Former President Richard M. Nixon, in a new book, says he did ask the CIA to block an FBI investigation of the Watergate break-in, an apparent attempt to obstruct justice that led to his resignation, but the CIA refused.
His “inexcusable error,” Nixon says, was made on the recommendation of staff members who “had a personal stake in covering up the facts.” And it was “mitigated” by a decision by CIA Director Richard M. Helms and his deputy, Vernon A. Walters, to ignore the White House request, Nixon writes.
In addition, he later “emphatically” told FBI Director L. Patrick Gray III to proceed with the investigation, the former President writes in “In the Arena,” excerpted in Time magazine.
Nixon thus discounts Watergate’s “most serious myth--the one that ultimately forced me to resign:" that the CIA did in fact obstruct the FBI probe on his specific orders.
He writes also that “the most widely believed myth was that I ordered massive illegal wiretapping and surveillance of political opponents, members of the House and Senate and news media reporters. All of these charges are false.”
Another misconception, he says, was that he ordered the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. “Not one piece of evidence was discovered indicating that I ordered the break-in, knew about the plans for the wiretapping or received any information from it,” he says. Nixon also denies paying for any cover-up.