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Politics, Journalism > Watergate
Reporters Bob Woodward, right, and Carl
whose reporting of the Watergate case won
them a Pulitzer Prize,
in the Washington Post newsroom in 1973.
Woodward and Bernstein:
Watergate echoes loud in Donald Trump era
may have thought their
biggest story was behind them,
then Trump came along.
‘This is worse than Watergate’, says
Sun 12 Aug 2018
Last modified on Sun 12 Aug 2018
John Dean III
James Walter McCord Jr.
James W. McCord Jr.,
who led the burglars in the Watergate
testifying in 1973 at Senate hearings
about the break-in
at Democratic National Committee
Credit Mike Lien/The New York Times
James W. McCord Jr., Who Led the Watergate
Break-In, Is Dead at 93
April 18, 2019
Richard Nixon waves goodbye
from the steps of his helicopter
outside the White House,
after he gave a farewell address
to members of the White House staff,
in August 1974.
Photograph: Chick Harrity/AP
Why won't Nixon loyalists talk about Trump's
Thu 10 Oct 2019 06.00 BST
Last modified on Thu 10 Oct 2019
Time Covers - The 70S
TIME cover 05-14-1973 ill. of Richard Nixon
Date taken: May 14, 1973
Photographer: George Giusti
Nov. 5, 1973
Herbert Warren Kalmbach 1921-2017
Richard M. Nixon’s
and a conduit
for hush money
from the 1972
to the Watergate burglars
and temporarily lost
his law license
for illegally raising
vast bundles of cash,
much of it
a secret $500,000 stash
to finance sabotage
and spy operations
against the Democrats run
by the Nixon
to pay off
the seven defendants
who had bungled
of the Democratic National
at the Watergate complex.
And he steered
to an unsuccessful
campaign to defeat
George C. Wallace’s
as governor of Alabama
to the Nixon re-election
war chest $2 million
from the milk industry,
which was promised
from a dairy
came disguised illegally
In another episode,
for the anti-Wallace effort
from a safe
he hand-delivered the cash
to a stranger in the lobby
of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel
as “Mr. Jensen of
Charles Norman Shaffer Jr. 1932-2015
whose painstaking defense
John W. Dean III,
the White House counsel,
helped cost Richard M. Nixon
during the Watergate scandal
Robert Erwin Herzstein 1931-2015
Robert E. Herzstein (...)
on behalf of
historians and journalists
President Richard M. Nixon
from removing and even destroying
his White House papers and tapes
after his resignation
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee 1921-2014
Ben Bradlee (...)
over The Washington Post’s
that led to the fall
of President Richard M. Nixon
and that stamped him
in American culture
newspaper editor of his era
gruff, charming and tenacious —
Eugene Corbett Patterson
of The Atlanta Constitution
during the civil rights
conflicts of the 1960s
of The Washington Post
of The St.
Washington Post in 1968
as managing editor,
succeeding Benjamin C.
who became executive editor.
led the newsroom
when The Post followed
New York Times
the Pentagon Papers,
the secret study
to both publications
were struck down
historic Supreme Court
Remember About Watergate
MAY 20, 2017
Watergate are everywhere these days.
President Trump’s firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, drew immediate
comparisons to Richard Nixon’s order to dismiss the special Watergate
prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in October 1973. Mr. Trump’s insinuation that he had
taped meetings with Mr. Comey recalled the secret White House recordings that
ultimately brought a president down. And the demands today for aggressive
congressional investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign
and Russia during the 2016 election remind me of the pressures on House and
Senate investigations into the 1972 Nixon presidential campaign.
As a 27-year-old investigator for the Senate’s Watergate committee, I saw up
close how that inquiry unfolded. Our committee helped unearth the most damning
evidence against the president. But the special prosecutor’s office played a
crucial role in making that evidence public. The two entities overcame partisan
and jurisdictional conflicts to bring about the president’s resignation — and
their work offers a valuable lesson for today, when hyper-partisanship
The Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities was created in February
1973 after John Sirica, the Republican federal judge presiding over the trial of
men charged with breaking into Democratic Party offices at the Watergate, raised
doubts about whether they had acted alone, skepticism spurred by articles in The
Washington Post. Judge Sirica’s harsh sentences broke the burglars’ silence.
Led by its Democratic chairman, Sam J. Ervin Jr. of North Carolina, and its
Republican vice chairman, Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, the committee tried
to present a bipartisan image. Behind closed doors it was anything but. Our star
witness, John Dean, the former White House counsel, warned the Democratic staff
privately that while he oversaw the White House cover-up for Mr. Nixon, Mr.
Baker and the minority counsel, Fred Thompson, were trying to thwart the
Before the hearings began, the Democratic staff decided not to share details
about Mr. Dean’s damaging evidence with Republican colleagues. At a contentious
executive session, Mr. Baker opposed plans by the committee’s chief counsel,
Samuel Dash, to use the hearings to explain political and criminal events
preceding the break-in. On Mr. Dash’s orders, I followed Mr. Baker’s top aide
and discovered he was meeting secretly with the White House counsel, J. Fred
Buzhardt. We confronted Mr. Baker, and the aide resigned.
When the televised hearings opened in May 1973, Mr. Baker and Mr. Thompson
continued to work behind the scenes to prevent the inquiry from focusing on Mr.
Nixon. In July, a committee stenographer slipped me a copy of notes from secret
conversations in which Mr. Buzhardt provided Mr. Thompson lengthy quotations
from Mr. Nixon’s one-on-one meetings with Mr. Dean. Mr. Baker and Mr. Thompson
tried to use that information to suggest during cross-examination that Mr. Dean
was the sole author of the cover-up.
On July 13, we questioned a Nixon aide, Alexander Butterfield, about Mr.
Thompson’s notes. Pressed to explain how he had obtained such precise quotations
from the Nixon-Dean meetings, Mr. Butterfield revealed that the president had a
taping system in his offices.
Once Mr. Baker’s collusion with the White House was revealed in Mr. Thompson’s
memo, I could see his opposition to obtaining the tapes melt, and the committee
voted unanimously to subpoena them. But the White House refused to turn them
over, and the courts decided not to intervene in a confrontation between two
branches of government.
Partisan politics continued in private. Mr. Baker and Mr. Thompson promoted a
bogus explanation for the break-in, alleging that the C.I.A. had initially
assisted and then undermined the Watergate burglars in order to damage the
Meanwhile, the Democratic staff unearthed the actual motive for the break-in:
Mr. Nixon and his campaign manager, John Mitchell, were worried that Charles
Rebozo, known as Bebe, would be identified as the man who had accepted $100,000
in cash for Mr. Nixon from the billionaire Howard Hughes. Mr. Mitchell had
authorized breaking into the Watergate office of Larry O’Brien, chairman of the
Democratic National Committee — who had been a paid consultant to Mr. Hughes —
to see what Mr. O’Brien knew about the Rebozo transaction.
We also discovered a $100,000 payment from Mr. Hughes to Hubert Humphrey, the
Democratic presidential candidate. Mr. Ervin shut down the hearings. “I was just
preserving the two-party system,” he said jokingly to me afterward.
Yet for all its infighting, the committee played a crucial role in unearthing
information that led to Mr. Nixon’s downfall. After our subpoena for the White
House tapes was blocked in federal court, the special prosecutor issued his own.
Mr. Nixon responded by having Mr. Cox fired, which led to the resignation of
Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and the deputy attorney general, William
D. Ruckelshaus. Mr. Cox had opposed a deal under which a conservative Democratic
senator, John Stennis, would review and verify summaries of the tapes. Under
that deal, prosecutors, courts and the public would not have gained access to
The move backfired spectacularly. Public outrage over the Saturday Night
Massacre, as it became known, encouraged lawyers in the special prosecutor’s
office to aggressively pursue the tapes. Their arguments convinced the Supreme
Court that in a criminal case, every citizen — even a president — must comply
with a subpoena, and the tapes were released. Attention soon turned to a
smoking-gun recording implicating Mr. Nixon in the cover-up. On Aug. 8, 1974, he
Two lessons emerge. First: Congressional committees are powerful tools for
investigating the full range of abuse of power by a president and for passing
reforms to avoid repetitions of those abuses. (Unfortunately, reforms enacted
after Watergate were eroded over subsequent decades.) But committees have
limited power to compel presidential compliance with demands for evidence.
Second, prosecutors can often obtain the critical evidence that committees
can’t. But their job is to prosecute crimes. They are less likely to get to the
bottom of executive abuses or to prevent their repetition. Most tellingly,
special prosecutors, as part of the executive branch, can be dismissed by the
president, while congressional committees are protected by the constitutional
separation of powers.
That’s why the work of both is so important. Robert S. Mueller III has been
appointed special counsel to look into possible Russian meddling in the 2016
campaign, an investigation that might cover both criminal and
counterintelligence matters. Some senators say this will conflict with and
perhaps necessarily limit congressional inquiries.
But that needn’t be the case. While prosecutors prefer not having congressional
competition, a mature special prosecutor and a well-led congressional inquiry
can coordinate over issues like witness immunity. Congress can creatively expand
its witness list beyond prosecution targets and fill in critical details from
“satellite” witnesses, as the Watergate committee did with Mr. Butterfield.
Bipartisanship will be crucial. Working with the evidence secured by
prosecutors, congressional committees can provide a declassified narrative of
Russian actions and whether Trump aides colluded. If the committee is
aggressive, and its work is truly bipartisan, it can not only educate and
reassure the public, but also legislate solutions to prevent future abuses.
A reclusive Mr. Nixon worked behind the scenes to impede investigators and
prosecutors. He believed that his secret tapes would bring down John Dean;
instead they fertilized the bipartisan outrage that brought about his own
demise. But that bipartisanship didn’t exist when the Watergate committee began
its work. In today’s hyperpartisan atmosphere, that is worth remembering.
Armstrong, a former Washington Post reporter, is the president of Searchlight
New Mexico, an investigative news organization.
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion),
and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.
Remember About Watergate,
May 20, 2017,
Peter M. Flanigan,
and Nixon Aide,
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Flanigan, a Wall Street investment banker who became one of President Richard M.
Nixon’s most trusted, influential and well-connected aides on business and
economic matters, died on Monday in Salzburg, Austria. He was 90.
His family announced the death.
Mr. Flanigan, an executive at the venerable investment house Dillon, Read &
Company, was an early and strong supporter of Nixon before being appointed
principal presidential assistant for financial matters. His facility in
advancing business interests in regulatory agencies led Time magazine to label
him “Mr. Fixit.”
His wide-ranging assignments included securities regulation, antitrust matters,
and agricultural and environmental policies. Administration officials compared
his influence on business issues to Henry A. Kissinger’s on foreign affairs.
“He’s the guy who people in our industry turn to,” a steel executive told The
New York Times in 1972. “And we wouldn’t turn to him unless he came through.”
Mr. Nixon applauded his contributions to international economic policy and to
the country’s moving to an all-volunteer Army. But some saw him as the face of
an administration that had cozied up to business interests. Ralph Nader, the
consumer advocate, acknowledged Mr. Flanigan’s influence by calling him a
“mini-president.” He also called him the “most evil” man in Washington.
Mr. Flanigan was sharply criticized in Congress for his role in the Justice
Department’s decision not to pursue an antitrust case against the International
Telephone and Telegraph Corporation as an illegal conglomerate. He had arranged
for a colleague at Dillon, Read to draft a financial analysis that helped
persuade the administration to drop antitrust charges.
At a hearing in 1972, Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, a Missouri Democrat,
characterized Mr. Flanigan’s interventions on behalf of business as “the
Flanigan factor.” The senator accused him of holding back enforcement actions by
the Environmental Protection Agency against the Anaconda Corporation and the
Armco Steel Corporation.
Mr. Eagleton called Mr. Flanigan “the mastermind, the possessor of the scuttling
feet that are heard faintly, retreating into the distance in the wake of a White
House ordered cave-in to some giant corporation.”
The White House press secretary, Ronald L. Ziegler, responded that the president
wholly supported Mr. Flanigan. He demanded “concrete evidence that Mr. Flanigan
has gained personally in any way.” Senator Norris Cotton, a New Hampshire
Republican, called Mr. Eagleton’s charges “flimsy.”
Mr. Flanigan was unruffled. “I’ve gotten, as my wife says, a little leathery,”
he told The Washington Post. “It’s an election year, and I note who’s making
He left the administration in June 1974, just weeks before the Watergate scandal
forced Nixon to resign. Mr. Flanigan himself was not linked to the scandal.
President Gerald R. Ford, Nixon’s successor, nominated him to be ambassador to
Spain, but the Senate did not vote on his appointment before a scheduled recess.
Some senators said that Mr. Flanigan had arranged for prestigious
ambassadorships to go to big Nixon contributors. Mr. Flanigan asked that his
nomination not be resubmitted.
Peter Magnus Flanigan was born on June 21, 1923, in Manhattan and raised there.
His father, Horace Flanigan, who was known as Hap, was chairman of the
Manufacturers Trust Company, later Manufacturers Hanover. His mother, the former
Aimee Magnus, was a granddaughter of Adolphus Busch, co-founder of
Mr. Flanigan was a Navy carrier pilot in World War II, then graduated summa cum
laude from Princeton. He joined Dillon as a statistical analyst. He took a break
in 1949-50 to work in London for the Marshall Plan, the initiative to rebuild
war-ravaged Europe, then returned to Dillon. He became a vice president in 1954.
Mr. Flanigan became active in New York Republican politics in the mid-1950s and
was named chairman of New Yorkers for Nixon in 1959 as Nixon, then vice
president, was seeking the 1960 presidential nomination. Mr. Flanigan became
national director of Nixon volunteers in 1960.
Nixon wrote in his memoirs in 1978 that Mr. Flanigan was one of a small group of
Republicans who had raised money for him to campaign for Republican candidates
in the 1966 midterm elections as an early step toward Nixon’s seeking the 1968
In 1968, he was Nixon’s deputy campaign manager. After Nixon’s victory, Mr.
Flanigan was a talent scout for the transition team. He served as a presidential
assistant until 1972, when he was named director of the Council of International
Mr. Flanigan’s first wife, the former Brigid Snow, died in 2006.
Mr. Flanigan is survived by his second wife, Dorothea von Oswald, whom he
married five years ago and with whom he lived in Wildenhag, Austria, and
Purchase, N.Y. He is also survived by his daughters Sister Louise Marie, Brigid
and Megan; his sons Tim and Bob; and 16 grandchildren.
