; it's more, it's more of a Washington-New York story.
Rogers: Even in Washington though, the papers are sort of criticizing him.
Nixon: Yeah. I understand White took him on [laughter].
Rogers: Well, even, even a fellow like [unclear] Roberts, who's against us took him on.
Nixon: Course he was over there too [unclear, stammering] interview, which
Rogers: Right, which, really when you read that interview [unclear] they've toughened their position.
Nixon: Yeah, [unclear, both talking] they're saying, "Look, we won't do anything unless you stop the aid.”
Rogers: That's right.
Nixon: Sure. Well, we'll see you tomorrow.
Rogers: All right, fine, thanks Mr. President.
Richard Nixon/Henry Kissinger
June 13, 1971; 3:09 P.M.
Operator: Mr. President, I have Dr. Kissinger calling you.
Operator: Thank you.
Kissinger: Mr. President.
Nixon: Hi Henry, how are things in California?
Kissinger: Well I just got here, and I'm gonna leave, uh, very early in the morning, so I'll be back in the early afternoon.
Nixon: Oh, I see. I see.
Nixon: OK, fine.
Kissinger: [Unclear] I understand you've talked to
Nixon: Yeah, Haig was, I talked to him about the
Kissinger: To Haig [unclear] I just wanted to, to check in, actually things are fairly quiet, we've got the casualties now.
Kissinger: And unfortunately they're higher than what I told you yesterday; they're about twenty-three.
Kissinger: But still that's a low figure.
Kissinger: It's just four above what we had.
Kissinger: They must have picked up some missing in action. The trouble with the daily casualties is that they don't reflect the ones that died, that were wounded the previous week.
Nixon: Yeah, yeah. Well on the other hand, my God, uh, Henry, nineteen, twenty-three, good heavens. It's just, it's just, uh, just [etc., stammering] down to nothing.
Kissinger: That's right.
Nixon: I mean, that’s, uh
Kissinger: And the more I've thought about Le Duc Tho coming west.
Kissinger: Uh, I'm not saying they're gonna accept it; but if they were just gonna kick us in the teeth, they wouldn't need him there.
Nixon: No, no.
Kissinger: So they're at least gonna explore.
Nixon: Yeah, well I, particularly if, uh, our Chinese friends lean on him a little [unclear) "he"? “they"?] will
Nixon: And it just m- , they just might lean on him a little, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah [Kissinger talking in between "yeah's" - unclear]. Well it's, uh, Haig was very disturbed by that New York Times thing, I thought that
Kissinger: [Unclear] Mr. President. I think
Nixon: Unconscionable damn thing for them to do.
Kissinger: Unconscionable [unclear]
Nixon: Of course it's, uh, it's [etc., stammering] unconscionable on the part of the people that leaked it. Uh, fortunately it didn't come out in our administration, uh, appar-, according to Haig, it's all relates [sic] to the two previous administrations, is that correct?
Kissinger: That is right.
Nixon: But I hope th- , but, but I, my point is if, are any of the people there who participated in this thing, who, in leaking it, that's my point, do we know?
Kissinger: In public opinion, it actually, if anything, will help us a little bit, because this is a gold mine of showing how the previous administration got us in there.
Nixon: I didn't read the thing [unclear], give me your view on that, in, in a word.
Kissinger: It just shows massive mismanagement of how we got there, and it [unclear] pins it all on Kennedy and Johnson.
Nixon: Huh, yeah [laughing?]
Kissinger: And McNamara; so from that point of view it helps us. From the point of view of the relations with Hanoi it hurts a little because it just shows a further weakening of resolve.
Kissinger: And a further big issue.
Nixon: I suppose the Times ran it, uh [stammering] to try to affect the debate this week or something.
Kissinger: Oh yes, no question [unclear]
Nixon: Well, [stammering] I don't think it's going to have that kind of effect.
Kissinger: No, no because it’s - in a way it shows, uh, what they've tried to do, I think they outsmarted themselves, because they had put themselves, they had sort of tried to make it Nixon's war, and what this [unclear, "magically"?] proves is that, if it's anybody's war, it's Kennedy's and Johnson's.
Kissinger: So that these Democrats now [unclear, "bleeding"? "bleating"?] about, uh, [unclear], or, uh, what we're doing wrong, this graphically shows that, that, who, who's responsible for the basic mess.
Kissinger: So I don't think it's having the effect that they intended.
Nixon: Well you know, uh, [stammering] it may not have the effect they intend, they, the thing though that Henry, that to me is just unconscionable, this is treasonable action on the part of the bastards that put it out.
Kissinger: Exactly, Mr. President.
Nixon: Doesn't it involve secure information, a lot of other things? What kind of, what kind of people would do such things?
Kissinger: [Unclear] it has the most - it has the highest classification [unclear]
Nixon: Yeah, yeah.
Kissinger: It's, it's treasonable, there's no question - it's actionable, I'm absolutely certain that this violates all sorts of security laws.
Nixon: What - what do we do about it - don't we ask for an
Kissinger: I think I, I [unclear, "shall"? "should"?] talk to Mitchell
Nixon: No. I, I think you should, you tell Mitchell that, uh
Kissinger: [Unclear] this is not an occasional leak [unclear] it's bad enough, but this is everything the Defense Department [unclear, "possessed"?]
Nixon: Yeah, let me ask this, call Mitchell, I think you should talk to Mitchell and ask him about his just, just, uh, calling this, getting this fellow in, uh, on the purpose of, uh, this was a security leak, and we wanna know what does he have, did he do it; and, uh, put him under oath.
Kissinger: That's right; I think we oughta do that think we ought to wait till after
Nixon: Anoth- , another thing to do would be to - be to have a congressional committee call him in.
Kissinger: I think we oughta do it after Wednesday [unclear]
Nixon: A congressional committee could call him in, put him under oath you know, and then he's guilty of perjury if he lies.
Kissinger: But I think we ought to wait till after the vote, before they get, get it all confused.
Nixon: Oh I agree, well you couldn't do it before then anyway, but you know [stammering] get it all set up [unclear, stammering] because you gotta have the questions, and the investigations, and know what it is. Well we're not gonna get disturbed; these are, these things happen you know, Clifford pops off, and this guy pops off. I would think it would infuriate Johnson, wouldn't you?
Kissinger: Oh [unclear], basically, it doesn't hurt us domestically, I think, I'm no expert on that, but no one reading this can then say, uh, that this president got us into trouble. [Unclear] this is an indictment of the previous administration. It hurts us with Hanoi, because it just shows how far our demoralization has gone.
Nixon: Good God.
Kissinger: But basically, uh, I think they, the decision they have to make is, do they want to settle with you, they know damn well that you are the one who held firm, and, and no matter how far they, much anyone else is demoralized doesn't make any difference.
Nixon: Yeah. Right, right. Well you'll find things out there pleasant enough.
Nixon: Well, that's a long trip for you, but I wouldn't, that's [unclear], don't worry about this, uh, Times thing; I just think we gotta expect that kind of crap, and, uh, we just plow ahead, plow ahead.
Kissinger: Well Mr. President, if we succeed in two out of three as you said [unclear]
Nixon: Yeah, yeah, yeah [both talking, unclear]. If we can, but boy you're right about one thing: if anything was needed to underline, uh, what we talked about Friday, uh, or Saturday morning, about, uh, about really, uh, really cleaning house when we have the opportunity, by God this underlines it, and, uh, people have gotta be put to the torch for this sort of thing, this is terrible.
Kissinger: Gosden was on that plane with me, and he
Nixon: Yeah, he's a great fellow.
Kissinger: Oh, he, he worships you [unclear]
Nixon: What did he think about all this, this stuff?
Kissinger: [Unclear] what you have to put up with, he said, he could, could never imagine it. He said well Dulles, he blamed the State Department, which is wrong in this case because [unclear]
Nixon: No, I know.
Kissinger: But he said Dulles always used to say that he had to operate alone because he couldn't trust his own bureaucracy.
Nixon: [Laughing] Yeah. I know.