After his White House service, Mr. Flanigan returned to Dillon, where he was
managing director until 1992. The passion of his latter years was education,
notably starting a program to help inner-city Roman Catholic schools. He was
chairman of the Alliance for School Choice. His great love was St. Ann’s Roman
Catholic School in East Harlem, to which he gave more than $250,000.
His visits there were appreciated. “I want to make something of myself,”
Lawrence King, a seventh grader, told The Times in 1992. “It’s important to have
someone to look up to.”
Peter M. Flanigan, Banker and Nixon Aide, Dies at 90, NYT, 31.7.2013,
Charles W. Colson,
Who Became Evangelical Leader,
The New York Times
By TIM WEINER
Colson, who as a political saboteur for President Richard M. Nixon masterminded
some of the dirty tricks that led to the president’s downfall, then emerged from
prison to become an important evangelical leader, saying he had been “born
again,” died on Saturday. He was 80.
The cause was complications of a brain hemorrhage, according to Prison
Fellowship Ministries, which Mr. Colson founded in Lansdowne, Va. He died at
Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., and lived in Naples, Fla., and
Mr. Colson had brain surgery to remove a clot after becoming ill on March 30
while speaking at a conference, according to Jim Liske, the group’s chief
Mr. Colson was sent to prison after pleading guilty to obstructing justice in
one of the criminal plots that undid the Nixon administration. After having what
he called his religious awakening behind bars, he spent much of the rest of his
life ministering to prisoners, preaching the Gospels and forging a coalition of
Republican politicians, evangelical church leaders and Roman Catholic
conservatives that has had a pronounced influence on American politics.
It was a remarkable reversal.
Mr. Colson was a 38-year-old Washington lawyer when he joined the Nixon White
House as a special counsel in November 1969. He quickly caught the president’s
eye. His “instinct for the political jugular and his ability to get things done
made him a lightning rod for my own frustrations,” Nixon wrote in his memoir,
“RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.” In 1970, the president made him his
“political point man” for “imaginative dirty tricks.”
“When I complained to Colson, I felt confident that something would be done,”
Nixon wrote. “I was rarely disappointed.”
Mr. Colson and his colleagues “started vying for favor on Nixon’s dark side,”
Bryce Harlow, a former counselor to the president, said in an oral history.
“Colson started talking about trampling his grandmother’s grave for Nixon and
showing he was as mean as they come.”
As the president’s re-election campaign geared up in 1971, “everybody went
macho,” Mr. Harlow said. “It was the ‘in’ thing to swagger and threaten.”
Few played political hardball more fiercely than Mr. Colson. When a deluded
janitor from Milwaukee shot Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama on the
presidential campaign trail in Maryland in May 1972, Nixon asked about the
suspect’s politics. Mr. Colson replied, “Well, he’s going to be a left-winger by
the time we get through.” He proposed a political frame-up: planting leftist
pamphlets in the would-be killer’s apartment. “Good,” the president said, as
recorded on a White House tape. “Keep at that.”
Mr. Colson hired E. Howard Hunt, a veteran covert operator for the Central
Intelligence Agency, to spy on the president’s opponents. Their plots became
part of the cascade of high crimes and misdemeanors known as the Watergate
The subterfuge began to unravel after Mr. Hunt and five other C.I.A. and F.B.I.
veterans were arrested in June 1972 after a botched burglary and wiretapping
operation at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office
complex in Washington. To this day, no one knows whether Nixon authorized the
break-in or precisely what the burglars wanted.
“When I write my memoirs,” Mr. Colson told Mr. Hunt in a November 1972 telephone
conversation, “I’m going to say that the Watergate was brilliantly conceived as
an escapade that would divert the Democrats’ attention from the real issues, and
therefore permit us to win a landslide that we probably wouldn’t have won
otherwise.” The two men laughed.
That month, Nixon won that landslide. On election night, the president watched
the returns with Mr. Colson and the White House chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman.
“I couldn’t feel any sense of jubilation,” Mr. Colson said in a 1992 television
interview. “Here we were, supposedly winning, and it was more like we’d lost.”
“The attitude was, ‘Well, we showed them, we got even with our enemies and we
beat them,’ instead of ‘We’ve been given a wonderful mandate to rule over the
next four years,’ ” he said. “We were reduced to our petty worst on the night of
what should have been our greatest triumph.”
The Watergate operation and the dirty tricks campaign surrounding it led to the
criminal indictments and convictions of most of Nixon’s closest aides. On June
21, 1974, Mr. Colson was sentenced to prison and fined $5,000. Nixon resigned
seven weeks later after one of his secretly recorded White House tapes made
clear that he had tried to use the C.I.A. to obstruct the federal investigation
of the break-in.
Mr. Colson served seven months after pleading guilty to obstructing justice in
the case of Daniel Ellsberg, a former National Security Council consultant who
leaked the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the Vietnam War, to The New York
Times. In July 1971, a few weeks after the papers were published, Mr. Colson
approved Mr. Hunt’s proposal to steal files from the office of Mr. Ellsberg’s
psychiatrist. The aim was “to destroy his public image and credibility,” Mr.
“I went to prison, voluntarily,” Mr. Colson said in 2005. “I deserved it.”
He announced upon emerging that he would devote the rest of his life to
religious work. In 1976, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which delivers
a Christian message of redemption to thousands of prison inmates and their
families. In 1983, he established Justice Fellowship, which calls itself the
nation’s largest religion-based criminal justice reform group. In 1993, he won
the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and donated it to his
By the end of the 1990s, Mr. Colson had become a leading voice in the
evangelical political movement, with books and a syndicated radio broadcast. He
helped form a conservative coalition of leaders from the Republican Party, the
Protestant evangelical community and the Catholic Church. The Catholics and the
evangelicals, once combatants over issues of religious doctrine, now joined
forces in fights over abortion rights and religious freedom, among other issues.
Mr. Colson also reached out to the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic
theologian who edited the journal First Things and who had warned of a coming
tide of secularism in his book “The Naked Public Square.” They inaugurated a
theological dialogue that resulted in the publication of the document
“Evangelicals and Catholics Together” in 1994.
Mr. Colson said that he had initially gotten hate mail from evangelicals because
of that initiative, and that the Prison Fellowship had lost a million dollars in
donations. But the manifesto, pushing for religion-based policies in government,
cleared the path for a political and cultural alliance that has reshaped the
political debate in America, adding fuel to a rightward turn in the Republican
Party and a rising conservative grass-roots movement.
In 2000, Mr. Colson was a resident of Florida when Gov. Jeb Bush restored his
rights to practice law, vote and serve on a jury — all of them having been lost
with his federal felony conviction. “I think it’s time to move on,” Mr. Bush
said at the time. “I know him. He’s a great guy.”
With that, Mr. Colson re-entered the political arena. In January 2001, six days
after President George W. Bush’s inauguration, a Wall Street Journal editorial
praised Mr. Colson’s prison work as “a model for Bush’s ideas about faith-based
When he went to the White House to state his case for religious faith as a basis
for foreign and domestic policies, he found himself pushing on an open door.
“You don’t have to tell me,” Mr. Colson said the president told him. “I’d still
be drinking if it weren’t for what Christ did in my life. I know faith-based
In 2006, a federal judge ruled that a religion-based program operated by a
Prison Fellowship affiliate in Iowa had violated the constitutional separation
of church and state. By using tax money for a religious program that gave
special privileges to inmates who embraced evangelical Christianity, the state
had established a congregation and given its leaders “authority to control the
spiritual, emotional, and physical lives of hundreds of Iowa inmates,” the judge
Mr. Colson blasted the ruling, and Prison Fellowship appealed it. But in October
2006, after turning 75, he stepped down as the chairman of the group to devote
himself to writing and speaking for his causes. In 2008, President Bush awarded
him the Presidential Citizens Medal.
Charles Wendell Colson — friends called him Chuck — was born on Oct. 16, 1931,
in Boston, the only child of Wendell B. and Inez Ducrow Colson, His father was a
struggling lawyer; his mother, nicknamed Dizzy, was an exuberant spendthrift.
He grew up at 15 different addresses in and around the city and attended eight
schools. He got his first taste of politics as a teenage volunteer in Robert F.
Bradford’s re-election campaign for governor of Massachusetts. He remembered
that he learned “all the tricks,” including “planting misleading stories in the
press, voting tombstones, and spying on the opposition in every possible way.”
He graduated from Browne & Nichols, a private school in Cambridge, in 1949, and
went to Brown University with a scholarship from the Navy Reserve Officer
Training Program. After graduating in 1953, he married his college sweetheart,
Nancy Billings, and joined the Marines.
In 1956, Mr. Colson went to Washington as an administrative assistant to Senator
Leverett Saltonstall, a Massachusetts Republican. He met Nixon, who was then
vice president, and became, in his words, a lifelong “Nixon fanatic.” The two
men “understood each other,” Mr. Colson wrote in “Born Again,” his memoir. They
were “prideful men seeking that most elusive goal of all — acceptance and the
respect of those who had spurned us.”
After obtaining a law degree from George Washington University in 1959, Mr.
Colson became partner in a Washington law firm, always practicing politics on
the side, with an eye to a Nixon presidency. He was crushed when his candidate
lost the 1960 election by a whisker to Senator John F. Kennedy.
A sympathetic biography, “Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed” (2005), by
Jonathan Aitken, depicts him in these years as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking,
amoral man with three young children — Wendell Ball II, Christian and Emily Ann
— and a failing marriage. He divorced his first wife and married Patricia Ann
Hughes in 1964.
She, the three children, and five grandchildren are among Mr. Colson’s
In 1973, while looking for work after leaving the White House and fearing that
he was going to wind up in jail, Mr. Colson got into his car and found himself
in the grip of the spiritual crisis that led to his conversion. “This so-called
White House hatchet man, ex-Marine captain, was crying too hard to get the keys
into the ignition,” he remembered. “I sat there for a long time that night
deeply convicted of my own sin.”
Goodstein contributed reporting.
Charles W. Colson, Watergate Felon Who Became Evangelical Leader, Dies at 80,
Frank H. Strickler,
Watergate Defense Lawyer,
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Strickler, a Washington lawyer who represented two of President Richard M.
Nixon’s top aides, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, in the tangled legal
aftermath of the 1972 Watergate break-in and its cover-up, died March 29 at his
home in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 92.
His family announced the death.
Mr. Strickler participated in several dramatic moments in the aftermath of the
burglary at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate
complex in Washington on June 17, 1972. But he did not leap into the case at the
The day of the break-in, he grumpily answered the phone at his vacation home in
Bethany Beach, Del., after being awakened at 4:30 a.m. The caller was E. Howard
Hunt, a former C.I.A. agent who was later convicted for helping organize the
Watergate operation, according to the book “Nightmare: The Underside of the
Nixon Years” (1973), by J. Anthony Lukas.
“You think I’m going to interrupt my vacation and represent anybody like that?”
Mr. Strickler said. “You’re crazy!”
But as the case evolved into an investigation of the cover-up by Nixon and his
aides, Mr. Strickler and one of his law partners, John J. Wilson, agreed to
represent Mr. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, and Mr. Ehrlichman, his counsel
and domestic policy adviser. Mr. Ehrlichman later retained his own lawyer, a
decision Mr. Strickler said made strategic sense.
In one of Watergate’s tensest moments, Mr. Strickler and Mr. Wilson met for an
hour and six minutes with President Nixon on April 19, 1973, in an effort to
persuade him not to request the resignation of their clients.
John Dean, the White House counsel, had begun cooperating with prosecutors in
the hope of lenient treatment for himself. Both Mr. Haldeman and Mr. Ehrlichman
had reason to worry about the testimony of Mr. Dean, who was estranged from
them. In the White House, the pair were called “the Berlin Wall,” as much for
their power as for their Germanic names.
According to Mr. Lukas, Mr. Strickler told the president that removal of his
clients would strike the public as “an admission of guilt.” Nixon replied that
the two were “great, fine Americans” and that he would try to save them. He
fired Mr. Dean and accepted the resignations of Mr. Haldeman and Mr. Ehrlichman
on April 30.
On the eve of Nixon’s own resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, Mr. Haldeman wanted to
make made a last-ditch bid for a presidential pardon. Mr. Strickler again was at
the center of the action.
He told his client to write a personal memo to Nixon. He and Mr. Wilson supplied
legal backup. They suggested pardoning all those accused or convicted of crimes
related to Watergate, as well as all Vietnam-era draft evaders. Nixon elected to
In February 1974, investigators offered Mr. Ehrlichman a chance to plead guilty
to a single charge in return for his help in building a case against others. He
said no. “His feeling was that he could not plead guilty to something that he
did not believe he was guilty of doing,” Mr. Strickler said in an interview with
The New York Times. In “Stonewall: The Real Story of the Watergate Prosecution”
(1977), the Watergate prosecutors Richard Ben-Veniste and George Frampton Jr.
wrote that Mr. Haldeman was offered, and turned down, a similar deal.
Both men were eventually convicted and sentenced to two and a half to eight
years in prison. The sentences were commuted to one to four years. Each served a
total of 18 months.
Before the trial of Mr. Haldeman, Mr. Ehrlichman and three other Nixon aides
began in November 1974, Mr. Strickler unsuccessfully argued that the case
against Mr. Haldeman be dismissed because of the leaking of potentially damaging
grand jury testimony. During the trial, Mr. Strickler contended that Mr.
Haldeman’s intercession in the F.B.I.’s initial Watergate investigation resulted
from his desire to protect a sensitive C.I.A. operation in Mexico.
He also argued that Mr. Haldeman was busy with matters far more important to the
nation than Watergate. He called the matter “no more than a pimple on the mound
of his other duties.”
Frank Hunter Strickler was born on Jan. 20, 1920, in Washington, and earned
undergraduate and law degrees from George Washington University. He helped pay
for his education by working as a fingerprint examiner for the F.B.I. He served
in the merchant marine during World War II as a seaman and cook. He was a
federal prosecutor in Washington in the early 1950s, and then in private
Mr. Strickler is survived by his wife of 57 years, Ellis Barnard Strickler; his
daughters, Nancy Strickler Borah and Elizabeth Ann Strickler; his sons, Frank
and Charles; and three grandchildren.