Kissinger: I said well, that was good for Dulles but we pay for it now, because we are stuck with the bureaucracy.
Nixon: That's right, that's right, well I just wish that, uh, we operated without the bureaucracy.
Kissinger: [Unclear, laughing]
Nixon: We do.
Kissinger: [Still laughing] All the good things that are being done [unclear]
Nixon: Yeah, we do, we do, we do. Well, anyway, uh, I tell you what, on the Mitchell thing, I'd just have them - have him examine what the options are.
Nixon: And the di- , the Times will justify it on the basis that it serves the national interest, is that right?
Nixon: My God! My God, you know, can, can you imagine the New York Times, uh, doing a thing like this ten years ago, even ten years ago [sic]?
Kissinger: Mr. President, if, and then when McCarthy accused them of treason, they were screaming bloody murder [unclear] treason.
Nixon: That's right. No, whatever they may think of the policy, it is treasonable to take this stuff out and uh
Kissinger: Oh, it's one thing [unclear]
Nixon: Serves the enemy.
Kissinger: It's one, another thing to print ten pages of top-secret d- , documents that are only two or three years old. [Unclear] they have nothing from our administration, so actually, I’ve read this stuff, we are, we come out pretty well in it.
Nixon: [Laughing] Well, somebody over there got the stuff that we got, although we, I asked Haig about that, and, uh, he says well look, our file, as far as the White House is concerned, we, were pretty damn secure; on the other hand of course, uh, naturally whenever I've had to call Rogers and, and Mel in on some of these on Laos and Cambodia, you can be sure all that's in some file.
Kissinger: But Mr. President, all the big things you've done in the White House, and those files will leave with you.
Nixon: Yeah, that's right.
Kissinger: [Unclear] to the Nixon Library.
Nixon: But, but what I meant though, that's true, the files, but I mean these guys of course will have made in their own records the, they'll indicate what I've ordered, you know.
Kissinger: Oh they'll indicate what you have ordered, but they weren't in on the reason.
Nixon: Yeah, well let's not worry about that.
Richard Nixon/Bob Haldeman
June 14, 1971; 3:09 P.M.
Nixon: [Unclear] ask you what you thought about the, I was, I think that story in the Times should cause everybody here great concern. [Unclear] bunch of crap. [Unclear] that's the most, that's the most unbelievable thing, well that's, uh. That's treasonable, due to the fact that it's [unclear, "aid to the"?] enemy [unclear] classified documents I can remember how much [unclear] the Hiss case, a few little pumpkin seeds, slipping a little stuff to one guy [unclear], huh? But turning, turning stuff over to the [unclear], this turns it over to the enemy and puts the whole damn thing right out there, in the paper! I'm concerned about Henry's staff [unclear] don't have the confidence, because, I asked him, I said now look here - [unclear] Gelb
Haldeman: Over at, Murray G, I mean, uh
Nixon: [Unclear] Brookings
Haldeman: Yeah, I know, over at Brookings.
Nixon: [Unclear] had all these files, this is the thing, why didn't we go get them?
Haldeman: Well, remember I talked to you about that, a year ago. Tom Huston was all alarmed, and was in here and said they have all this, this file and everything, they've got it over at Brookings, they've moved it out of the Defense Department, copies out of the defense [unclear] Pentagon, took the whole file over there, and he argued, and we had, uh, we had some discussions about it. He argued that what we should do is, is send some people in on a routine, they've moved, they have a secure safe over there, to hold this stuff in, move some people in on a routine security check, find the stuff in it and confiscate it and walk out. And, uh, [unclear]
Nixon: Why didn't we do it, Bob?
Haldeman: I don't know. [Unclear] I'm not sure as a matter of fact, that this is precisely the same material; there is other material there too.
Nixon: [Unclear] this must be the material [unclear]
Haldeman: Yeah, but there's a lot of copies of this [unclear]: there's some other stuff that there're only three copies of, one of which is over at Brookings, according to Huston. Huston is an alarmist, but, uh, Dick Allen was an alarmist when he said we ought to cut out [unclear, "Symington's"?] we didn't do that, and [unclear, both talking] we've been hurt badly by it.
Nixon: We have. [Unclear] another [unclear] involved [unclear] Halperin
Haldeman: I'm sorry?
Nixon: Halperin and Sam Gelb have been working together. How much does Halperin know [unclear] does he know about the [unclear]?
Haldeman: I'm not sure.
Nixon: Henry talks [unclear, "to him"?] an awful lot [unclear] talking to people about what he's doing. [Unclear] that's just four times as great an opportunity for it to leak, you don't need [unclear].
Haldeman: The way to get him on that is just to remind him who he took with him to Paris.
Haldeman: And is he really happy that Tony Lake is, bouncing around [unclear, both talking]. Plus, and it's more dangerous now; in my view it wasn't this dangerous when he was working for Muskie as it is now, because now he's out of a job. [Unclear] sure he wouldn't leak it; he wouldn't use that information, well bullshit, you know if [unclear, both talking]
Nixon: [Unclear] remember, remember he told me, said he was very bright [unclear], brightest guy we've got; you can't make me fire him [unclear]
Haldeman: [Unclear] we finally did.
Nixon: That's right And he was [unclear]. J. Edgar Hoover was right; [unclear] put the finger on him.
Haldeman: The bugs showed that, the taps showed that, what Halperin
Nixon: Neil Sheehan of the Times is a bastard; he's been a bastard for years, on Vietnam. He got this [unclear]
Haldeman: [Unclear] long time; Klein says the team that's on it has been on, on, he, he's [unclear] the team has been on leave, or, or has been submerged for three months.
Nixon: Boy, if I were the publisher [unclear], I wouldn't print this stuff [unclear] top-secret information.
Haldeman: I don't understand why we don't-
Nixon: I, I just, I mean Haig tells us we've gotta not react and all [unclear]
Haldeman: But, uh, if, wh, what's the use of the classification system, why the hell do we classify anything if, if a newspaper feels no compunctions about printing it?
Nixon: [Unclear, both talking] then I think the thing to do is to, see, it's a [unclear], find out what the statute of limitations [unclear]; I think it's plenty long on this sort of thing. I don't think we can do much now, but if the statute of limitations is a year, and we've got a year [unclear] charge them then. And we can just go in and put, uh, subpoena all these bastards and bring the case [unclear]
Nixon: [Unclear] Henry's staff [unclear] and his own, and his people, you know, that [unclear]. . . . He [unclear] and talks to Brookings people himself I warned him about [unclear]; I said "Henry don't go over there,” I said, there, those people, that's, that's the Democratic National Committee.
Nixon: We don't have one friend at Brookings. Bob, no, we [unclear] - we need to remind George Shultz that Charlie Schultz is the guy at Brookings - you understand? So do you still want Charlie Schultz around? They play the game that way Bob; they are a bunch of bastards. They'll lie, cheat, anything, and then squeal when somebody else does. See basically that's what gets back to the whole Hiss syndrome, the intellectual, the intellectuals [unclear] because, basically, they have no morals.
Haldeman: But [unclear, "this thing"?] seems to me it, it hurts us in that it puts the war back up into a high [unclear] tension level, but the facts in it .
Nixon: Hurt the other side.
Haldeman: Don't hurt us politically so much, they hurt the others, but what they really hurt, and this is what the intellectuals, and why [unclear] hurts the government. What it says is, Rumsfeld was making this point this morning, what, what it says is, to the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: [unclear] you can't trust the government; you can't believe what they say; and you can't rely on their judgment; and the, the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it's wrong, and the president can be wrong.
Nixon: [Unclear] Roosevelt's involvement [unclear] World War II [unclear] came out [unclear] he knew what was happening and he did it deliberately. Pearl Harbor thing was undoubtedly [unclear]
Haldeman: You had that one, one article by that admiral what's, his, name that, that, uh, U.S. News carried, that, that told that whole story, and, and there was, but it was never official; it was, and it could be discredited because it was just one guy's testimony. This stuff is out of official files; you can't discredit this stuff.