Frank H. Strickler, Watergate Defense Lawyer, Dies at 92, NYT, 9.4.2012,
Henry S. Ruth,
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Ruth Jr., who helped lead the criminal prosecution of Nixon administration
officials involved in covering up the Watergate break-in and kept it on track
when President Richard M. Nixon fired the special prosecutor Archibald Cox, died
on March 16 in Tucson. He was 80.
The cause was a stroke, his wife, Deborah Mathieu, said.
Mr. Ruth had broad experience in criminal law when he became Mr. Cox’s chief
deputy shortly after Mr. Cox’s appointment as special prosecutor in May 1973.
Five months later, on Oct. 20, President Nixon ordered Mr. Cox’s dismissal after
he refused to drop his plan to subpoena tapes of the president’s conversations
in the Oval Office. The firing prompted the two top Justice Department
officials, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William
Ruckelshaus, to quit in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
The case concerned the possible involvement of Nixon and his aides in covering
up the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic national headquarters in the
Watergate apartment complex by burglars who turned out to have ties to Nixon’s
re-election campaign. A Nixon aide, Alexander P. Butterfield, had revealed the
existence of the secret tapes to a Senate investigative committee in July 1973.
In the upheaval that followed Mr. Cox’s dismissal — when it was not known
whether the special prosecutor’s office would continue and, if it did, what
powers it might have — Mr. Ruth was credited with holding the office together.
He gathered the distraught staff around him and persuaded them to stay on and
preserve the evidence, The New York Times reported.
On Nov. 1, Leon Jaworski, a prominent lawyer from Texas, became special
prosecutor. Asking Mr. Ruth to remain as his deputy was his first piece of
business, Mr. Jaworski wrote in “The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of
Watergate” (1976). “He is a slender, mild-mannered man, so unassuming that some
people, on first meeting, were inclined to misjudge his talents,” Mr. Jaworski
wrote of Mr. Ruth.
In “The Final Days” (1976), Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote that Mr. Ruth
had met privately with Leonard Garment, Nixon’s special counsel, to ask if Mr.
Garment could persuade the president to resign. Mr. Garment said he had already
tried and failed.
Under Mr. Jaworski, the prosecutors persuaded the Supreme Court to order that
the tapes be turned over to prosecutors, and the top Nixon aides H. R. Haldeman,
John Ehrlichman, Charles Colson and John N. Mitchell, the former attorney
general, were either convicted or pleaded guilty.
As evidence mounted and the House of Representatives prepared articles of
impeachment against the president, Nixon resigned on Aug. 8, 1974. President
Gerald R. Ford issued a blanket pardon of Nixon the next month.
When Mr. Jaworski stepped down two months later, he urged that Mr. Ruth replace
him. Mr. Ruth’s first act was to challenge part of the pardon deal that
restricted his access to tapes. He won: the special prosecutor was given full
Mr. Ruth was special prosecutor until October 1975, when he issued a 277-page
report on the Watergate investigation. It said prosecutors had thus far
convicted or obtained guilty pleas from 55 individuals and 20 corporations. They
had been unable to determine who was responsible for erasing 18 1/2 minutes of a
Nixon tape that many thought might have been incriminating, the report said,
even though “a very small number of people could have been responsible.”
The report disclosed that prosecutors had explored whether Ford’s pardon
amounted to illegal interference with the mandate of the special prosecutor. But
both Mr. Jaworski and Mr. Ruth concluded that the president’s power to pardon
was stronger than the mandate.
Charles F. Ruff succeeded Mr. Ruth as the fourth and last special Watergate
Henry Swartley Ruth Jr. was born in Philadelphia on April 16, 1931; graduated
from Yale and the University of Pennsylvania Law School; served two years in the
Army; and worked as a private lawyer. He was a special attorney under Attorney
General Robert F. Kennedy. After teaching law at Penn for two years, he returned
to the Justice Department in its research arm, the National Institute of Law
Enforcement and Criminal Justice. A year later, he became criminal justice
coordinator for New York City under Mayor John V. Lindsay.
Mr. Ruth’s first marriage, to Christine Polk, ended in divorce. In addition to
his wife, Ms. Mathieu, he is survived by his daughters, Deborah, Diana and
Tenley Ruth, and three grandsons.
After his Watergate work, Mr. Ruth worked mainly in private practice. John Dean,
a Nixon aide, wrote in his book “Blind Ambition: The White House Years” (1976)
that he once asked Mr. Ruth what he planned to do in the future.
Mr. Ruth replied that he might do American Express commercials, of the sort that
made fun of forgotten celebrities who had fallen from the limelight. “You may
not remember me, but I’m the Watergate special prosecutor,” he said, holding up
a credit card, as if he were in a commercial. “I used American Express all
through Watergate, because nobody knew who I was,” he continued. “And they still
don’t know who I am.”
Henry S. Ruth, Who Helped Lead Watergate Prosecution, Dies at 80, NYT,
Bitter and Cynical Nixon in ’75
The New York Times
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and SCOTT SHANE
hours of secret grand jury testimony 36 years ago, Richard M. Nixon, a disgraced
former president, fenced with prosecutors over his role in the Watergate
scandals, bemoaned politics as a dirty business played by both sides and testily
— as he described his own demeanor — suggested he was the victim of a special
prosecutor’s office loaded with Democrats.
The testimony, which Nixon presumably thought would always remain secret, was
released by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., on
Thursday in response to an order by a judge. The transcripts offered a
remarkable portrait of Nixon after he left office: bitter at his disgrace and
cynical about politics. He presented himself as a victim of governmental abuses
by his enemies during his long career in politics, and said that prosecutors,
with an eye to ingratiating themselves with the Washington media “and the
Georgetown set,” were out to destroy him.
“In politics, some pretty rough tactics are used,” he said. “We deplore them
At one point, as he denied that his White House had engaged in anything out of
the ordinary, he spoke with grudging admiration of what he said were the
hardball tactics used against him by the Kennedy White House, asserting that it
had directed the I.R.S. and other government agencies to discredit him as he ran
for governor of California.
“They were pretty smart, I guess,” he said. “Rather than using a group of
amateur Watergate bugglers, burglars — well they were bunglers — they used the
F.B.I., used the I.R.S. and used it directly by their own orders against, in one
instance, a man who had been vice president of the United States, running for
By the time Nixon appeared at the grand jury, on June 23 and 24 of 1975, he had,
by virtue of his pardon by Gerald R. Ford, immunity from any crimes he had
committed, though he was still subject to perjury charges based on what he said
to this grand jury. Nixon, a lawyer, repeatedly answered questions in a hedged
and clipped manner, often saying he did not recall conversations, some of them
just two years old.
“I never recall any income tax return; I never recall seeing any result of any
of this done,” he said.
Nixon repeatedly reminded his questioners that he had been preoccupied with
grave matters of state, including the war in Vietnam. He seemed aware of how
much he was claiming a failure of memory. “I want the grand jurors to understand
that when I say I don’t recognize something, it isn’t because I am trying want
to duck a question,” he said.
Stanley J. Kutler, a historian whose years of litigation helped lead to the
release of the material, said he expected no shocking revelations from Nixon’s
testimony. But the hours of Nixon talking and sparring are a window on the
personality of the 37th president.
“If you know the voice of Richard Nixon, it’s a virtuoso performance, from the
awkward attempts at humor to the moments of self-pity,” said Mr. Kutler,
emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. “It’s just
In the course of his testimony, Nixon appeared to flatly deny accusations that
the White House had used the I.R.S. to try to discredit a sitting chairman of
the Democratic National Committee, Lawrence O’Brien, and that he had an enemies
list. Tim Naftali, the director of Mr. Nixon’s library, noted that in the
Watergate exhibit on display there, there are tapes in which Nixon is heard
ordering the use of tax audits against opponents and assembling an enemies list.
“The grand jury testimony sheds more light on President Nixon’s personality and
character than it does on the remaining puzzles of Watergate,” Mr. Naftali said.
“Even under the protections of grand jury secrecy, which was inviolate at that
point, the president, it appears, was unwilling to be more forthright about his
role in what the House Judiciary Committee determined were abuses of government
Mr. Naftali noted that even with the protections of the grand jury testimony,
Nixon did not answer what has been one of the biggest outstanding questions from
the Watergate scandal: The reason for the 18 ½-minute gap in a tape recorded in
the Oval Office.”
The distinctive Nixonian blend of pugnaciousness and self-pity comes through
clearly in the 297 pages. Prosecutors’ tape experts were “these clowns.” He
refers to G. Gordon Liddy, who headed the White House plumbers, as “a very
bright young man in one way, very stupid in others.”
At another point, Nixon asserted that “as a result of my orders, and I gave them
directly, that never to my knowledge was anybody in my responsibility for
heckling” George McGovern, Nixon’s Democratic opponent in 1972.
“Now, actually my decision was not all that altruistic, to be quite honest,”
Nixon said. “My decision was based on the fact that I didn’t think it would do
any good. Why martyr the poor fellow? He was having enough trouble.”
Nixon even directed some humor at himself, as he recalled telling Alexander M.
Haig Jr., to look into the 18 ½-minute gap on the White House tapes. “I said to
him, ‘Let’s find out how this damn thing happened,’ ” Nixon said. “I am sorry, I
wasn’t supposed to use profanity. You have enough on the tapes.”
Nixon returns again and again to the notion that he was singled out for conduct
that was common in politics and public life.
He said he was the target of eavesdropping not just by Democrats but by the
“The F.B.I. was at one point directed to bug my plane,” he said, and J. Edgar
Hoover, the F.B.I. director, “once told me that they did.”
Despite the decades that have passed, some passages were redacted because they
contained still-classified information. Nixon told prosecutors that “only if
there is an absolute guarantee that there will not be disclosure of what I say,
I will reveal for the first time information with regard to why wiretaps were
proposed, information which, if it is made public, will be terribly damaging to
the United States.” But his disclosure appears to have been cut from the
In a ruling last July in historians’ litigation over the Nixon archives, Judge
Royce C. Lamberth of the District Court in Washington said he believed that the
historical importance of Nixon’s testimony justified a rare exception to the
standard secrecy of grand jury records.
Nixon often flashed his disdain for the prosecutors, whether he was belittling
the way they asked their questions or accusing them of being partisan. “You can
play that trick all, all day,” Nixon admonished the prosecutor. “We can take all
day on that. Ask the question properly.”
“I am not unaware that the vast majority of people working in the special
prosecutor’s office did not support me for president,” he said.
Ian Lovett and
John Schwartz contributed reporting.
Newly Released Transcripts Show a Bitter and Cynical Nixon
in ’75, NYT, 10.11.2011,
By Carroll Kilpatrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 9, 1974
Richard Milhous Nixon announced last night that he will resign as the 37th
President of the United States at noon today.
Vice President Gerald R. Ford of Michigan will take the oath as the new
President at noon to complete the remaining 2 1/2 years of Mr. Nixon's term.
After two years of bitter public debate over the Watergate scandals, President
Nixon bowed to pressures from the public and leaders of his party to become the
first President in American history to resign.
"By taking this action," he said in a subdued yet dramatic television address
from the Oval Office, "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process
of healing which is so desperately needed in America."
Vice President Ford, who spoke a short time later in front of his Alexandria
home, announced that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger will remain in his
The President-to-be praised Mr. Nixon's sacrifice for the country and called it
"one of the vary saddest incidents that I've every witnessed."
Mr. Nixon said he decided he must resign when he concluded that he no longer had
"a strong enough political base in the Congress" to make it possible for him to
complete his term of office.
Declaring that he has never been a quitter, Mr. Nixon said that to leave office
before the end of his term " is abhorrent to every instinct in my body."
But "as President, I must put the interests of America first," he said.
While the President acknowledged that some of his judgments "were wrong," he
made no confession of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" with which the House
Judiciary Committee charged him in its bill of impeachment.
Specifically, he did not refer to Judiciary Committee charges that in the
cover-up of Watergate crimes he misused government agencies such as the FBI, the
Central Intelligence Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.
After the President's address, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski issued a
statement declaring that "there has been no agreement or understanding of any
sort between the President or his representatives and the special prosecutor
relating in any way to the President's resignation."
Jaworski said that his office "was not asked for any such agreement or
understanding and offered none."
His office was informed yesterday afternoon of the President's decision,
Jaworski said, but "my office did not participate in any way in the President's
decision to resign."
Mr. Nixon's brief speech was delivered in firm tones and he appeared to be
complete control of his emotions. The absence of rancor contrasted sharply with
the "farewell" he delivered in 1962 after being defeated for the governorship of
An hour before the speech, however, the President broke down during a meeting
with old congressional friends and had to leave the room.
He had invited 20 senators and 26 representatives for a farewell meeting in the
Cabinet room. Later, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater (R-Ariz.), one of those present,
said Mr. Nixon said to them very much what he said in his speech.
"He just told us that the country couldn't operate with a half-time President,"
Goldwater reported. "Then he broke down and cried and he had to leave the room.
Then the rest of us broke down and cried."
In his televised resignation, after thanking his friends for their support, the
President concluded by saying he was leaving office "with this prayer: may God's
grace be with you in all the days ahead."
As for his sharpest critics, the President said, "I leave with no bitterness
toward those who have opposed me." He called on all Americans to "join together
. . . in helping our new President succeed."
The President said he had thought it was his duty to persevere in office in face
of the Watergate charges and to complete his term.
"In the past days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a
strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort,"
Mr. Nixon said.
His family "unanimously urged" him to stay in office and fight the charges
against him, he said. But he came to realize that he would not have the support
needed to carry out the duties of his office in difficult times.
"America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress," Mr. Nixon said.
The resignation came with "a great sadness that I will not be here in this
office" to complete work on the programs started, he said.
But praising Vice President Ford, Mr. Nixon said that "the leadership of America
will be in good hands."
In his admission of error, the outgoing President said: "I deeply regret any
injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this
He emphasized that world peace had been the overriding concern of his years in
the White House.
When he first took the oath, he said, he made a "sacred commitment" to
"consecrate my office and wisdom to the cause of peace among nations."
"I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge," he
said, adding that he is now confident that the world is a safer place for all
"This more than anything is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the
presidency," Mr. Nixon said. "This more than anything is what I hope will be my
legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the presidency."
Noting that he had lived through a turbulent period, he recalled a statement of
Theodore Roosevelt about the man "in the arena whose face is marred by dust and
sweat and blood" and who, if he fails "at least fails while daring greatly."
Mr. Nixon placed great emphasis on his successes in foreign affairs. He said his
administration had "unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century stood
between the United States and the People's Republic of China."
In the mideast, he said, the United States must begin to build on the peace in
that area. And with the Soviet Union, he said, the administration had begun the
process of ending the nuclear arms race. The goal now, he said, is to reduce and
finally destroy those arms "so that the threat of nuclear war will no longer
hang over the world." The two countries, he added, "must live together in
cooperation rather than in confrontation."
Mr. Nixon has served 2,026 days as the 37th President of the United States. He
leaves office with 2 1/2 years of his second term remaining to be carried out by
the man he nominated to be Vice President last year.
Yesterday morning, the President conferred with his successor. He spent much of
the day in his Executive Office Building hideaway working on his speech and
attending to last-minute business.
At 7:30 p.m., Mr. Nixon again left the White House for the short walk to the
Executive Office Building. The crowd outside the gates waved U.S. flags and sang
"America" as he walked slowly up the steps, his head bowed, alone.
At the EOB, Mr. Nixon met for a little over 20 minutes with the leaders of
Congress -- James O. Eastland (D-Miss.), president pro tem to the Senate; Mike
Mansfield (D-Mont.), Senate majority leader; Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), Senate minority
leader; Carl Albert (D-Okla.), speaker of the House; and John Rhodes (R-Ariz.),
House minority leader.
It was exactly six years ago yesterday that the 55-year-old Californian accepted
the Republican nomination for President for the second time and went on to a
narrow victory in November over Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey.
"I was ready. I was willing. And events were such that this seemed to be the
time the party was willing for me to carry the standard," Nixon said after
winning first-ballot nomination in the convention at Miami Beach.
In his acceptance speech on Aug. 8, 1968, the nominee appealed for victory to
"make the American dream come true for millions of Americans."
"To the leaders of the Communist world we say, after an era of confrontation,
the time has come for an era of negotiation," Nixon said.
The theme was repeated in his first inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1969, and
became the basis for the foreign policy of his first administration.
Largely because of his breakthroughs in negotiations with China and the Soviet
Union, and partly because of divisions in the Democratic Party, Mr. Nixon won a
mammoth election victory in 1972, only to be brought down by scandals that grew
out of an excessive zeal to make certain he would win re-election.
Mr. Nixon and his family are expected to fly to their home in San Clemente,
Calif. early today. Press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler and Rose Mary Woods, Mr.
Nixon's devoted personal secretary for more than two decades, will accompany the
Alexander M. Haig Jr., the former Army vice chief of staff who was brought into
the White House as staff chief following the resignation of H.R. (Bob) Haldeman
on April 30, 1973, has been asked by Mr. Ford to remain in his present position.
It is expected that Haig will continue in the position as staff chief to assure
an orderly transfer of responsibilities but not stay indefinitely.
The first firm indication yesterday that the President had reached a decision
came when deputy press secretary Gerald L. Warren announced at 10:55 a.m. that
the President was about to begin a meeting in the Oval Office with the Vice
"The President asked the Vice President to come over this morning for a private
meeting -- and that is all the information I have at this moment," Warren said.
He promised to post "some routine information, bill actions and appointments"
and to return with additional information" in an hour or so."
Warren's manner and the news he had to impart made it clear at last that
resignation was a certainty. Reports already were circulating on Capitol Hill
that the President would hold a reception for friends and staff members late in
the day and a meeting with congressional leaders.
Shortly after noon, Warren announced over the loudspeaker in the press room that
the meeting between the President and the Vice President had lasted for an hour
and 10 minutes.
At 2:20 p.m., press secretary Ziegler walked into the press room and, struggling
to control his emotions, read the following statement:
"I am aware of the intense interest of the American people and of you in this
room concerning developments today and over the last few days. This has, of
course, been a difficult time.
"The President of the United States will meet various members of the bipartisan
leadership of Congress here at the White House early this evening.
"Tonight, at 9 o'clock, Eastern Daylight Time, the President of the United
States will address the nation on radio and television from his Oval Office."
The room was packed with reporters, and Ziegler read the statement with
difficulty. Although his voice shook, it did not break. As soon as he had
finished, he turned on his heel and left the room, without so much as a glance
at the men and women in the room who wanted to question him.
There were tears in the eyes of some of the secretaries in the press office.
Others, who have been through many crises in recent years and have become used
to overwork, plowed ahead with their duties, with telephones ringing
In other offices, loyal Nixon workers reacted with sadness but also with
resignation and defeat. They were not surprised, and some showed a sense of
relief that at last the battle was over.
Some commented bitterly about former aides H.R. (Bob) Haldeman and John D.
Ehrlichman. The President's loyal personal aide and valet Manola Sanchez, a
Spanish-born immigrant from Cuba whose independence and wit are widely admired,
did not hide his feelings.
Speaking bluntly to some of his old friends, he castigated aides he said had
betrayed the President. One long-time official, who heard about the Sanchez
remarks, commented: "They [Haldeman and Ehrlichman] tried three times to fire
him because they couldn't control him. Imagine, trying to fire someone like
But why did the President always rely on Ehrlichman and Haldeman? The official
was asked. "Will we ever know?" he replied. "When Mr. Nixon was Vice President,"
he recalled, "he demanded that we never abuse the franking privilege. If there
was any doubt, we were to use stamps. Everything had to be above board.
"Surely his friendship with Ehrlichman and Haldeman was one of the most
expensive in history."
But the President himself, said another long-time aide, must have been two
persons, the one who was motivated by high ideals and another who connived and
schemed with his favorite gut-fighters.
One man who worked through most of the first Nixon term said he saw the
President angry only once. Often he would say, "That will be tough politically,
but we must do the right thing."
When that official left his post after nearly four years of intimate association
with the President, he told his wife: "I've never gotten to know what sort of
man he is."
One official, who has known Mr. Nixon well for many years and remains a White
House aide, commented: "He is obviously a bad judge of character. But a lot was
accomplished. So much more could have been accomplished but for these fun and
games. It was such a stupid thing to happen."
The march of events that brought about the President's downfall turned its last
corner Monday when Mr. Nixon released the partial transcripts of three taped
conversations he held on June 23, 1972 with Haldeman.
It seemed inevitable then that this would be his last week in office, yet he
continued to fight back and to insist that he would not resign. On Tuesday, the
President held a Cabinet meeting and told his official family that he would not
On Wednesday, however, the end appeared near, for his support on Capitol Hill
was disappearing at dizzying speed. There were demands from some of his
staunchest supporters that he should resign at once.
Late Wednesday, the President met with Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott
(R-Pa.), House Minority Leader John J. Rhodes (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barry M.
They said afterward that the President had made no decision, but it was obvious
later that for all intents and purposes the decision had been made despite what
the leaders said. They obviously could not make the announcement for him, but it
must have been apparent to them that the end was at hand.
Later Wednesday, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger twice conferred with Mr.
Nixon, first in the early evening for half an hour and then from 9:30 p.m. until
It was not known whether the two men were alone or accompanied by Haig and
Yesterday, Kissinger met with principal deputies in the State Department to tell
them what to expect and to assign tasks to different people. Messages will be
sent to heads of state to notify them formally of the change.
A White House spokesman said more than 10,000 telephone calls were received in
the past two days expressing "disbelief and the hope that the President would
Thursday was a wet, humid August day, but despite intermittent rain the crowds
packed the sidewalks in front of the White House. It was an orderly crowd,
resigned and curious, watching newsmen come and go and being a part of a
dramatic moment in the life of the nation.
Resigns, By Carroll Kilpatrick, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, August 9,
1974; Page A01,
Judiciary Committee Approves
Impeach President Nixon, 27 to 11
6 Republicans Join Democrats
By Richard Lyons and William Chapman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 28, 1974; Page A01
The House Judiciary Committee took the
momentous step last night of recommending that the president of the United
States be impeached and removed from office.
The first such impeachment recommendation in more than a century, it charges
President Nixon with unlawful activities that formed a "course of conduct or
plan" to obstruct the investigation of the Watergate break-in and to cover up
other unlawful activities.
The vote was 27 to 11, with 6 of the committee's 17 Republicans joining all 21
Democrats in voting to send the article to the House.
At least one other article accusing the President of abuse of power is expected
to be approved Monday when the committee resumes.
But approval of a single article is all that is required to send the issue to
the House. And approval of a single article by a majority of the House is enough
to impeach the President and send the case to trial in the Senate, which could
remove Mr. Nixon from office by a two-thirds vote.
The bipartisan support for the article adopted last night makes impeachment by
the House seem more than likely. The majority included three conservative
Southern Democrats and three conservative Republicans.
In San Clemente, Calif., White House press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler said
after the vote that Mr. Nixon remains confident that the House will recognize he
has not committed an impeachable offense.
But Senate Democratic Leader Mike Mansfield said he will meet Monday with
Minority Leader Hugh Scott to launch formal Senate preparations for an
"The line of demarcation has been reached," he said.
Most members of the Judiciary Committee cast their votes in low, solemn tones
and afterward spoke almost in awe of what they had done.
"It's a grave and sobering decision," said Rep. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), who had
managed the debate on Article I for the impeachment forces as an author of a
"I don't feel very good about it," said Rep. Tom Railsback (R-Ill.), one of the
key Republicans who voted against the President.
Some Republican opponents of impeachment were angry. "It's not only a bad day
for the presidency, it's a bad day for American justice," said Rep. Delbert
Latta (R-Ohio). He complained that the article of impeachment did not contain
enough specific allegations.
"We have weakened the hand of the President and the 220 million people he
represents," said Rep. Joseph Maraziti (R-N.J.), one of Mr. Nixon's most
Other anti-impeachment Republicans vowed to fight the impeachment article when
it comes to the House floor. "It's only Round One," said Rep. David W. Dennis
(R-Ind.). "There'll be a good scramble in the House."
Even those whose impeachment votes were never in doubt voiced no sense of
triumph. "I don't want to talk to anybody," Rep. Barbara Jordan (D-Tex.) said.
"It's a terrible thing to happen to anybody," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel
(D-N.Y.). "I'm not happy," said Chairman Peter W. Rodino (D-N.J.).
Just before the historic vote, Rep. Walter Flowers (D-Ala.) revealed for the
first time he had decided to vote for impeachment. He said that after weeks of
searching the facts and the Constitution "it is clear to me what I must do." He
said some of his constituents would feel hurt by his vote against the president
but he assured them that, "I probably have enough pain for both them and me."
Rep. Hamilton Fish (R-N.Y.) also disclosed he would vote for impeachment. He
said he reached that point "with deep reluctance," but added. "The evidence is
It took two votes -- one to substitute the amended Sarbanes version for the
original resolution and then one to approve the impeachment article. The vote
ended at 7:05 p.m.
The article specified nine categories of unlawful activities that were allegedly
part of the cover-up.
"In all this," the article concluded, "Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner
contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government,
to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest
injury of the people of the United States.
"Wherefore Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial and
removal from office."
During the four days of general debate and amending of the article, the
principal witness was the absent President himself. Time after time, committee
members picked up transcripts of taped presidential conversations to read back
the President's words.
And even more often they would note a gap in the evidence caused by the
President's refusal to comply with committee subpoenas that he turn over more
The articles of impeachment will go to the House headed by a resolution, which
in its present draft form reads:
"Resolved, that Richard M. Nixon, president of the United States, is impeached
for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles be exhibited
to the Senate: . . ."
The impeachment inquiry, which began seven months ago, was provoked principally
by Watergate but other issues covered by a proposed Article II charging abuse of
power cause more concern among some members.
Some Republicans are most concerned about allegations that Mr. Nixon misused
such sensitive agencies as the Internal Revenue Service and the Central
Intelligence Agency for political purposes.
Others are most concerned about Mr. Nixon's defiance of committee subpoenas,
which is now included in Article II as a contempt of Congress count, but may be
broken out into a separate article. An attempt may be made to offer a fourth
article on tax evasion, but it is not expected to be approved.
The obstruction of justice article approved last night accuses Mr. Nixon of
making false statements to investigators, withholding relevant evidence,
approving or counseling perjury, interfering with the Justice Department's
investigation, approving payment of hush money to Watergate defendants, passing
on information about the investigation to his aides who were suspects, making
false statements to the American people about White House involvement in
Watergate and causing defendants to believe they might receive clemency for the
The Democratic majority and a few Republicans spent the afternoon on national
television reciting instance after instance in which they said Mr. Nixon and his
former top aides withheld information on the cover-up and tried to interfere
with various investigations.
The committee yesterday rejected a half dozen amendments that would have deleted
most of the nine paragraphs in Article I alleging obstruction of justice.
It was a pro forma debate, insisted upon by Rep. Flowers who said the committee
had an obligation to build a record describing the specific offenses committed
by Mr. Nixon and his aides.
One major amendment was passed. It charged that Mr. Nixon had personally and
through aides engaged in a "course of conduct" designed to obstruct
investigation of the cover-up. That language replaced a charge, considered more
difficult to prove, that Mr. Nixon had formulated a specific "policy" to
Another amendment added "congressional committees" to the list of organizations
whose investigations Mr. Nixon was alleged to have interfered with.
The sharp debate on evidence yesterday was in contrast to the rambling arguments
that characterized Friday's committee deliberations.
The Republican minority Friday demanded more specific facts in the charges
lodged against Mr. Nixon in Article I. Unprepared, the Democrats and a few
Republicans tried to contend the impeachment article didn't need specific
citations of evidence to back it up.
But yesterday the Democrats were prepared in depth to give specific reasons Mr.
Nixon should be impeached for obstructing justice in the Watergate cover-up.
Different members had been assigned the task of defending each numbered
paragraph in the charge and obviously were delighted to pour out the evidence
before a national television audience.
Rep. Charles Sandman (R-N.J.), the Republican who had sought Friday to strike
each paragraph one by one, backed down quickly yesterday, acknowledged he lacked
the votes to win, and said the committee should go ahead and vote on the whole
But Flowers insisted that the committee had to build a record of evidence and
demanded a debate and vote on each of Sandman's amendments.
The first amendment Flowers offered yesterday was to eliminate a paragraph
charging that the cover-up plan included "withholding relevant and material
evidence of information (on the break-in) from lawfully authorized investigative
officers and employees of the United States."
Rep. William Cohen (R-Maine) promptly began rattling off evidence to show that
Mr. Nixon and his top aides had withheld such information.