Nixon: Well [unclear "so much for that"?] the story is out; [unclear] nothing you can do about it [unclear] I guess.
Haldeman: [Unclear, "My"?] feeling is that we shouldn't, at least Haig's urging was that, that we shouldn't do anything about it.
Nixon: [Unclear) “why”? "fine”?]
Haldeman: Until we know what, see what we've got, and that by doing anything we would only escalate it more.
Nixon: I think he's right.
Haldeman: It'll be interesting to see now how the, the other papers, and the TV and all pick this up; but I can't imagine [unclear, both talking] I would think they'd be doing white papers on it; and everybody [unclear]; Christ, it's just grist for the mill, that, that, uh
Haldeman: Won't quit [unclear, both talking]. Because the other [unclear, "interest-"?] see what the Times decides to print, and what they don't. They picked an interesting time in, chronologically, they didn't start at the beginning; they chronologically started at Tonkin, and, and it's interesting to, contemplate why [unclear] beginning stuff is all there.
Nixon: [Unclear] with regard to what, with regard to our [unclear]. [Unclear] feel that very strongly [unclear]. Just feel that [unclear] Goddamn - don't give 'em anything! Henry talked to that damn Jew Frankel all the time, he's bad, you know, don't give 'em anything! [Unclear] I don't want anything done
[unclear, "obviously"?], I want, I just wanna cool it with those damn people, because of their disloyalty to the country. [Unclear, "Kennedy"?] [Unclear, "hard to understand, legal function, left-wingers, trying to do"?] [Unclear] you could imagine a, you could, you could understand, you could justify say a Goldwater trying [unclear]. [Unclear] politically, this, uh [unclear] makes Johnson look terrible.
Haldeman: Johnson and Rostow [unclear]
Nixon: Pretty bad.
Haldeman: Total disaster.
Nixon: Yeah but on the other hand [unclear], this is a bunch of Goddamn left wingers [unclear] trying to destroy [unclear]
Haldeman: Because of that, there's going to be, uh. I'm sure, uh, a [unclear] that runs through here that, that will say that we put it out, in, in an attempt to
Haldeman: Yeah. [Unclear] surface, the apparent damage here is not to us; it's to the, it's to the Democrats.
Haldeman: But the real damage is
Nixon: Well, I'll tell you what to do, I don't agree with these [unclear] around here. Your, your staff doesn't know anything about things like this, Bob. You know what I mean, they have good intentions, but not good judgment because they haven't been through enough. [Unclear] tell you what I want done: Get [unclear, "the"? "this"?] story out right away to the [unclear]. [Unclear] get Huston, get all the facts together, get Buchanan and get the story, get Lasky to write it [unclear], or anybody else you can get to write it, write a little story. [Unclear] you know, anybody, doesn't make any difference, but get that story out now, that's, that's what to hand in, charge Brookings, let's get Brookings involved in this, get Brookings involved. Another way to do it rather than having to do that is to have [unclear, "a/the senate/senator"?] arrange a speech on the Senate floor [unclear], and, uh, and charge the whole thing [unclear]. That. might be better, than have [unclear, "a column"?]
Haldeman: Senator [unclear]
Nixon: Anybody's all right to do it, except Goldwater [unclear]
Haldeman: Goldwater [unclear, "would do it"?]; Dole probably would [unclear]
Nixon: [Unclear, "Dole shouldn't be used"?], but anybody else. [Unclear] a little fun in Congress [unclear] doesn't have to be a senator. [Unclear] oughta do it, make himself famous, but it has to be done. Let's, let's smoke Brookings out, smoke 'em out, [unclear]. [Unclear, "they can't be sued"?] Charge Gelb, use his name, and the information [unclear] he leaked it, [unclear "charges should be brought against him"?] [Unclear] Huston, is he around? All right, put him to work [unclear]. I wanna [unclear] these people [unclear]. [Unclear] now on the other [unclear], [unclear] you talk to, uh, to Haig about, yeah [unclear] this bad situation over there Haig has got to remember now that we've got to watch, we've got all our [unclear "men and papers"?]. [Unclear] reruns of the wedding [unclear] on TV.
Richard Nixon/John Ehrlichman
June 14, 1971; 7:13 P.M.
Operator: It's Mr. Ehrlichman calling you, sir.
Nixon: Yeah, OK.
Ehrlichman: Hello, Mr., Mr. President, the attorney general has called a couple times, about these New York Times stories; and he's advised by his people that unless he puts the Times on notice, uh, he's probably gonna waive any right of prosecution against the newspaper; and he is calling now to see if you would approve his, uh, putting them on notice before their first edition for tomorrow comes out.
Ehrlichman: I realize there are negatives to this in terms of the vote on the hill.
Nixon: You mean to prosecute the Times?
Nixon: Hell, I wouldn't prosecute the Times. My view is to prosecute the God damn pricks that gave it to 'em.
Ehrlichman: Yeah, if you can find out who that is.
Nixon: Yeah. I know, I mean, uh, could the Times be prosecuted?
Ehrlichman: Apparently so.
Nixon: Wait a minute, wait a minute, they, uh, on the other hand. They're gonna run another story tomorrow.
Nixon: Why [unclear] just wait until after that one.
Ehrlichman: Well, his, his point is that, uh, uh, he feels he has to give them some sort of advance notice, and then if they go ahead in disregard, why then, uh, uh, there's no, no danger of waiver; but, uh, if he doesn't give them notice then it's almost like entrapment, uh, we sit here and let them go ahead on a course of conduct and don't raise any objection.
Nixon: Well, could he wait one more day, they have, they have one more day after that I don't know, I don't know.
Ehrlichman: He apparently feels under some, some pressure to, uh, either decide to do it or not do it.
Nixon: Hmm, does he have a judgment himself as to whether he wants to or not?
Ehrlichman: Yeah, I think he wants to, uh, you might wanna give him a call and talk with him about it directly, [unclear] I, I'm not very well posted on this whole thing.
Nixon: How do you feel about it?
Ehrlichman: Well, uh, I'd, I'd kinda like to have a cause of action against them in the sack in case we needed it. I'd hate to, I'd hate to waive something as good as that; but, uh, I don't, I don't know what the, uh, ramifications would be in terms of the hill.
Nixon: Oh hell, I'd, it isn't gonna affect the vote, in my opinion, just [long pause]. Uh-huh.
Ehrlichman: Would you wanna take a call from him and
Nixon: Yeah, yeah, I, I'll call him, I'll call him.
Nixon: OK, thank you.
Richard Nixon/John Mitchell
June 14, 1971; 7:19 P.M.
Mitchell: Mr. President.
Nixon: What is your advice on that, uh, Times thing, John? Uh, you w- you would like to do it?
Mitchell: Uh, I would believe so, Mr. President, otherwise we [unclear] look a little foolish in not following through on our - uh, legal obligations, and, uh
Nixon: Has this ever been done before?
Mitchell: Uh, publication like this, or
Nixon: No [stammering] has the government ever done this to a paper before?
Mitchell: Oh yes, advising them of their, yes, we've done this before.
Nixon: Have we, all right.
Mitchell: Yes, sir. Uh, I would think that.
Nixon: How, how do you go about it, you do it sort of low key?
Mitchell: Low key, you call them, and then, uh, send a telegram to confirm it.
Nixon: Uh-huh, uh, uh, say that we're just, uh, we're examining the situation, and we just simply are putting you on notice.
Mitchell: [Unclear] we're putting them on notice that they're violating a statute, because we have a communication from Mel Laird as to the nature of the documents, and they fall within a statute. Now, I don't know whether you've, you've been, noticed it, but this thing was, uh, Mel is working
Nixon: Henry, Henry's on the other, I just, he just walked in, I'll put him on the other line, go ahead.
Mitchell: Uh, Mel, uh, had a pretty good go up there before the committee today on it, and it's all over town, and all over everything, and I think we'd look a little silly if we just didn't take this low-key action of advising them about the publication.