Cohen said that shortly after the June 17, 1972, break-in Mr. Nixon and his
aide, John D. Ehrlichman, knew that men from the Committee for the Re-election
of the President were involved. "These facts were withheld from the Attorney
General and other investigators," he said.
There was also physical evidence in the White House -- a memo from H.R.
Haldeman, chief of staff, a phone book containing E. Howard Hunt's name, and a
copy of a political intelligence plan -- that was destroyed or altered, Cohen
He also recalled that former Attorney General John N. Mitchell told Mr. Nixon he
was sorry he hadn't supervised more closely re-election committee employees who
were involved and that Mr. Nixon had noted that information in one of his
Cohen also said that on March 13, 1973, Mr. Nixon was told that a White House
aide, Gordon Strachman, had committed perjury, but he failed to report that
information to investigators.
Reps. Dennis and Wiggins led the counter-attach, arguing that Cohen's list of
evidence implicates Mr. Nixon's aides but not the President himself in
Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Haldeman all had something to cover up, but the
President didn't, Dennis said. He said the President didn't know anything about
details of the cover-up until told of it on March 21, 1973, by his counsel, John
W. Dean III.
Wiggins contended that even the famous March 21 conversation with Dean didn't
implicate the President. He argued that, in context, the conversation showed Mr.
Nixon anxious to have the policy of withholding," Wiggins said.
But Mr. Nixon had learned on March 13 of Strachan's perjury, countered Rep. John
Seiberling (D-Ohio). "Did the President rise up in righteous indignation?" asked
Seiberling. "He did nothing."
The move to strike the paragraph on withholding evidence was defeated on an
overwhelming voice vote.
The only major substantive change in Article I voted yesterday was designed to
make it more palatable in the Senate if Mr. Nixon should be brought to trial
Originally the article charged that Mr. Nixon "made it his policy" to obstruct
the investigation of Watergate and to protect those responsible.
An amendment introduced by Railsback charged instead that the President engaged
"in a course of conduct or plan designed" to impede and obstruct the
Railsback said he had difficulty believing that Mr. Nixon at any specific time
formulated a policy of obstruction, but he said the record shows a "course of
conduct" amounting to obstruction.
Dennis observed that Railsback's amendment cited a "plan" of obstruction and
asked: "What's the difference between a policy and a plan?"
Railsback acknowledged he also had trouble judging the difference, but said that
committee counsel believed that the word "policy" had the connotation of an
"orchestrated" effort to obstruct.
"I believe that certain events occurred to which Mr. Nixon didn't respond or
responded to in an improper way," Railsback added.
Did Railsback mean Mr. Nixon intentionally acted in such a way as to delay or
impede the investigation? Wiggins wanted to know. Railsback said he meant that
Mr. Nixon acted knowingly for the purpose of delaying and impeding it.
Rep. Wayne Owens (D-Utah) said he was satisfied that obstruction was a
deliberate policy of the President but said that the new language would "make
proof in the Senate easier."
Railsback's amendment was approved on a voice vote.
The only other substantive amendment was one by Rep. George E. Danielson
(D-Calif.). It accused Mr. Nixon of interfering or trying to interfere with
investigations by congressional committees. The original article had said he
interfered with investigations by the Justice Department; the FBI, and the
Watergate Special Prosecution Force.
Danielson charged that Mr. Nixon tried to interfere with the investigations
planned or launched by the House Banking and Currency Committee, the Senate
Watergate Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee.
Wiggins countered that there never was a Banking and Currency Committee
investigation for Mr. Nixon to interfere with. The only evidence he tried to
interfere with the Senate Watergate committee, Wiggins said, consisted of his
considering withholding witnesses through claims of executive privilege, claims
that were finally relinquished.
Danielson claimed Mr. Nixon interfered with the Judiciary Committee by
withholding tapes and documents. Wiggins said the President was merely making a
"good faith claim" to executive privilege by withholding these pieces of
Danielson's amendment was adopted 24 to 14, with supporters and opponents of
impeachment winding up on both sides of the issue.
Two minor amendments offered by Rep. Lawrence Hogan (R-Md.) were approved on
voice votes. One changed "illegal" entry to "unlawful" entry. Another related to
a charge that the obstruction involved the making of false statements to
investigators; Hogan's language added the phrase "or causing to be made."
After a mid-afternoon recess, Flowers agreed to limit debate to 20 minutes on
each of his amendments to strike sections. And he passed over some without
amendment. His amendments were beaten back by votes of better than 2 to 1.
Flowers himself voted "Present," rather than no, to show he wasn't really trying
to knock out the numbered charges, but rather to produce specific incidents of
Opposing an amendment to strike a section stating that the President condoned or
counseled perjury. Rep. M. Caldwell Butler (R-Va.) read rapidly from the
transcript of Dean's March 21, 1973, meeting with the President.
Butler noted that Dean told the President that Jeb Stuart Magruder and Herbert
Porter, at the re-election committee, had committed perjury before the Watergate
grand jury and that the President expressed no opposition to it. He also read
from a March 27 transcript where the President's top aide, Haldeman, asked Mr.
Nixon whether Dean "should stay with the old lie" and the President replied,
"What would you advise him to do?"
Wiggins defending the President, said Mr. Nixon had learned of Magruder's and
Porter's perjury after the fact and so had not "counseled" it. The section also
contained the words "approving, condoning, acquiescing in . . ." Wiggins said
"two reasonable possibilities" must be resolved in favor of the president.
Flower's pro forma effort to strike a section charging the President with
attempting to interfere with the Justice Department and FBI Watergate
investigation was strongly opposed by Hogan, a former FBI agent.
Hogan recited events starting June 23, 1973, when the President directed
Haldeman and Ehrlichman to meet with top CIA officials and instruct them to
relay to the FBI White House concern that the FBI Watergate investigation in
Mexico might expose CIA activities there. The CIA reported back that there was
no jeopardy to the CIA.
But the President's counsel, Dean, persisted in trying to keep the FBI out of
Mexico, Hogan said. The reason, he said, was that the investigation would have
traced money found on the Watergate burglars through a laundering process in
Mexico and back to the re-election committee. After this, acting FBI Director
Patrick Gray told Mr. Nixon his aides were trying to "mortally wound" him, but
the President didn't even ask what he meant, Hogan said.
Wiggins responded that the President naturally had concern about possible CIA
involvement in the Watergate break-in because of the CIA background of several
of the burglars.
Wiggins said the President's concern was that covert CIA operations not be
exposed, not that the trail of the money be covered.
And when Mr. Nixon talked with Gray, said Wiggins, he properly responded that
Gray should "continue your investigation."
The President's critics try unreasonably to make something of a "perceptible
pause" before Mr. Nixon replied to Gray's "mortally wound" remark, said Wiggins.
House Majority Leader Thomas p. O'Neill (D-Mass.) has repeatedly predicted that
if the committee recommended impeachment, the House would vote to impeach the
President by a margin of 50 votes or more.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are more liberal than House Democrats as a
whole, and committee Republicans are more conservative than the House
But Southern Democrats on the committee -- James R. Mann of South Carolina,
Flowers of Alabama and Thornton of Arkansas -- are highly respected by their
colleagues and should help make a vote for impeachment respectable among their
Southern colleagues except for a relatively small group of about 25
conservatives who appear to have adopted an attitude of "never."
Similarly, committee Republicans like conservative Hogan, respected Southerner
Butler, and Midwestern moderate Railsback, should be persuasive with various
groups of Republicans in the House.
After the Judiciary Committee completes its work, it must write a report
explaining to the House in detail why it has recommended impeachment. The
committee will then go to the House Rules Committee a week later to get a
resolution fixing ground rules for debate on the floor.
The House is expected to debate the articles about two weeks under the rule,
permitting amendments as the committee procedure did, and vote about Aug. 24.
If the case goes to the Senate, the trial is expected to last about two months,
preceded by a delay to permit the President's lawyers to prepare his defense.
Judiciary Committee Approves Article to Impeach President Nixon, 27 to 11 > 6
Republicans Join Democrats to Pass Obstruction Charge, By Richard Lyons and
William Chapman, Washington Post Staff Writers, Sunday, July 28, 1974; Page A01,
, © 1974 The Washington Post Company
How Watergate Unfolded
Wednesday, June 1, 2005; A07
It began with a bungled burglary of the
Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex early on the
morning of June 17, 1972, and the arrest of five suspects. A security guard
named Frank Willis had discovered tape-covered door latches in a Watergate
stairwell and had called the police.
Two of the five suspects arrested possessed address books with the entries "W.
House" and "W.H.," scribblings that quickly linked them to two shadowy figures:
E. Howard Hunt, a onetime CIA agent who had recently worked in the Nixon
administration White House, and G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent who was on
the payroll of the Committee for the Reelection of the President, Richard M.
Nixon's campaign organization.
Nixon dismissed the break-in as "that pipsqueak Watergate" and John N. Mitchell,
the reelection chairman, denied any link. But over the next two years, the
burglary metastasized into one of the biggest scandals and constitutional crises
in modern U.S. history.
Ultimately, Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, and more than 30 government and
Republican campaign officials were convicted of charges including perjury,
burglary, wiretapping and obstruction of justice.
Nixon and his top aides attempted to cover up involvement in the break-in and in
other political dirty tricks and intelligence-gathering operations that were
employed in the 1972 reelection victory over Democratic challenger George
McGovern. While the media and members of Congress ignored or played down the
significance of the break-in, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two young
reporters on the metropolitan news staff of The Washington Post, doggedly
pursued leads that led to the highest levels of government.
Woodward and Bernstein were greatly helped by "Deep Throat," a confidential
source who was privy to the details of the FBI investigation. Yesterday, it was
revealed that "Deep Throat" was W. Mark Felt, the FBI's acting associate
director at the time. The Post published remarkable findings -- that a $25,000
cashier's check earmarked for the Nixon campaign wound up in the bank account of
one of the burglars; that Mitchell, while serving as attorney general,
controlled a secret fund for intelligence operations against the Democrats; and
that John D. Ehrlichman, a top Nixon aide, supervised covert actions of a
special unit known as the Plumbers that burglarized the office of the
psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers.
Within months of Nixon's landslide victory, his administration and career began
to unravel. On Jan. 30, 1973, Liddy and James W. McCord Jr., a former CIA
employee and chief of security for Nixon's reelection campaign, were convicted
of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident. White House
Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Attorney General Richard G.
Kleindienst resigned on April 30. The Senate Watergate committee began televised
hearings in May. The following month, The Post reported that former White House
counsel John W. Dean III told Watergate investigators he had discussed the
cover-up with Nixon at least 35 times, and Alexander P. Butterfield, former
presidential appointments secretary, testified to the Senate panel in July that
Nixon secretly taped his conversations and telephone calls from 1971 on.
Nixon's firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox on Oct. 20 -- which
triggered the resignation of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and his
deputy -- and a unanimous Supreme Court ruling on July 24, 1974, telling Nixon
to surrender 64 tape recordings, hastened the president's demise.
With the House bearing down on him and moving toward approval of three articles
of impeachment, Nixon announced his resignation on Aug. 8, 1974.
Watergate Unfolded, Eric Pianin, WP, © 2005 The Washington Post Company,
Wednesday, June 1, 2005; A07,
"I'm the Guy They Called Deep Throat"
By JOHN D. O'CONNOR
In a V.F. exclusive, W. Mark Felt, 91 years
old and formerly second-in-command at the F.B.I., says that he is the
confidential Watergate source who assisted Washington Post reporters Bob
Woodward and Carl Bernstein—and helped bring down President Richard Nixon
On a sunny California morning in August 1999, Joan Felt, a busy college Spanish
professor and single mother, was completing chores before leaving for class. She
stopped when she heard an unexpected knock at the front door. Upon answering it,
she was met by a courteous, 50-ish man, who introduced himself as a journalist
from The Washington Post. He asked if he could see her father, W. Mark Felt, who
lived with her in her suburban Santa Rosa home. The man said his name was Bob
Woodward's name did not register with Joan, and she assumed he was no different
from a number of other reporters, who had called that week. This was, after all,
the 25th anniversary of the resignation of President Richard Nixon, disgraced in
the scandal known as Watergate, and hounded from office in 1974. The journalists
had all been asking whether her father—the number-two man in the F.B.I. during
the Watergate years—was "Deep Throat," the legendary inside informant who, on
the condition of anonymity, had systematically passed along clues about White
House misdeeds to two young reporters. Joan figured that similar phone calls
were probably being placed to a handful of other Deep Throat candidates.
These names, over the years, had become part of a parlor game among historians:
Who in the top echelons of government had mustered the courage to leak secrets
to the press? Who had sought to expose the Nixon administration's conspiracy to
obstruct justice through its massive campaign of political espionage and its
subsequent cover-up? Who, indeed, had helped bring about the most serious
constitutional crisis since the 1868 impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson—and, in
the process, changed the fate of the nation?
Joan was suddenly curious. Unlike the others, this reporter had come by in
person. What's more, he claimed to be a friend of her father's. Joan excused
herself and spoke to her dad. He was 86 at the time, alert though clearly
diminished by the years. Joan told him about the stranger at the door and was
surprised when he readily agreed to see "Bob."
She ushered him in, excused herself, and the two men talked for half an hour,
Joan recalls. Then she invited them to join her for a drive to the market
nearby. "Bob sat in the backseat," she says. "I asked him about his life, his
job. He said he'd been out here on the West Coast covering [Arizona senator]
John McCain's [presidential] campaign and was in Sacramento or Fresno"—four
hours away—"and thought he'd stop by. He looked about my age. I thought, Gee,
[he's] attractive. Pleasant too. Too bad this guy isn't single."
Woodward and Felt waited in the car while Joan popped into the grocery store. On
the way home, Joan remembers, Woodward asked her, "Would it be all right to take
your dad to lunch and have a drink?" She agreed. And so, once back at the house,
Woodward left to get his car.
Joan, always looking after her dad's health, realized she should probably
caution Woodward to limit her father to one or two drinks. Yet when she opened
the front door, she could find neither the reporter nor his car. Puzzled, she
decided to drive around the neighborhood, only to discover him outside the
Felts' subdivision, walking into a parking lot of a junior high school some
eight blocks from the house. He was just about to enter a chauffeured limousine.
Joan, however, was too polite to ask Woodward why he had chosen to park there.
Or why, for that matter, he had come in a limo.