Nixon: Did Mel, did Mel take a fairly, uh, hard line on it?
Mitchell: Uh, yes, he, hahaha, gave a legal opinion, and it was a violation of the law, which, uh, of course puts us [unclear, "where we have to get to"?]
Nixon: Well look, look, as far as the Times is concerned, hell they're our enemies-I think we just oughta do it, and anyway. Henry tell him what you just heard from Rostow.
Kissinger: Well, Rostow called on behalf of Johnson, and he said that it is Johnson's strong view that this is an attack on the whole integrity of government, that if you, that if whole ca- , if whole file cabinets can be stolen and then made available to the press, uh, you can't have orderly government anymore.
And he said if the president defends the integrity, any action we take he will back publicly.
Mitchell: Well, uh, I, I think that we should take this [unclear]; do some, uh, undercover investigation, and then open it up after your McGovern-Hatfield.
Mitchell: Uh, we've got some information we've developed as to where these are, and who they're likely to, uh, have leaked them, and the prime suspect, according to your friend Rostow, you're quoting, is a gentleman by the name of Ellsberg, who is a left-winger that's now with the Rand Corporation, who also have a set of these documents.
Mitchell: So, uh
Nixon: Subpoena them, Christ, get them.
Mitchell: Uh, so I would, I would think that we should advise the Times we will start our covert check, uh, and after McGovern-Hatfield just open it up.
Nixon: Right, go ahead.
Mitchell: That [unclear, "does"?] that agree with you?
Nixon: [Unclear, “yeah"? “yep”?]
Mitchell: All right, sir, will do.
Nixon: Yeah, [unclear]
Richard Nixon/Bob Haldeman
June 14, 1971; 7:56 P.M.
Haldeman: Yes, sir.
Nixon: Uh, I had an idea that, uh, you perhaps have already thought of, but, uh, it occurred to me that this is something we might pull off, if you get Colson, Magruder, and all the rest really to, uh, zero in on it. Why don't you start a campaign, through letters and, and, at the, at the highest levels to, like Don Kendall and others could call people to have, maybe have NBC have a rerun of the wedding in prime time, what do you think?
Haldeman: I think they've already started doing it, because we were.
Nixon: Have they? But what I meant is, if you could have a fellow like Kendall, and, uh, some of their big advertisers call- Pick one network; zero in on them; have the big adver- , say gee this was a fantastic thing; everybody's talking about it; you ought to rerun it; we urge you to rerun it, just that, don't you think so?
Nixon: Because - uh, from all accounts everybody, uh, George Schultz was saying even Mrs. George Meany said she sat up and listened, saw it three times, you know.
Haldeman: I'll be darned.
Nixon: ABC, NBC, CBS. But I can't em- , emphasize Bob that if it were the Kennedys [unclear] rerun every night for three weeks, you know. But - uh, I really think this ought to be done, uh, and, uh. Who, who else could we put on this, who could, who could we recommend- [unclear] we ought to try to get a major network to do it - Just pick one, one major network [unclear] uh, maybe NBC, they are the ones that're a little [unclear "goosy"?] at the moment.
Haldeman: [Unclear] makes sense.
Nixon: And they did the, they were the pool camera, and so forth, and, and just let NBC run it. But they've got, they've got to get letters; they've got to hear from top people; they, uh, fellow like Colson can, uh, you know, stick it to them, what do you think?
Haldeman: I think it's a very good idea.
Nixon: And, uh, run it about Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, uh, because I, I really think a helluva a lot of people, the women all want to see the damn thing.
Haldeman: Yeah, yeah. Good, we will do it.
Nixon: And nothing really is negative about it, uh, in terms, don't you agree?
Haldeman: Absolutely, oh yeah.
Nixon: [Unclear] the, uh, the reactions I had during the day are really rather astonishing.
Haldeman: [Unclear] a total plus, all the way.
Nixon: People [unclear] you would least expect it from. Well, put it to Colson, he'll figure out some devious way to get at it.
Haldeman: Right, OK, [unclear]
Richard Nixon/Charles Colson
June 15, 1971; 6:21 P.M.
Operator: Mr. President, I have Mr. Colson for you.
Colson: Yes, yes sir, Mr. President.
Nixon: I was thinking on our, uh, this, uh, uh, New York Times thing. Uh [stammering] maybe you could generate some support from some of our, our constituent groups on this, you know, uh, like for example, uh, I think veterans and, uh, uh
Colson: Yes, sir.
Nixon: And, uh, fellow like Meany ought to pop up on this one, you know.
Nixon: I mean this, and also I think that on the congressional side that what is really needed, here's a great opportunity for a young congressman, or, uh, a vigorous congressman and or senator or so, to really, uh, go, go, go all out on a thing like this. You know now they're, they have the privilege of the, you know, they, they're, what they have is, uh, of course, uh, they can say anything they please, uh, on the floor, uh, and even though the case is gonna be in the courts.
Nixon: We're gonna be stuck with it; but on the other hand, uh, uh, we can't say much; but, uh, but I, I think that it's very important to, to, to build a backfire on these people. Understand, I, I personally think that if we [unclear, "cast"?] this in the right direction. Chuck, this could backfire on the Times, I [unclear]
Colson: Oh I think absolutely [unclear]
Nixon: They're playing by their own constituency. Now, we've got to get across several points: one, it's the Kennedy-Johnson papers.
Nixon: [Unclear, stammering] basically, that's what we're talking about, the Kennedy-Johnson papers, and that gets it out of our way. Second, it's a family quarrel; we're not gonna comment on [unclear]
Colson: Yes, sir.
Nixon: But what we have is the larger responsibility, to maintain the integrity of government.
Colson: Wholly unrelated to these papers.
Nixon: [Unclear] and, uh, wholly unrelated [unclear] integrity of government, like as Rogers said in his press conferences, he had inquiries from foreign governments today, as to whether their papers were s- , uh, classified, er, you know.
Nixon: And that, uh, this also involves, uh, it really, it really does involve this. I mean it really involves the ability to conduct government, how the hell can a president, or a secretary of defense, or anybody do anything.
Colson: That's right.
Nixon: And, uh, how can [unclear, "he"? "they"?] make a contingency plan if it's gonna be taken out in a trunk and given to a Goddamn newspaper.
Colson: Well, I don't think there's any question Mr. President that [unclear], my own feeling is that it will backfire against the New York Times, and we can help generate this. I, [unclear] matter of fact we have a meeting going on at the moment, that I, [unclear] that I came out of to talk to you, but [unclear]
Nixon: All right, fine. Well then, go head and meet.
Colson: No, no, the, the purpose of it is to, uh, generate some editorials in the other newspapers, that are highly critical, like the Chicago Tribune ought to give us a good play; the New York Daily News should
Nixon: Sure, well, uh, Hearst papers refused to print it.
Colson: That's right.
Nixon: And they [unclear "subscribe"?], they ought to take it on, but the papers, the newspaper establishment ought to come, they've got to say whether they're going to approve this kind of thing. Also, I think a network ought to step up for this one.
Colson: Strangely enough, one of the uh, most outspoken fellows in the meeting that we've just been holding on this very subject is Ray Price, who thinks that, uh.
Nixon: [Unclear, "does he"?]
Colson: The newspapers are [unclear], thinks the New York Times is totally irresponsible.
Nixon: Well he's a decent man, that's the reason, he's a man of integrity.
Colson: That's right [unclear]. We can certainly get the veterans groups, uh, [unclear]
Nixon: You know, I think some of them should, they ought to put, cast this, [stammering] listen, uh, the main thing is to cast it in terms of doing something disloyal to the country.
Colson: That's right.
Nixon: This risks our men you know, just, uh, all that sort of thing, secret, uh, things that, uh, aid and comfort to the enemy, I mean, after all, [unclear] Jesus, its, uh.
Colson: I think the Times position is indefensible; I think that, uh, it's, it's distinguishable from any other case, in that here we went to them and said you can't publish that; it's a violation of security, and they said to hell with you we're going ahead and publish anyway. So we, we, we would have been very, very remiss in our duties had we not taken whatever legal means were available to prevent it, and, uh, I think we [unclear], I think you'll find a great deal of popular support for, uh
Nixon: If we can generate. Now, they're, they're running the line, Chuck, a right to know, b- , raise that with Price; ask him how do you answer "right to know?" That's of course a Goddamn code-word: right to know, the public has no right to know secret documents.
Colson: Well we've been
Nixon: I don't want to know.
Colson: No, of course not. And [unclear, stammering] you can make the point that, that "right to know" does not include things which will compromise the, either the security [unclear, both talking]
Nixon: [Unclear] which will injure the country, and, and right, and, and freedom of the press does not, is not the freedom to, uh, destroy the integrity of the government, to print, uh, well
Colson: [Unclear] there's never a, [unclear] in these kinds of issues, Mr. President, uh you never get into the argument of, of, uh, degree, it's a, you’re, you are either a little bit pregnant or you are not.
Nixon: That's right.
Colson: And if you - if it were the battle plan for the withdrawal of troops next week, that could subject boys to attack, [unclear, "why"?] there'd be no argument about it. Now the integrity of the system as a whole is at stake.
Nixon: That's right.
Colson: You simply cannot allow a newspaper to publish classified documents.
Nixon: If they justify this, then in any future ca- , case, then the publisher of a paper will put himself, that was really what Alger Hiss did, you see.
Colson: That's right.
Nixon: He put himself on a higher pedestal, and said well, the Russians are entitled to know this; and he passed the information, and th- , then
Colson: And the New York Times
Nixon: [Unclear, "incidentally"?] was among the papers that supported him in that.
Colson: That's right.
Nixon: Now the point is that here, what the Times has done, is placed itself above the law. They say the law provides this, but we consider this an immoral war, it's our responsibility to print it. Now Goddamnit you can't have that thing in a free country!
Colson: [Unclear], that's irrelevant, and the right to know issue doesn't really come in there [unclear, both talking]
Nixon: Well, pour it on them.
Colson: We’ll, we’ll pour it on, we’re coming up with
Nixon: Get some congressmen stirred up.
Colson: We'll get the Congress, and some editorials, and [unclear] our groups.
Colson: Yes, sir.
Richard Nixon/John Mitchell
June 15, 1971; 6:35 P.M.
Operator: Attorney General.
Mitchell: Yes, Mr. President.
Nixon: I wondered, uh, if you had any, uh, success with Rogers?
Mitchell: Yes, he's agreeable to do it, we've, uh, got the people from [the Department of] Defense, Justice, and his, uh, counsel over there, Stevenson, working on it.
Nixon: Good. Good.
Mitchell: And he understood the point and, uh, was perfectly happy to do it.
Nixon: And he'll get out a sort of a general statement of some sort?
Mitchell: Yes, sir. It will not, uh, be limited solely [Nixon interjects "Yeah"] to the foreign affairs.
Nixon: I think what is very important in this is to find a way to get some strong [unclear, "language"?] like "a massive breach of security” things of that sort, so that we can get something in the public mind. We're not just interested in making the technical case for the lawyers.
Nixon: Something where they can see what is really involved here is, uh, irresponsible, you know, use some really high flown adjectives [laughs]. That's what I'd hope you can get some people to work on that.
Mitchell: We will, and of course Bill [Rogers] has the understanding that, uh, it'll be sent over to the White House to be looked at 'fore it goes out.
Nixon: All right.
Mitchell: So your phrase coiners and wordmakers [Nixon interjects "Yeah, yeah"] can get a crack at it.
Nixon: Well, I tell you, John, it's, uh, one of those fights where you don't know whether you, you don't know how, gonna, affects you, but boy it's one we had to make, and by God, it's one I enjoy. These, these bastards have gone too far this time, don't you think?
Mitchell: It is certainly my opinion, you had to do it [i.e., suppress the Pentagon Papers through a prior restraint on the press], and the important thing is to work at it like you've suggested, to try and structure it so that the, uh, import of it, and the nature of it gets through to the public.
Mitchell: And I believe that, um, the press is going to be reasonably fair on this. I don't mean the Times and the Post but I mean the rest of the press.
Mitchell: [unclear word] I think
Nixon: I don't know.
Mitchell: I think they'll understand how far they have gone.
Nixon: Yeah, yeah. My God, they're gonna understand there, there, there is no paper in the country that's for us, we're gonna fight it.
Mitchell: OK [amused].
Nixon: Thanks, John [also amused].
Mitchell: We've got, uh, a good judge on it, uh, Murray Gurfein who was
Nixon: [seemingly in wonderment] Oh yeah.
Mitchell: Tom Dewey's, uh, counsel up there.
Nixon: I know him well. Smart as hell.
Mitchell: Yeah. And, uh, he's new, and, uh, he's appreciative, so
Nixon: [Guffaws] Good.
Mitchell: We ought to work it out.
Richard Nixon/Secretary of State William P. Rogers
June 15, 1971; 6:44 P.M.
Operator: Secretary Rogers, sir.
Rogers: Yeah, hello Mr. President.
Nixon: You had a long day.
Rogers: [Laughs] Sort of. Boy I started at eight o’clock with a congressman who had been going like a, chicken with my head cut off.
Nixon: But I, uh, wanted to tell ya I just, uh, got a chance to go over the, uh, press thing. I just think you couldn't have done it better. And I think, par- , particularly effective was what you said about the fact that, uh, some foreign, uh, governments have raised questions about the security of their own cables and that sort of thing.
Nixon: Because Goddamnit it's true.
Nixon: How can we, uh, how can they, uh, they wonder if, uh, we, if we allow just a wholesale publication of, declassification I should say. Did you know that the documents, uh, with regard to Pearl Harbor have not been de- , declassified yet?
Rogers: Um hmm.
Nixon: Hell, no.
Rogers: Isn't that something? [Laughs]
Nixon: I know. And, and this thing is uh, uh, we can talk about, somebody placing themselves above the law and all that but, on this, uh, statement thing the, my feeling is that, first, I cannot say anything I feel.
Rogers: That's right.
Nixon: Because it's in the courts. I think you can, solely from a, as a, you know, a foreign
Nixon: Can you, don't you think so?
Rogers: Sure. I'll be glad to say anything that would be helpful.
Nixon: Well, that's. Tonight, could I ask one thing: uh, I don't know how they got the seating arrangement but, uh, I really talked myself out with [West German Chancellor Willi] Brandt,41 I think, and, uh, maybe I think I'll try to, uh, when we talk we'll engage the three of us. We'll just sit and, you know, talk around my, I don't know whether you're on his right or left or however.
Rogers: OK, I'll try to do the talking.
Rogers: I, I, I ran out of stuff to talk to him about too, you know.
Nixon: You know, I know, it's just, uh, they, they, a subject, the only subject left is Vietnam, and I, uh, you want to talk about that tonight so we'll, uh, talk a little about Vietnam.
Rogers: [Laughs] You know I just sat looking at television that, the picture came over pretty good on television.
Nixon: Oh, did it?
Rogers: Getting better. But uh, the, uh, dammit they never carry the good things. I said that when they talked about this thing, I imagine the papers, I said that I was not going to get involved in, in passing judgment on it. I said, we've got other things to do. We're trying to get this nation out of war.
Rogers: I said we, what I would hope is that when President Nixon leaves office we can have a study made of how we got the United States out of Vietnam. Uh.
Rogers: And, uh
Nixon: Also, as I say, basically this is a family quarrel. We, and I, I think the [Pentagon] Papers could well be called the Kennedy-Johnson Papers is what they are, you know.
Rogers: That's right.
Nixon: Not the McNamara, basically it's McNamara and Clifford.
Rogers: Yeah. That's right.