That night her father was ebullient about the lunch, recounting how "Bob" and he
had downed martinis. Joan found it all a bit odd. Her father had been dodging
reporters all week, but had seemed totally comfortable with this one. And why
had Woodward taken such precautions? Joan trusted her instincts. Though she
still hadn't made the connection between Woodward, The Washington Post, and the
Watergate scandal, she was convinced that this was a less than serendipitous
Sure enough, in the years to follow, Mark Felt and his daughter, along with
Joan's brother, Mark junior, and her son Nick, would continue to communicate
with Woodward by phone (and in several e-mail exchanges) as Felt progressed into
his 90s. Felt suffered a mild stroke in 2001. His mental faculties began to
deteriorate a bit. But he kept his spirit and sense of humor. And always, say
Joan, aged 61, and Mark junior, 58, Woodward remained gracious and friendly,
occasionally inquiring about Felt's health. "As you may recall," Woodward
e-mailed Joan in August of 2004, "my father [is] also approaching 91. [He] seems
happy—the goal for all of us. Best to everyone, Bob."
Three years after Woodward's visit, my wife, Jan, and I happened to be hosting a
rather lively dinner for my daughter Christy, a college junior, and seven of her
friends from Stanford. The atmosphere had the levity and intensity of a reunion,
as several of the students had just returned from sabbaticals in South America.
Jan served her typical Italian-style feast with large platters of pasta, grilled
chicken, and vegetables, and plenty of beer and wine. Our house, in Marin
County, overlooks the San Rafael Hills, and the setting that spring evening was
perfect for trading stories about faraway trips.
Nick Jones, a friend of Christy's whom I had known for three years, listened as
I related a story about my father, an attorney who had begun his career in Rio
during World War II by serving as an undercover F.B.I. agent. When talk turned
to the allure and intrigue of Rio in the 40s, Nick mentioned that his
grandfather, also a lawyer, had joined the bureau around that time and had gone
on to become a career agent. "What's his name?," I asked.
"You may have heard of him," he said. "He was a pretty senior guy in the F.B.I.
… Mark Felt."
I was blown away. Here was an enterprising kid who was working his way through
school. He reminded me of myself in a way: an energetic overachiever whose
father, like Nick's grandfather, had served as an intelligence agent. (Nick and
I were both good high-school athletes. I went to Notre Dame, the University of
Michigan Law School, class of '72, then joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in San
Francisco, ultimately landing at a highly respected Bay Area law firm.) I had
taken Nick under my wing, encouraging him to consider studying to become a
lawyer. And yet I had no idea that his grandfather was the same guy—long rumored
as the infamous Deep Throat—whom I'd heard about for years from my days as a
federal prosecutor. Felt had even worked with my early mentor, William
Ruckelshaus, most famous for his role in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre,
of 1973. (When Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox subpoenaed nine Nixon
tape recordings that he had secretly made in the Oval Office, the president
insisted that Cox be fired. Rather than dismiss Cox, Nixon's attorney general,
Elliot Richardson, and his deputy, Ruckelshaus, resigned in protest, becoming
Deep Throat, in fact, had been the hero who started it all—along with the two
reporters he assisted, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (both of whom would go on
to make their journalistic reputations, and riches, through their Watergate
revelations). And my daughter's friend, I suspected, was the famous source's
grandson. "Mark Felt!," I exclaimed. "You're kidding me. Your granddad is Deep
Throat! Did you know that?"
Nick answered calmly, and maybe with an air of uncertainty, "You know, Big John,
I've heard that for a long time. Just recently we've started to think maybe it's
We let the subject drop that night, turning to other matters. But a few days
later Nick phoned and asked me, in my role as an attorney, to come over and meet
his grandfather. Nick and his mother wanted to discuss the wisdom of Felt's
coming forward. Felt, Nick said, had recently admitted his secret identity,
privately, to intimates, after years of hiding the truth even from his family.
But Felt was adamant about remaining silent on the subject—until his
death—thinking his past disclosures somehow dishonorable.
Joan and Nick, however, considered him a true patriot. They were beginning to
realize that it might make sense to enlist someone from the outside to help him
tell his story, his way, before he passed away, unheralded and forgotten.
I agreed to see Mark Felt later that week.
The identity of Deep Throat is modern journalism's greatest unsolved mystery. It
has been said that he may be the most famous anonymous person in U.S. history.
But, regardless of his notoriety, American society today owes a considerable
debt to the government official who decided, at great personal risk, to help
Woodward and Bernstein as they pursued the hidden truths of Watergate.
First, some background. In the early-morning hours of June 17, 1972, five
"burglars" were caught breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National
Committee at the Watergate complex, along the Potomac River. Two members of the
team were found to have address books with scribbles "W. House" and "W.H." They
were operating, as it turned out, on the orders of E. Howard Hunt, a onetime
C.I.A. agent who had recently worked in the White House, and G. Gordon Liddy, an
ex–F.B.I. agent who was on the payroll of the Committee to Re-elect the
President (CRP, pronounced Creep, which was organizing Nixon's run against
Senator George McGovern, the South Dakota Democrat).
Funds for the break-in, laundered through a Mexican bank account, had actually
come from the coffers of CRP, headed by John Mitchell, who had been attorney
general during Nixon's first term. Following the break-in, suspicions were
raised throughout Washington: What were five men with Republican connections
doing with gloves, cameras, large amounts of cash, and bugging equipment in the
Democrats' top campaign office?
The case remained in the headlines thanks to the dogged reporting of an unlikely
team of journalists, both in their late 20s: Carl Bernstein, a scruffy college
dropout and six-year veteran of the Post (now a writer, lecturer, and Vanity
Fair contributor), and Bob Woodward, an ex–navy officer and Yale man (now a
celebrated author and Post assistant managing editor). The heat was also kept on
because of a continuing F.B.I. investigation, headed by the bureau's acting
associate director, Mark Felt, whose teams interviewed 86 administration and CRP
staffers. These sessions, however, were quickly undermined. The White House and
CRP had ordered that their lawyers be present at every meeting. Felt believed
that the C.I.A. deliberately gave the F.B.I. false leads. And most of the
bureau's "write-ups" of the interviews were being secretly passed on to Nixon
counsel John Dean—by none other than Felt's new boss, L. Patrick Gray. (Gray,
the acting F.B.I. director, had taken over after J. Edgar Hoover's death, six
weeks before the break-in.) Throughout this period, the Nixon camp denied any
White House or CRP involvement in the Watergate affair. And after a three-month
"investigation" there was no evidence to implicate any White House staffers.
The Watergate probe appeared to be at an impasse, the break-in having been
explained away as a private extortion scheme that didn't extend beyond the
suspects in custody. McGovern couldn't gain campaign traction with the issue,
and the president was re-elected in November 1972 by an overwhelming majority.
But during that fateful summer and fall, at least one government official was
determined not to let Watergate fade away. That man was Woodward's well-placed
source. In an effort to keep the Watergate affair in the news, Deep Throat had
been consistently confirming or denying confidential information for the
reporter, which he and Bernstein would weave into their frequent stories, often
on the Post's front page.
Ever cautious, Woodward and Deep Throat devised cloak-and-dagger methods to
avoid tails and eavesdroppers during their numerous rendezvous. If Woodward
needed to initiate a meeting, he would position an empty flowerpot (which
contained a red construction flag) to the rear of his apartment balcony. If Deep
Throat was the instigator, the hands of a clock would mysteriously appear on
page 20 of Woodward's copy of The New York Times, which was delivered before
seven each morning. Then they would connect at the appointed hour in an
underground parking garage. (Woodward would always take two cabs and then walk a
short distance to their meetings.) The garage afforded Deep Throat a darkened
venue for hushed conversation, a clear view of any potential intruders, and a
quick escape route.
Whoever Deep Throat might have been, he was certainly a public official in
private turmoil. As the two Post reporters would explain in their 1974
behind-the-scenes book about Watergate, All the President's Men, Deep Throat
lived in solitary dread, under the constant threat of being summarily fired or
even indicted, with no colleagues in whom he could confide. He was justifiably
suspicious that phones had been wiretapped, rooms bugged, and papers rifled. He
was completely isolated, having placed his career and his institution in
jeopardy. Eventually, Deep Throat would even warn Woodward and Bernstein that he
had reason to believe "everyone's life is in danger"—meaning Woodward's,
Bernstein's, and, presumably, his own.
In the months that followed, the Post's exposés continued unabated in the face
of mounting White House pressure and protest. Deep Throat, having become more
enraged with the administration, grew more bold. Instead of merely corroborating
facts that the two reporters obtained from other sources, he began providing
leads and outlining an administration-sanctioned conspiracy. (In the film
version of the book, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman would portray Woodward
and Bernstein, while Hal Holbrook assumed the Deep Throat role.)
Soon public outcry grew. Other media outlets began to investigate in earnest.
The Senate convened riveting televised hearings in 1973, and when key players
such as John Dean cut immunity deals, the entire plot unraveled. President
Nixon, it turned out, had tape-recorded many of the meetings where strategies
had been hashed out—and the cover-up discussed (in violation of
obstruction-of-justice laws). On August 8, 1974, with the House of
Representatives clearly moving toward impeachment, the president announced his
resignation, and more than 30 government and campaign officials in and around
the Nixon White House would ultimately plead guilty to or be convicted of
crimes. In brief, Watergate had reaffirmed that no person, not even the
president of the United States, is above the law.
Due in no small part to the secrets revealed by the Post, sometimes in consort
with Deep Throat, the courts and the Congress have been loath to grant a sitting
president free rein, and are generally wary of administrations that might try to
impede access to White House documents in the name of "executive privilege."
Watergate helped set in motion what would become known as the "independent
counsel" law (for investigating top federal officials) and helped make
whistle-blowing (on wrongdoings in business and government) a legally
sanctioned, if still risky and courageous, act. Watergate invigorated an
independent press, virtually spawning a generation of investigative journalists.
And yet, ever since the political maelstrom of Nixon's second term, Deep Throat
has declined to reveal himself. He has kept quiet through seven presidencies and
despite an anticipated fortune that might have come his way from a tell-all
book, film, or television special. Woodward has said that Deep Throat wished to
remain anonymous until death, and he pledged to keep his source's confidence, as
he has for more than a generation. (Officially, Deep Throat's identity has been
known only to Woodward, Bernstein, their former editor Ben Bradlee—and to Deep
In All the President's Men, the authors described their source as a man of
passion and contradiction: "Aware of his own weaknesses, he readily conceded his
flaws. He was, incongruously, an incurable gossip, careful to label rumor for
what it was, but fascinated by it. … He could be rowdy, drink too much,
overreach. He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in
his position." Even though he was a Washington creature he was "worn out" by
years of bureaucratic battles, a man disenchanted with the "switchblade
mentality" of the Nixon White House and its tactics of politicizing governmental
agencies. Deep Throat was someone in an "extremely sensitive" position,
possessing "an aggregate of hard information flowing in and out of many
stations," while at the same time quite wary of his role as a confidential
source. "Deep Throat," noted Woodward in a lecture in 2003, "lied to his family,
to his friends, and colleagues, denying that he had helped us."
And as the years went on, Joan Felt had really begun to wonder whether her
father might just be this courageous but tortured man.
Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1913, Mark Felt came of age at a time when the
F.B.I. agent was an archetypal patriot—a crime-fighter in a land that had been
torn by war, the Depression, and Mob violence. Raised in modest circumstances,
the outgoing, take-charge Felt worked his way through the University of Idaho
(where he was head of his fraternity) and the George Washington University Law
School, married another Idaho grad, Audrey Robinson, then joined the bureau in
Dapper, charming, and handsome, with a full head of sandy hair that grayed
attractively over the years, Felt resembled actor Lloyd Bridges. He was a
registered Democrat (who turned Republican during the Reagan years) with a
conservative bent and a common man's law-and-order streak. Often relocating his
family, he would come to speak at each new school that Joan Felt
attended—wearing a shoulder holster, hidden under his pinstripes. In the bureau,
he was popular with supervisors and underlings alike, and enjoyed both scotch
and bourbon, though he was ever mindful of Hoover's edicts about his agents'
sobriety. Felt helped curb the Kansas City Mob as that city's special agent in
charge, using tactics both aggressive and innovative, then was named
second-in-command of the bureau's training division in 1962. Felt mastered the
art of succinct, just-the-facts-ma'am memo writing, which appealed to the
meticulous Hoover, who made him one of his closest protégés. In 1971, in a move
to rein in his power-seeking head of domestic intelligence, William C. Sullivan,
Hoover promoted Felt to a newly created position overseeing Sullivan, vaulting
Felt to prominence.
While Felt rose through the ranks, his daughter, Joan, became decidedly
anti-Establishment. As Joan's lifestyle changed, her father quietly but strongly
disapproved, telling her that she and her peers reminded him of radical Weather
Underground members—a faction he happened to be in the process of hunting down.
Joan cut off contact with her parents for a time (she has been reconciled with
her dad for more than 25 years now), retreating to a commune where, with a movie
camera rolling, she gave birth to her first son, Ludi (Nick's brother, now
called Will), a scene used in the 1974 documentary The Birth of Ludi. On one
occasion her parents arrived at Joan's farm for a visit, only to find her and a
friend sitting naked in the sun, breast-feeding their babies.
Joan's brother, Mark junior, a commercial pilot and retired air-force lieutenant
colonel, says that at that stage their father was utterly absorbed in his work.
"By the time he'd got to Washington," Mark recalls, "he worked six days a week,
got home, had dinner, and went to bed. He believed in the F.B.I. more than
anything else he believed in in his life." For a time, Mark says, his dad also
served as an unpaid technical adviser to the popular 60s TV program The F.B.I.,
occasionally going onto the set with Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who played an agent
with responsibilities similar to Felt's. "He was a cool character," says the
younger Felt, "willing to take risks and go outside of the rule book to get the
In his little-known 1979 memoir, The F.B.I. Pyramid, co-written with Ralph de
Toledano, Felt comes across as a down-to-earth counterpart to the imperious
Hoover—a man Felt deeply respected. Hoover, in Felt's view, was "charismatic,
feisty, charming, petty, giant, grandiose, brilliant, egotistical, industrious,
formidable, compassionate, domineering"; he possessed a "puritanical" streak,
the bearing of an "inflexible martinet," and obsessive habits. ("Hoover insisted
on the same seats in the plane, the same rooms in the same hotels. [He had an]
immaculate appearance … as if he had shaved, showered, and put on a freshly
pressed suit for [every] occasion.") Felt, a more sociable figure, was still a
man in the Hoover mold: disciplined, fiercely loyal to the men under his
command, and resistant to any force that tried to compromise the bureau. Felt
came to see himself, in fact, as something of a conscience of the F.B.I.