Nixon: Uh, and uh, I told the boys here just call them Kennedy-Johnson. You know? [Laughs]
Rogers: It's uh, it's really a shameful, shameful [words obscured]
Nixon: I just, I just can't really see how the Times could do it. Incidentally, [news magnate] George Hearst told [Nixon adviser] Bob Finch, you know they are the, they, they are the Times, uh, syndicate in California and he made the decision there not to print it because he considered it not in the national interest. I thought it would be interesting, I told the boys to check around the other Times clients to see how many of them might have done the same thing. [Rogers interjects "Yeah" repeatedly] That's uh, that's uh, that's very damn, uh, uh, good of old George to, not to do that.
Rogers: Yeah. I hope this judge we've got in New York is all right. He, uh, he uh, entered a temporary injunction, I mean.
Nixon: Well, you know who it is?
Rogers: Yeah. His name is Murray Gurfein. I know him well. He's
Nixon: Dewey's man, yeah.
Rogers: He used to be in the office.
Nixon: I just appointed him.
Rogers: I know it, but he's also pretty
Rogers: A little liberal, and he's, uh, I'm sure he would like to cultivate the Times so he'll have
Nixon: Well he also may be thinking of going up [among the ranks of the judiciary, which is dependent upon presidential appointment], too.
Nixon: And he damn well better act well. [Laughs] OK.
Rogers: All right, see you later, Mr. President.
Nixon: Bye. Thank you.
Richard Nixon/Domestic Counselor John D. Ehrlichman
June 16, 1971; 8:22 P.M.
Nixon: Uh, well [name]
Operator: Mr. Ehrlichman.
Nixon: Yeah, John, I just reading the memorandum with regard to the grand jury thing, uh, have you talked to [Attorney General John] Mitchell about it?
Ehrlichman: No, I haven't. I thought I'd better clear it with you first [Nixon interjects "Yeah"], because I didn't know what, uh, what you might have been talking with him about.
Nixon: No, I haven't talked to him about it.
Ehrlichman: I'll, I'll give him a call tonight.
Nixon: Fine. [Pauses] Well what, uh, how does uh, y- , y- , your thought is, uh, uh, to, I mean it isn't a question, I mean the delay is one thing, I think in, in terms of, uh, of uh, reconsidering whether we go ahead with it of course is something else, that's something that, uh, has profound implications you know.
Ehrlichman: [Clears throat] Sure. I understand. It just, it occurred to me today as I read the pleading.
Ehrlichman: That, uh, there was a possibility that we could get the kind of an adverse finding on the merits.
Ehrlichman: In this, uh,
Ehrlichman: Hearing, that we really ought to have a chance to take a look at. If we once launch that grand jury and then
Ehrlichman: Get an adverse ruling from the court and stop it, then I think we've got a, a bad face-off.
Nixon: Well, what does it really get down to? If you delay it does that mean that the Times goes ahead and the, uh, the uh, temporary restraining order apparently applies for four days only, is that right?
Ehrlichman: It, it expires, eh, by its terms, uh, uh, Saturday at noon, or one o'clock.
Nixon: So they'd go ahead and print.
Ehrlichman: They'd print the Sunday edition anyway, regardless of what the grand jury did.
Nixon: Yeah. [Short pause] I'm not too concerned about what they print now. Uh, the point is you don't want to have an adverse, uh
Ehrlichman: I don't want to appear to be calling off a grand jury in mid-flight.
Nixon: Right. Right. That makes a lot of sense. Well, have you talked to [Robert D.] Mardian about it?
Ehrlichman: No, I'll give, uh, I'll give John Mitchell a call. Nixon: Whoever you think is really in charge. You know, you might call and chat a bit about it.
Ehrlichman: All right. Nixon: It's imp-, it’s imp-, I agree with you it's important not to have an adverse court ruling right in the face of all this. But, uh
Ehrlichman: Well, I'll get his estimate. Nixon: We have to go, naturally we have to go forward on the, uh [chuckles], one way or another, on the, not only on the Times but on the, person who, obviously the FBI thing can go forward I understand.
Nixon: That, that is going forward, is it not?
Ehrlichman: Right. That's, that's very vigorously under way.
Nixon: Don't you have to, on that, does that require a grand jury, or how does that work?
Ehrlichman: It would, uh, you see, but there isn't any reason why they can't go ahead and finish their investigation and then convene the grand jury on Monday [Nixon interjects "Right,” then "Yeah"] instead of on Thursday, and then you'll know what the court did on the PRO [prior restraint order].
Nixon: In eff- , in effect, let the Times go ahead and print.
Ehrlichman: Sure. If we get an adverse ruling. I think the chances are that the court will grant an, an injunction, pending a trial on the merits.
Ehrlichman: Or he'll extend the PRO, one or the other [Nixon interjects "Yeah"] but, uh, that's just a hunch, because the issues are very complex. I'd be very surprised if he could dispose of them Friday or Saturday.
Nixon: They are complex I know. Yeah. All right, well you, uh
Ehrlichman: I'll talk with them.
Nixon: Be sure to talk to John.
Nixon: Kick it around. OK? Thank you.
Richard Nixon/Attorney General John Mitchell
June 29, 1971
Link to audio tape of Nixon's 6/29 conversation with Mitchell ("get the s.ob.")
Link to audio tape of Nixon's 6/29 conversation with Chuck Colson ("tie him to some communists")
White House Operator: The Attorney -
President Nixon: Hello?
John Mitchell: Yes, Mr. President.President Nixon: John, the way I feel about this case is that, uh, first, in terms of discipline,
Mitchell: Well, I don't think there's any doubt about it, Mr. President. I think this might be the last straw as far as he's concerned.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: They, uhm, and this, of course, uh, as you point out, he does have a paper case.
President Nixon: Sure.
Mitchell: Uh, the only question that I had in my mind whether, uh, he will take this from me or whether you have to talk to him about it.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: That's the only question I have.
President Nixon: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Well, I'll tell you what I'd like to do. Why don't you just say that I, it came to my attention, that I've heard about it. That I feel very strongly, I'll be glad to talk to him about it, but I, I feel, I understand the disciplinary thing, but I think the primary consideration is, we must not have anything with regard to Ellsberg to reflect on Edgar Hoover, and I’ve, I- I and he just has got to find a way to handle it that does not do that.
Mitchell: All right, sir.
President Nixon: And just tell him that, and then if it's needed for me to call, I'll back it up. I'll back it up.
Mitchell: All right, sir. Let me [Nixon starts talking over him]
President Nixon [talking over Mitchell]: You tell him this, you tell him, "I've talked to the President and Edgar, he doesn't want to embarrass you in a disciplinary matter where, where, where he has overruled the director, but he feels ''very'' strongly. He's coming over there to the FBI, he, uh and, you know, and after all, uh, we, uh, and he knows that discipline is important, but he feels very strongly that we must not have the Ellsberg thing be a reason for dissension in the Bureau. That could raise holy hell." Could that be all right?
Mitchell: Yes, sir.
President Nixon: Want to try it?
Mitchell: We'll try it that way and see how it flies.
President Nixon: Right. Yeah.
Mitchell: I, I would hope that he doesn't blow his stack and leave the fold. I don't believe he will.
President Nixon: Well, if he does now, I'll be ready. I'll be ready to talk to him.
Mitchell: All right, sir.
President Nixon: But, absolutely. But, uh, he just, he just, I just don't, I just say that we've got to keep our eye on the main ball. The main ball is Ellsberg. We've gotta get this son of a bitch. And uh, and you know, I was talking to somebody over here yesterday, I mean one of our . . . the, uh, PR types, and they're saying, "well, maybe we ought to drop the case if the Supreme Court doesn't, uh, sustain and so forth." And I said, "Hell, no. I mean you can't do that. Uh, you can't be in a position of having," uh, as I said this morning, "we can't be in a position of, uh, of-of ever, uh, allowing, it just because some guy is going to be martyr, uh, of allowing the fellow to get away with this kind of wholesale thievery, or otherwise it's going to happen all over the government." Don't you agree?
Mitchell: Quite. I think that we're just gonna to have to do this.
President Nixon: That's right.
Mitchell: Otherwise we lose all credibility.
President Nixon: Well, and let me say, too, don’t-don't figure the PR is too bad either. It can turn around the other way. People don't like people that are thieves.