Well before Hoover's death, relations between the Nixon camp and the F.B.I.
deteriorated. In 1971, Felt was called to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The
president, Felt was told, had begun "climbing the walls" because someone (a
government insider, Nixon believed) was leaking details to The New York Times
about the administration's strategy for upcoming arms talks with the Soviets.
Nixon's aides wanted the bureau to find the culprits, either through wiretaps or
by insisting that suspects submit to lie-detector tests. Such leaks led the
White House to begin employing ex-C.I.A. types to do their own, homespun spying,
creating its nefarious "Plumbers" unit, to which the Watergate cadre belonged.
Felt arrived at the White House to confront an odd gathering. Egil "Bud" Krogh
Jr., deputy assistant for domestic affairs, presided, and attendees included
ex-spy E. Howard Hunt and Robert Mardian, an assistant attorney general—"a
balding little man," Felt recalled, "dressed in what looked like work clothes
and dirty tennis shoes … shuffling about the room, arranging the chairs and I
[first] took him to be a member of the cleaning staff." (Mardian had been
summoned to the West Wing from a weekend tennis game.) According to Felt, once
the meeting began, Felt expressed resistance to the idea of wiretapping
suspected leakers without a court order.
After the session, which ended with no clear resolution, Krogh's group began to
have reason to suspect a single Pentagon employee. Nixon, nonetheless, demanded
that "four or five hundred people in State, Defense, and so forth [also be
polygraphed] so that we can immediately scare the bastards." Two days later, as
Felt wrote in his book, he was relieved when Krogh told him that the
administration had decided to let "the Agency," not the F.B.I., "handle the
polygraph interviews. … Obviously, John Ehrlichman [Krogh's boss, Nixon's top
domestic-policy adviser, and the head of the Plumbers unit] had decided to
'punish' the Bureau for what he saw as its lack of cooperation and its refusal
to get involved in the work which the 'Plumbers' later undertook."
In 1972, tensions between the institutions deepened when Hoover and Felt
resisted White House pressure to have the F.B.I. forensics lab declare a
particularly damning memo a forgery—as a way of exonerating the administration
in a corruption scandal. Believing that trumped-up forgery findings were
improper, and trying to sustain the reputation of the F.B.I. lab, Felt claimed
to have refused entreaties by John Dean. (The episode took on elements of the
absurd when Hunt, wearing an ill-fitting red wig, showed up in Denver in an
effort to extract information from Dita Beard, the communications lobbyist who
had supposedly written the memo.)
Clearly, Felt harbored increasing contempt for this curious crew at the White
House, whom he saw as intent on utilizing the Justice Department for their
political ends. What's more, Hoover, who had died that May, was no longer around
to protect Felt or the bureau's Old Guard, the F.B.I. chief having been replaced
by an interim successor, L. Patrick Gray, a Republican lawyer who hoped to
permanently land Hoover's job. Gray, with his eyes on that prize, chose to leave
an increasingly frustrated Felt in charge of the F.B.I.'s day-to-day operations.
Then came the break-in, and a pitched battle began. "We seemed to be continually
at odds with the White House about almost everything," Felt wrote, regarding the
dark days of 1972. He soon came to believe that he was fighting an all-out war
for the soul of the bureau.
As the F.B.I. pushed on with its Watergate investigation, the White House threw
up more and more barriers. When Felt and his team believed they could "trace the
source of the money that had been in the possession of the Watergate 'burglars'"
to a bank in Mexico City, Gray, according to Felt, "flatly ordered [Felt] to
call off any interviews" in Mexico because they "might upset" a C.I.A. operation
there. Felt and his key deputies sought a meeting with Gray. "Look," Felt
recalled telling his boss, "the reputation of the FBI is at stake. … Unless we
get a request in writing [from the C.I.A.] to forgo the [Mexico] interview,
we're going ahead anyway!
"That's not all," Felt supposedly added. "We must do something about the
complete lack of cooperation from John Dean and the Committee to Reelect the
President. It's obvious they're holding back—delaying and leading us astray in
every way they know. We expect this sort of thing when we are investigating
organized crime. … The whole thing is going to explode right in the President's
At a subsequent meeting, according to Felt, Gray asked whether the investigation
could be confined to "these seven subjects," referring to the five burglars,
plus Hunt and Liddy. Felt responded, "We will be going much higher than these
seven. These men are the pawns. We want the ones who moved the pawns." Agreeing
with his team, Gray chose to stay the course and continue the probe.
Felt's book gives no indication that during this same period he decided to go
outside the bounds of government to expose the corruption within Nixon's team—or
to overcome the impediments they were placing on his ability to do his job.
There are only scant clues that he might have decided to pass along secrets to
The Washington Post; in fact, Felt makes a point of categorically denying he is
Deep Throat. But, in truth, the White House had begun asking for Felt's head,
even though Gray adamantly defended his deputy. Felt would write:
Gray confided to me, "You know, Mark, [Attorney General] Dick Kleindienst told
me that I might have to get rid of you. He says White House staff members are
convinced that you are the FBI source of leaks to Woodward and Bernstein." …
I said, "Pat, I haven't leaked anything to anybody. They are wrong!" …
"I believe you," Gray answered, "but the White House doesn't. Kleindienst has
told me on three or four occasions to get rid of you but I refused. He didn't
say this came from higher up but I am convinced that it did."
It is clear from the Watergate tapes that Felt was indeed one of the targets of
Nixon's wrath. In October 1972, Nixon insisted he would "fire the whole Goddamn
Bureau," and singled out Felt, whom he thought to be part of a plot to undermine
him through frequent press leaks. "Is he a Catholic?" he asked his trusted
adviser H. R. Haldeman, who replied that Felt was Jewish. (Felt, of Irish
descent, is not Jewish and claims no religious affiliation.) Nixon, who
sometimes suggested that a Jewish conspiracy might be at the root of his
problems, seemed surprised. "Christ," he said, "[the bureau] put a Jew in there?
… It could be the Jewish thing. I don't know. It's always a possibility."
It was Gray, however, not Felt, who became the fall guy. At Gray's confirmation
hearings, in February 1973, he was abandoned by his onetime allies in the West
Wing and was left to "twist slowly, slowly in the wind," in the words of Nixon
aide John Ehrlichman. With Gray now gone, Felt had lost his last sponsor and
protector. Next up was interim F.B.I. director Ruckelshaus, who ultimately
resigned as assistant attorney general in Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. Felt
left the bureau that same year and went on the lecture circuit.
Then, in 1978, Felt was indicted on charges of having authorized illegal F.B.I.
break-ins earlier in the decade, in which agents without warrants entered the
residences of associates and family members of suspected bombers believed to be
involved with the Weather Underground. The career agent was arraigned as
hundreds of F.B.I. colleagues, outside the courthouse, demonstrated on his
behalf. Felt, over the strong objections of his lawyers that the jury had been
improperly instructed, claimed that he was following established law-enforcement
procedures for break-ins when national security was at stake. Even so, Felt was
convicted two years later. Then, in a stroke of good fortune while his case was
on appeal, Ronald Reagan was elected president and, in 1981, gave Felt a full
Felt and his wife had always looked forward to a retirement where they could
live comfortably and bask proudly in his accomplishments. But as he endured
years of courtroom travails, they both felt betrayed by the country he had
served. Audrey, always an intense person, suffered profound stress, anxiety, and
nervous exhaustion, which both of them bitterly blamed on his legal troubles.
Long after her early passing, in 1984, Felt continued to cite the strain of his
prosecution as a major factor in the death of his wife.
A week after our festive dinner in 2002, Nick Jones introduced me to his mother,
Joan Felt—dynamic and open-minded, high-strung and overworked, proud and
protective of her father, slim and attractive (she had been an actress for a
time)—and to his grandfather. Felt, then 88, was a chipper, easygoing man with a
hearty laugh and an enviable shock of white hair. His eyes sparkled and his
handshake was firm. Though he required the assistance of a metal walker on his
daily rounds, having sustained a stroke the year before, he was nonetheless
engaged and engaging.
I soon realized the urgency behind Nick's request. A few weeks before—possibly
in anticipation of the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in—a reporter for
the Globe tabloid, Dawna Kaufmann, had called Joan to ask whether her father was
actually Deep Throat. Joan talked briefly about Woodward's mysterious visit
three years before. Kaufmann then wrote a piece headlined DEEP THROAT EXPOSED!
In her story she quoted a young man by the name of Chase Culeman-Beckman. He had
claimed, in a 1999 Hartford Courant article, that while attending summer camp in
1988 a young friend of his named Jacob Bernstein—the son of Carl Bernstein and
writer Nora Ephron—had divulged a secret, mentioning that his father had told
him that a man named Mark Felt was the infamous Deep Throat. Ephron and
Bernstein, divorced by 1999, both asserted that Felt was the favorite suspect of
Ephron's, and that Bernstein had never disclosed Deep Throat's identity.
According to Bernstein's response at the time, their son was simply repeating
his mother's guess. (When approached by reporters speculating about Deep
Throat's identity, Woodward and Bernstein have consistently refused to divulge
Soon after the Globe article appeared, Joan Felt received a frantic phone call
from Yvette La Garde. During the late 1980s, following his wife's death, Felt
and La Garde had become close friends and frequent social companions. "Why is he
announcing it now?" a worried La Garde asked Joan. "I thought he wouldn't be
revealed until he was dead."
Joan pounced. "Announcing what?" she wanted to know.
La Garde, apparently sensing that Joan did not know the truth, pulled back, then
finally owned up to the secret she had kept for years. Felt, La Garde said, had
confided to her that he had indeed been Woodward's source, but had sworn her to
silence. Joan then confronted her father, who initially denied it. "I know now
that you're Deep Throat," she remembers telling him, explaining La Garde's
disclosure. His response: "Since that's the case, well, yes, I am." Then and
there, she pleaded with him to announce his role immediately so that he could
have some closure, and accolades, while he was still alive. Felt reluctantly
agreed, then changed his mind. He seemed determined to take his secret with him
to the grave.
But it turned out that Yvette La Garde had also told others. A decade before,
she had shared her secret with her eldest son, Mickey, now retired—a fortunate
confidant, given his work as an army lieutenant colonel based at NATO military
headquarters (requiring a top-secret security clearance). Mickey La Garde says
he has remained mum about the revelation ever since: "My mom's condo unit was in
Watergate and I'd see Mark," he recalls. "In one of those visits, in 1987 or
'88, she confided to [my wife] Dee and I that Mark had, in fact, been the Deep
Throat that brought down the Nixon administration. I don't think Mom's ever told
Dee La Garde, a C.P.A. and government auditor, corroborates her husband's
account. "She confessed it," Dee recalls. "The three of us might have been at
the kitchen table in her apartment. There's no question in my mind that she
identified him. You're the first person I've discussed this with besides my
The day of her father's grand admission, Joan left for class, and Felt went for
a ride with Atama Batisaresare, an assisted-living aide. Felt, as a rule,
exhibited a calm demeanor, letting his thoughts wander from one topic to
another. On this trip, however, so Batisaresare later told Joan and me, Felt
became highly agitated and focused on one subject, which sort of came out of the
blue. The caregiver now recalls, in his thick Fijian accent, "He did tell me,
'An F.B.I. man should have loyalty to the department.' He talked about loyalty.
He didn't mention he was a Deep Throat. He told me he didn't want to do it, but
'it was my duty to do it, regarding Nixon.'" (Felt would frequently return to
this theme. While watching a Watergate TV special that month, he and Joan heard
his name come up as a Deep Throat candidate. Joan, trying to elicit a response,
deliberately questioned her father in the third person: "Do you think Deep
Throat wanted to get rid of Nixon?" Joan says that Felt replied, "No, I wasn't
trying to bring him down." He claimed, instead, that he was "only doing his
On that Sunday in May when I first met Mark Felt, he was particularly concerned
about how bureau personnel, then and now, had come to regard Deep Throat. He
seemed to be struggling inside with whether he would be seen as a decent man or
a turncoat. I stressed that F.B.I. agents and prosecutors now thought Deep
Throat a patriot, not a rogue. And I emphasized that one of the reasons he might
want to announce his identity would be for the very purpose of telling the story
from his point of view.
Still, I could see he was equivocating. "He was amenable at first," his grandson
Nick recalls. "Then he was wavering. He was concerned about bringing dishonor to
our family. We thought it was totally cool. It was more about honor than about
any kind of shame [to] Grandpa. … To this day, he feels he did the right thing."
At the end of our conversation, Felt seemed inclined to reveal himself, but
refused to commit. "I'll think about what you have said, and I'll let you know
of my decision," he told me very firmly that day. In the meantime, I told him, I
would take on his cause pro bono, helping him find a reputable publisher if he
decided to go that route. (I have written this piece, in fact, after witnessing
the decline of Felt's health and mental acuity, and after receiving his and
Joan's permission to reveal this information, normally protected by provisions
of lawyer-client privilege. The Felts were not paid for cooperating with this
Our talks dragged on, however. Felt told Joan that he had other worries. He
wondered "what the judge would think" (meaning: were he to expose his past,
might he leave himself open to prosecution for his actions?). He seemed
genuinely conflicted. Joan took to discussing the issue in a circumspect way,
sometimes referring to Deep Throat by yet another code name, Joe Camel.
Nevertheless, the more we talked, the more forthright Felt became. On several
occasions he confided to me, "I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat."
He also opened up to his son. In previous years, when Felt's name had come up as
a Deep Throat suspect, Felt had always bristled. "His attitude was: I don't
think [being Deep Throat] was anything to be proud of," Mark junior says. "You
[should] not leak information to anyone." Now his father was admitting he had
done just that. "Making the decision [to go to the press] would have been
difficult, painful, and excruciating, and outside the bounds of his life's work.
He would not have done it if he didn't feel it was the only way to get around
the corruption in the White House and Justice Department. He was tortured
inside, but never would show it. He was not this Hal Holbrook character. He was
not an edgy person. [Even though] it would be the most difficult decision of his
life, he wouldn't have pined over it."