Mitchell: Now all that people have to do is look at this guy on television and—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: —his name and so forth, and—
President Nixon: Right. Good.
Mitchell: You've got a hell of a lot going for you right off the bat.
President Nixon: Now if you-if you will handle it [stuttering] but I'll be here if I'm needed. I feel it's very important not to allow anything now. We've gotta have a united front on Ellsberg. That's the main thing. Uh, do you think that can work with him, or not? I don't know.
Mitchell: I think it will, particularly coming from you.
President Nixon: Yeah.
President Nixon: Just say that I heard about it, and that I'm coming over to make this strong statement on the Bureau tomorrow. OK. All right. Bye.
Mitchell: Very good, sir. Will do.
Richard Nixon/Charles Colson
Nixon: Are you really? You think there is some coming in now?
Colson: I-I’m beginning to see more of it and am encouraged by it, yes sir.
Colson: Uh, of course-
Nixon: Well I told Haldeman today, and I also to the Cabinet and I told Mitchell that we were gonna fight all out in this thing.
Colson: Well I-uh, Bob gave me a report on the Cabinet meeting and I was elated on-
Colson: -on two points. One, the, uh, Ellsberg point (laughs) and the other the, laying down the law these guys which, I feel right now is the most important thing we can do to get-
Nixon: Well what the point is, that the Ellsberg case however it comes out is going to get all through this government among the intellectual types and the people that have no loyalties, the idea that they will be the ones that’ll determine what’s good for this country.
Colson: That’s right.
Nixon: And, goddamnit, they weren’t elected and they’re not gonna determine it that way.
Colson: Well and the other side of that problem, Mr. President, is that if you allow something like that to go unpunished, then you just encourage eh-
Colson: An unending flow of it.
Nixon: That’s right.
Colson: On the other hand if you nail it hard, uh, it helps to keep people
Colson:-in line and discourage others.
Colson: [Unclear] to me is-
Nixon: No, I consider this whole problem of the, making a martyr and all that sorta thing and I just don-don’t agree with it. You’re not hearing too much of that on that side are you, or how much are you?
Colson: Well you’ll hear some from the uh-
Colson: Yeah from the Left [Nixon says something at the same time that is not clear]. Yup. And the, uh, argument is well he’s- he’s made a hero of himself and, uh, the harder we hit him the more we build him up but, uh, the way I size the fellow up is that building him up doesn’t-doesn’t help the other side because he’s not an uh-
Nixon: Cause he’s a natural enemy.
Colson: He’s not an appealing personality. He’s a damn good guy to be against.
Nixon: Mhmm. Mhmm.
Colson: Now we’ve had all sorts of reports as you know of his tie in with other people. I think an awful lot of this’ll fall out. Jay Lovestone called me today to say that “we haven’t even scratched the surface” he said “this fellow’s really tied in with some bad [unclear-“actors”?].” And of course he-
Nixon: If you get him tied in some with Communist groups, that would be good.
Colson: Well Jay thinks, Jay thinks he is, but of course that’s-
Nixon: That’s my guess, that he’s in with some subversives you know.
Colson: Well you know Jay Lovestone has an interesting intelligence network, as you know.
Colson: And he says this document has been delivered to some very curios places by-
Colson: -Ellsberg and his cohorts. And Jay has never been wrong on this stuff-
Colson: -Although he tends to be very hardline, he still, he still-his intelligence is good. He- he
Colson: His advice was, when you start digging you’re gonna uncover a wealth of a-
Colson: -material that will be helpful to us
Oval Office Conversation
June 30, 1971
Kissinger: You know the Supreme Court ruled [unclear-“against us”?]?
Nixon: Yeah [unclear] I thought it [it would].
[Unclear-Nixon and unknown female speak at the same time]
Female: [unclear- “I thought they should have jailed him”?]
Nixon or Kissinger [unclear due to background noise]: Yeah and they also had [unclear]....Kissinger: I only know what Laird told me.
Nixon: Yeah, ok [unclear-“fine”?].
Kissinger: They had, uh, apparently I talked to [unclear].
Nixon: Yeah. Good.
Kissinger: He said they, uh, they had caught him earlier Xeroxing documents and uh-
Nixon: Well, why didn’t they fire him?
Kissinger: That’s a very good question. And-
Nixon: Xeroxing documents.
Kissinger: Yeah and Ellsberg, uh, I mean, he’s a good friend of Ellsberg’s and Senator Mathias has a bundle of documents of Rodgers memos to us and our replies. Now our replies can’t be much because all we ever said was the President has directed that, uh.
Kissinger: We don’t know. We are gonna try to get a look at them this afternoon.
Kissinger: I don’t know.
Nixon: Who told you? Laird called you?
Kissinger: Laird. You know he has his own investigative branch.
Kissinger: He-he gets that through his own intelligence [unclear-“base”?]
Nixon: [unclear-“and they have some”?] NSC documents?
Kissinger: well they have some NS-yeah.
Nixon: Now we don’t have anything on Cambodia in there [unclear] NSC do we [unclear]
Kissinger: A-A is from ’69. B, our whole system is different. I don’t know what it is; we can certainly have some silly memos from Rodgers. Mr. President if they force us to declassify . . . We are gonna look very very good. We, uh, if they [unclear-“drive”? or “drag”?] us too far I think you oughtta go on national television with a charge of treason and say “This is what they’ve brought us to” and now you’re gonna fight your campaign the same [unclear]. I really think you ought to get on the attack.
Kissinger: The government cannot run if this keeps up. It isn’t just this administration anymore. And I think once the public knows all the things you’ve been doing. If you say that on, on May 15th you got a communication from the Chinese, on May 31st you approached [unclear] and while all of this was going on these guys have been leaking documents, passing resolutions, I think we can turn this country around dramatically.
Nixon: Particularly, particularly once we get the, Chinese thing, uh, where we can say-
Kissinger: I just hope they won’t leak so much next week now with the Supreme Court. I don’t know what they’ve got. Well we can’t worry about it.
Nixon: What did you say it is from ’69? What the hell do they have in ’69?
Kissinger: Oh proposals for private meetings, ceasefires, [unclear]
Nixon: But there wasn’t a helluva lot [unclear] we never [unclear] far beyond that.
Kissinger: We are in great shape because-
Nixon: What is it you said [unclear] he thinks he knows a man, somebody that Elliot Richardson now has at [unclear]
Kissinger: Yeah, in the, uh, APW.
Nixon: Elliott Richardson had to have his goddamned head examined if he’s got somebody who had been Xeroxing documents.
Kissinger: Yeah but, uh, we have to say it’s the truth I [unclear-“overheard”?] of it and – [phone rings] - uh I wanted to give you a-a minute, uh-
Nixon: [presumably answering phone]: Yeah . . . Yeah . . .
Yeah . . . Yeah . . . Yeah . . . Yeah . . . [unclear-“that’s it”?]
Oval Office Conversation
Nixon: Well I think the court did what we anticipated [unclear]
Mitchell: Certainly did [unclear] right on the nose with the numbers.
Nixon: [unclear] anticipated [unclear] department [unclear]
Nixon: Well good [unclear] Republican [unclear] Stewart [unclear]. He runs around all this Washington social setting, uh, [unclear] Christ sakes do you think it’s political?
Mitchell: Uh, I dunno, mostly because-
Nixon: [unclear-“former deputy”?] Attorney General. (laughs)
Mitchell: [unclear] he’s awfully good with wiretaps and [unclear].
Nixon: What’s the decision mean [unclear] everything [unclear] so forth and where do we go from here?
Mitchell: This means that they released all of the documents without limitation. In other words they [unclear]
Nixon: And the dissension objected to that [unclear]?
Kissinger: They released all of the 47 volumes? We can again try it with any new set that comes out or have they said there’s no [unclear]?
Mitchell: Well [unclear]
Nixon: [unclear] destroyed the [unclear] documents about what we’re doing with the SALT negotiations next week. Is that privileged too?
Mitchell: I don’t know Mr. President; they might have made the determinations that these were historical documents that had no great or imminent need or danger to the country. I [unclear-“haven’t seen the opinion yet”?].
Nixon: Well let me say, don’t you agree that we have to pursue the Ellsberg case now? [unclear]
Mitchell: No question about it.
Mitchell: No question about it.
Mitchell: This is the, uh, one sanction we have, is to get at the individuals who were-
[Unclear-Nixon and Mitchell talking at the same time]
Nixon: I suppose that [unclear] the documents do not endanger national security [unclear] satisfied if we go after [unclear].
Mitchell: If that’d be case we’ve uh structured the complaint after a statute which is a lot clearer about taking government property rather than the espionage aspect of it.
Nixon: Oh I see, just taking government property [unclear] technical [unclear] we got Hiss on perjury not on espionage because of the statute of limitations had run of it.
Nixon or Mitchell [speaker unclear]: Why not?
Nixon: Let’s get the son of a bitch into jail.
Kissinger: We’ve got to get him.
Nixon: We’ve got to get him.
Mitchell: [unclear] proven inaccurate [unclear]
Kissinger: Oh he’s a disaster-
TAPE CUTS OUT
Nixon: [unclear] Don’t worry about his trial. Just get everything out. Try him in the press. Try him in the press. Everything, John, that there is on the investigation, get it out. Leak it out. We want to destroy him in the press. Is that clear?
Kissinger and Mitchell: Yes.
Nixon: That’s where we won the Hiss case. I didn’t try it in the goddamn courtroom. But I won it before it ever got to court.
Mitchell: We’ve got to do this [unclear] martyr.
Kissinger: Laird called me and said that Mathias has a batch of documents from ’69 are you familiar with that?
Mitchell: Yes as a matter of fact, uh, Mathias [unclear-“told” or “called”?] me about it earlier, and-
Nixon: What’s he gonna do, put ‘em out?
Mitchell: No, no he’s been holding them, and why he never came forward about Ellsberg I don’t know but I chewed him out for that.
Nixon: Uh, huh
Mitchell: Ellsberg [unclear] talking to Mathias.
Nixon: Where’d he get these documents from?
Nixon [talks over Mitchell]: [unclear] documents
Nixon: No, no the Mathias documents from ’69. Who gave them to him?
Nixon: Ellsberg gave him the ’69 documents?
Mitchell: No, no he’s had them since ’69. Isn’t that what you’re talking about?
Nixon: No he says from ’69 according to Henry. Henry says-
Mitchell: Oh I’m not familiar with that. What, uh, what I am familiar with is Mathias called me and said that Ellsberg [unclear-“had given up”?] documents [unclear]
Kissinger: That’s right but, but Laird called me saying that Mathias called him and said that he had documents from the year ’69 which he got from Ellsberg. And-
Nixon: Where would Ellsberg get them [unclear]
Kissinger: Apparent-allegedly-a-a Laird thinks that he got them from a fellow called Dick Cooke in Richardson’s [unclear] Richardson’s office.
Nixon: In whose office?
Mitchell and Kissinger: Richardson
Mitchell: Elliott Richardson.
Nixon: Elliott Richardson the Under Secretary?
Mitchell: Yeah [unclear] Under Secretary.
Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: I know Dick Cooke and I know his views, uh-
Nixon: [unclear-“is he left”?] Liberal?
Kissinger: Yep. [unclear-“Former army officer too”?]
Nixon: [unclear] why didn’t we fire him?
Kissinger: Well up to now Mr. President, the fact that I knew him as a [unclear] didn’t mean I knew him as a traitor.
Nixon: [unclear] [unclear-“just assume”?]
Kissinger: And, uh, apparently, I’m just quoting Laird, uh, they have memos of Rodger’s to the President from ’69 about Vietnam and allegedly they have my replies to them. Now I never make [unclear-“substantive”?] replies. All I could have said is “the President has said-decided that.” I mean I’ve never put anything on paper in an argumentative way, except to you.
Nixon: But to have, to have that sort of thing in the hands of a Senator is ridiculous [unclear]. Well look John, I think it’s good [unclear] just keep it going and The Court isn’t going to look so good on this one too, though for Christ sakes, uh. So all we got were just three, Harlan, Burger and Blackman huh. . . I hope Burger writes the opinion [unclear]
Mitchell: I’m sure they have [unclear]
Kissinger: Harlan [unclear]
Nixon: Harlan came through [unclear] I thought the pressure from the others was too great on him, and, uh, the other thing is I talked to-to, uh. . . [TAPE BLIPS cuts back in mid-sentence] . . . [unclear]
Nixon: [unclear] I [unclear] what you told me about it. I thought we would lose Harlan and Stewart, rather than White and Stewart.
Mitchell: [unclear] having the experience without the Attorney General would be a problem but also on the basis of the prior opinions that he’s written.
Kissinger: [unclear] shows what this super [unclear-“angulated”?] fools like Black and Douglas what they do to the court.
Nixon: Yeah, yeah.
Kissinger: Because with two more appointments.
Nixon: Yeah we’d have had it.
Kissinger: We could have had it.
Nixon: Right, yeah, yeah. Well at least we gave old J. Edgar his send-off [unclear]
Mitchell: Yeah he was in seventh heaven.
Nixon: [unclear] prepare [unclear]
Mitchell: He uh-
Nixon: [unclear] I use that term, which of course, we now have to [unclear] The Supreme Court says, says permissives of so and so [unclear] allow them to do anything.
Mitchell: I don’t know how they can look at this Freedom of the Press in the light that they do. It just makes them above and beyond the government [unclear].
Kissinger: Well it’s preposterous-
Nixon: Now don’t-don’t think that-that despite this, don’t think this is a big bonanza [unclear]. Shit’s gonna hit the fan now, there must be more stuff in these documents, isn’t there?
Kissinger: That would be right but of course now [unclear-“if it”?] leads to a situation where all our enemies in the bureaucracy can leak all of the documents of our administration [unclear].
Mitchell: Well they’re gonna look at the fact that Mr. Ellsberg is under an indictment.
Nixon: Yeah, let me say one other thing Henry that I think is important. I must immediately change our own classification system [unclear] want any more “Top Secret” stuff coming in here. We’ve gotta have-we’ve gotta have classification [unclear-“for the President”?] and that is the way to go.
Kissinger: Cause you’re pretty secure here-
Nixon: no, no
Kissinger: and luckily we have sent nothing into the bureaucracy of our memos. There isn’t anything floating around like Bundy’s stuff. Uh, I’ve never show any Cabinet member except occasionally [unclear] memos I’ve written to you, Rodgers, Laird, nobody has ever seen.
Nixon: Yeah and they all sit there in the meetings so, uh-
Kissinger: Oh yes, their stuff. Uh it- I can.
Nixon: [unclear-“they debrief”?]
Kissinger: No, their stuff is gonna get out, but our stuff isn’t gonna get out.
Nixon: [unclear-“My point it”?] new classification. AS far as they’re concerned any conversation with the President [unclear-“means that”?] has gotta be classified President and I will I’ll-I’ll indicate when they can get it out. There are a million people that have “Top Secret” [unclear] clearances in this country for Christ sakes.
Kissinger: But I’m thinking seriously Mr. President that after, if-if this doesn’t blow up our various schemes now-
Kissinger:-uh, that we might consider, you might consider going to a joint session of Congress and saying that “this has gone too far now” and ask for some laws and get a tough battle going.
Nixon: There are laws but The Court as just held that they are unconstitutional [unclear]
Mitchell: Well, uh, not entirely because there is no law against the publication
Nixon: They’re not ruling, they’re not ruling on whether the fact [unclear] this really is on the narrow issue of publication.
Mitchell: On the narrow issue of publication.
Nixon: [unclear] I have no doubts.
Mitchell: I agree with you.
Nixon: When people say you shouldn’t try and stop publication, the hell with them [unclear]
Nixon: Well [unclear]
TAPE CUTS OUT