At one lunch at a scenic restaurant overlooking the Pacific, Joan and Mark sat
their father down to lay out the case for full, public disclosure. Felt argued
with them, according to his son, warning them not to betray him. "I don't want
this out," Felt said. "And if it got in the papers, I'd guess I'd know who put
it there." But they persisted. They explained that they wanted their father's
legacy to be heroic and permanent, not anonymous. And beyond their main
motive—posterity—they thought that there might eventually be some profit in it.
"Bob Woodward's gonna get all the glory for this, but we could make at least
enough money to pay some bills, like the debt I've run up for the kids'
education," Joan recalls saying. "Let's do it for the family." With that, both
children remember, he finally agreed. "He wasn't particularly interested," Mark
says, "but he said, 'That's a good reason.'"
Felt had come to an interim decision: he would "cooperate," but only with the
assistance of Bob Woodward. Acceding to his wishes, Joan and I spoke to Woodward
by phone on a half-dozen occasions over a period of months about whether to make
a joint revelation, possibly in the form of a book or an article. Woodward would
sometimes begin these conversations with a caveat, saying, more or less, "Just
because I'm talking to you, I'm not admitting that he is who you think he is."
Then he'd express his chief concerns, which were twofold, as I recall. First,
was this something that Joan and I were pushing on Felt, or did he actually want
to reveal himself of his own accord? (I interpreted this to mean: was he
changing the long-standing agreement the men had kept for three decades?)
Second, was Felt actually in a clear mental state? To make his own assessment,
Woodward told Joan and me, he wanted to come out and sit down with her father
again, not having seen him since their lunch.
"We went through a period where he did call a bit," Joan says of her discussions
with Woodward. (Nick says he sometimes answered the phone and spoke with him,
too.) "He's always been very gracious. We talked about doing a book with Dad,
and I think he was considering. That was my understanding. He didn't say no at
first. … Then he kept kind of putting me off on this book, saying, 'Joan, don't
press me.' … For him the issue was competency: was Dad competent to release him
from the agreement the two of them had made not to say anything until after Dad
died? At one point I said, 'Bob, just between you and me, off the record, I want
you to confirm: was Deep Throat my dad?' He wouldn't do that. I said, 'If he's
not, you can at least tell me that. We could put this to rest.' And he said, 'I
can't do that.'"
Joan says that during this period Woodward had at least two phone conversations
with Felt "without anyone else listening. Dad's memory gradually has
deteriorated since the original lunch they had, [but] Dad remembered Bob
whenever he called. … I said, 'Bob, it's unusual for Dad to remember someone as
clearly as you.'" She says that Woodward responded, "He has good reason to
Woodward spoke with Mark junior at his home in Florida, as well. "He called me
and discussed whether or not, and when, to visit Dad," he says. "I asked him
briefly, 'Are you ever going to put this Deep Throat issue public?' And he said,
essentially, that he made promises to my dad or someone that he wouldn't reveal
this. … I can't imagine another reason why Woodward would have any interest in
Dad or me or Joan if Dad wasn't Deep Throat. His questions were about Dad's
present condition. Why would he care so much about Dad's health?"
According to Joan, Woodward scheduled two visits to come and see her father and,
so she hoped, to talk about a possible collaborative venture. But he had to
cancel both times, she says, then never rescheduled. "That was disappointing,"
she says. "Maybe [he was] just hoping that I would forget about it."
Today, Joan Felt has only positive things to say about Bob Woodward. "He's so
reassuring and top-notch," she insists. They still stay in touch by e-mail,
exchanging good wishes, their relationship engendered by a bond her father had
forged in troubled times.
Nowadays, Mark Felt watches TV sitting beneath a large oil painting of his late
wife, Audrey, and goes for car rides with a new caregiver. Felt is 91 and his
memory for details seems to wax and wane. Joan allows him two glasses of wine
each evening, and on occasion the two harmonize in a rendition of "The
Star-Spangled Banner." While Felt is a humorous and mellow man, his spine
stiffens and his jaw tightens when he talks about the integrity of his dear
I believe that Mark Felt is one of America's greatest secret heroes. Deep in his
psyche, it is clear to me, he still has qualms about his actions, but he also
knows that historic events compelled him to behave as he did: standing up to an
executive branch intent on obstructing his agency's pursuit of the truth. Felt,
having long harbored the ambivalent emotions of pride and self-reproach, has
lived for more than 30 years in a prison of his own making, a prison built upon
his strong moral principles and his unwavering loyalty to country and cause. But
now, buoyed by his family's revelations and support, he need feel imprisoned no
John D. O'Connor is a San Francisco attorney. This is his first piece for Vanity
Illustrations by TIM SHEAFFER
the Guy They Called Deep Throat", Vanity Fair, copié 20.5.2005,
Watergate > timeline
November 5, 1968
Richard Milhous Nixon, the 55-year-old former
vice president who lost the presidency for the Republicans in 1960, reclaims it
by defeating Hubert Humphrey in one of the closest elections in U.S. history.
Post Story >
January 21, 1969
Nixon is inaugurated as the 37th president of the
United States. Post Story >
July 23, 1970
Nixon approves a plan for greatly expanding
domestic intelligence-gathering by the FBI, CIA and other agencies. He has
second thoughts a few days later and rescinds his approval.
June 13, 1971
The New York Times begins publishing the Pentagon
Papers - the Defense Department's secret history of the Vietnam War. The
Washington Post will begin publishing the papers later that same week.
September 3, 1971
he White House "plumbers" unit - named for their
orders to plug leaks in the administration - burglarizes a psychiatrist's office
to find files on Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who leaked the
June 17, 1972
Five men, one of whom says he used to work for
the CIA, are arrested at 2:30 a.m. trying to bug the offices of the Democratic
National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex. Post Story >
June 19, 1972
A GOP security aide is among the Watergate
burglars, The Washington Post reports. Former attorney general John Mitchell,
head of the Nixon reelection campaign, denies any link to the operation. Post
August 1, 1972
A $25,000 cashier's check, apparently earmarked
for the Nixon campaign, wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar, The
Washington Post reports. Post Story >
September 29, 1972
John Mitchell, while serving as attorney general,
controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance widespread
intelligence-gathering operations against the Democrats, The Post reports. Post
October 10, 1972
FBI agents establish that the Watergate break-in
stems from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on
behalf of the Nixon reelection effort, The Post reports. Post Story >
November 7, 1972
Nixon is reelected in one of the largest
landslides in American political history, taking more than 60 percent of the
vote and crushing the Democratic nominee, Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota.
Post Story >
January 30, 1973
Former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W.
McCord Jr. are convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the
Watergate incident. Five other men plead guilty, but mysteries remain. Post
April 30, 1973
Nixon's top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman
and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resign over the
scandal. White House counsel John Dean is fired. Post Story >
May 18, 1973
The Senate Watergate Committee begins its
nationally televised hearings. Attorney General-designate Elliot Richardson taps
former solicitor general Archibald Cox as the Justice Department's special
prosecutor for Watergate. Post Story >
June 3, 1973
John Dean has told Watergate investigators that
he discussed the Watergate cover-up with President Nixon at least 35 times, The
Post reports. Post Story >
June 13, 1973
Watergate prosecutors find a memo addressed to
John Ehrlichman describing in detail the plans to burglarize the office of
Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, The Post reports. Post
July 13, 1973
Alexander Butterfield, former presidential
appointments secretary, reveals in congressional testimony that since 1971 Nixon
had recorded all conversations and telephone calls in his offices. Post Story >
July 18, 1973
Nixon reportedly orders the White House taping
July 23, 1973
Nixon refuses to turn over the presidential tape
recordings to the Senate Watergate Committee or the special prosecutor. Post
October 20, 1973
Saturday Night Massacre: Nixon fires Archibald
Cox and abolishes the office of the special prosecutor. Attorney General
Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus resign. Pressure
for impeachment mounts in Congress. Post Story >
November 17, 1973
Nixon declares, "I'm not a crook," maintaining
his innocence in the Watergate case. Post Story >
December 7, 1973
The White House can't explain an 18 ½-minute gap
in one of the subpoenaed tapes. Chief of Staff Alexander Haig says one theory is
that "some sinister force" erased the segment. Post Story >
April 30, 1974
The White House releases more than 1,200 pages of
edited transcripts of the Nixon tapes to the House Judiciary Committee, but the
committee insists that the tapes themselves must be turned over. Post Story >
July 24, 1974
The Supreme Court rules unanimously that Nixon
must turn over the tape recordings of 64 White House conversations, rejecting
the president's claims of executive privilege. Post Story >
July 27, 1974
Committee passes the first of three articles of impeachment, charging
obstruction of justice. Post Story >
August 8, 1974
Richard Nixon becomes
the first U.S. president to resign. Vice President Gerald R. Ford
assumes the country's highest office. He will later pardon Nixon of all charges
related to the Watergate case. Post Story >
June 13, 2002
Stanley L. Greigg, 71, the former Democratic
National Committee official who filed the original criminal complaint against
the Watergate burglars, dies in Salem, Va. Post Story >
June 25, 2002
One week after the 30th anniversary of the
Watergate break-in, an alternative theory of what prompted the most famous
burglary in American political history returns to U.S. District Court. Post
February 10, 2003
Ronald Ziegler, 63, who as President Richard M.
Nixon's press secretary at first described the Watergate break-in as a
"third-rate burglary," a symbol of his often-testy relations with reporters,
dies after a heart attack. Post Story >
April 8, 2003
In one of the largest such purchases in American
history, the University of Texas at Austin buys the Watergate papers of Bob
Woodward and Carl Bernstein for $5 million, the university announced. Post Story
July 16, 2003
Chesterfield Smith, 85, a prominent Florida
lawyer who, as president of the American Bar Association in 1973, became a
critic of President Richard Nixon's efforts to avoid the stains of the Watergate
scandal, dies in a hospital in Coral Gables, Fla., after a heart attack. Post
July 27, 2003
Thirty years after the Senate select committee
hearings on Watergate riveted the nation and doomed the Nixon presidency, a key
figure in the scandal says he has a fresh and explosive revelation: Richard M.
Nixon personally ordered the burglary of Democratic headquarters at the
Watergate complex. Post Story >
August 24, 2003
John J. Rhodes, 86, an Arizona Republican who as
minority leader of the House of Representatives played a critical role in the
events leading to the 1974 resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, dies of
cancer at his home in Mesa, Ariz. Post Story >
October 31, 2003
Thomas F. McBride, 74, an associate prosecutor in
the Watergate investigation and former inspector general of the Agriculture and
Labor departments, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage while walking his dog in a park
near his home in Portland, Ore. Post Story >
November 13, 2003
Congressional negotiators agree to undo part of a
Watergate-era law that prevented former president Richard M. Nixon from taking
his tapes and papers with him, but say the records would still have to be
processed here before being released to establish the presidential library that
Nixon and his family always wanted. Post Story >
December 11, 2003
National Archives and Records Administration
release 240 more hours of tape of the 37th president. Post Story >
April 9, 2004
Helen M. Smith, 84, who worked at the White House
as press secretary and trusted aide to first lady Pat Nixon during the turbulent
Watergate years, dies of vascular disease at her home in Washington. Post Story
May 27, 2004
Transcripts of telephone conversations released
show President Richard M. Nixon jokingly threatened to drop a nuclear bomb on
Capitol Hill in March 1974 as Congress was moving to impeach him over the
Watergate scandal. Post Story >
May 29, 2004
Archibald Cox, 92, the Harvard law professor and
special prosecutor whose refusal to accept White House limits on his
investigation of the Watergate break-in and coverup helped bring about the 1974
resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, dies at his home in Brooksville,
Maine. Post Story >
May 29, 2004
Samuel Dash, 79, the chief counsel of the Senate
Watergate Committee whose televised interrogation into the secret audiotaping
system at the White House ultimately led to President Richard M. Nixon's
resignation, dies of multiple organ failure May 29 at Washington Hospital
Center. Post Story >
July 29, 2004
Frederick Cheney LaRue, 75, the shadowy Nixon
White House aide and "bagman" who delivered more than $300,000 in payoffs to
Watergate conspirators, dies of coronary artery disease in a Biloxi, Miss.,
motel room, where he lived. Post Story >
January 22, 2005
Rose Mary Woods, 87, the Nixon White House
secretary whose improbable stretch was supposed to account for part of an 18
½-minute gap in a crucial Watergate tape, dies at a nursing home in Alliance,
Ohio, where she lived. Post Story >
February 4, 2005
Thousands of pages of notes, memos, transcripts
and other materials collectively known as the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate
Papers opens to the public at the University of Texas, minus the most
fascinating detail connected to the demise of the Nixon administration: the
identity of Deep Throat. Post Story >
February 5, 2005
James Joseph Bierbower, 81, a well-known
Washington lawyer who represented Nixon campaign aide Jeb Stuart Magruder during
the Watergate trials and EPA official Rita Lavelle during a Superfund inquiry,
dies of at Charlotte Hall Nursing Home in St. Mary's County. Post Story >
February 18, 2005
Robert R. Merhige Jr., a judge who who wrote the
decision that threw out the appeals of Watergate figures G. Gordon Liddy,
Bernard Barker and Eugenio Martinez after they were convicted of breaking into
the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist dies. Post Story >
May 31, 2005
The Washington Post confirms that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at
the FBI, was "Deep Throat," after Vanity Fair magazine identified the
91-year-old Felt, now a retiree in California, as the long-anonymous source.
Post Story >
Chronology > © 2002-2005 The
Washington Post Company,
Related > Anglonautes > History
Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994)
37th President of the United States 1969-1974
USA > 20th, early
21st century > Timeline in pictures
Kenneth Harry Dahlberg 1917-2011
Mr. Dahlberg became the unwitting link
between the Nixon
and the five men who,
only days before Nixon’s remark,
were charged with breaking
into the Democratic National Committee headquarters
at the Watergate complex in Washington.
He had been a fund-raiser
or Nixon’s re-election campaign,
and his name was on a $25,000 cashier’s check
that had been deposited in the
of one of the burglars, Bernard L. Barker.
The money was to help
cover the burglars’ expenses,
and Mr. Barker had withdrawn that amount in $100
He was carrying more than $5,000
when he was arrested on June 17.
In Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews and Blacks
NYT 10 December 2010
James Robert Mann
South Carolina congressman
who played a critical role
in drafting the articles of impeachment
against Richard M. Nixon
and emerged as one of the South’s
most eloquent voices on the matter
William Bart Saxbe
Attorney General during Watergate inquiry