The Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace is offering visitors a chance to hear a heavily edited version of a White House recording widely known as the “smoking gun” tape involving President Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman. In the conversation, Nixon approves a plan to have the CIA tell the FBI to drop its Watergate investigation.
Large portions of the tape where the plan is discussed have been deleted, with a narration linking the remaining segments.
Library officials, who had said that three tapes--unedited--would be available for public listening, say they plan to add the other two White House tapes to the exhibit in September.
(Bold type indicates portion of transcript that the library is playing.
Meeting: President Richard M. Nixon and H.R. Haldeman, White House chief of staff; Oval Office, June 23, 1972, (10:04-11:39 a.m.):
HALDEMAN: Now, on the investigation, you know the Democratic break-in thing, we’re back in the problem area because the FBI is not under control, because Gray doesn’t exactly know how to control it and they have--their investigation is now leading into some productive areas--because they’ve been able to trace the money--not through the money itself--but through the bank sources--the banker. And, and it goes in some directions we don’t want it to go. Ah, also there have been some things--like an informant came in off the street to the FBI in Miami who was a photographer who developed some films through this guy Barker and the films had pictures of Democratic National Committee letterhead documents and things. So it’s things like that that are filtering in. Mitchell came up with yesterday, and John Dean analyzed very carefully last night and concludes, concurs now with Mitchell’s recommendation that the only way to solve this, and we’re set up beautifully to do it, ah, in that and that--the only network that paid any attention to it last night was NBC--they did a massive story on the Cuban thing.
NIXON: That’s right.
HALDEMAN: That the way to handle this now is for us to have Walters call Pat Gray and just say, “Stay to hell out of this--this is ah, business here we don’t want you go to any further on it.” That’s not an unusual development, and ah, that would take care of it.
(The White House, Haldeman says, should ask CIA Deputy Director Vernon A. Walters to warn FBI Director L. Patrick Gray III to stay away from Watergate. Mentioned are John Dean, White House counsel, and John N. Mitchell, reelection committee chairman and former attorney general.)
NIXON: What about Pat Gray--you mean Pat Gray doesn’t want to?
HALDEMAN: Pat does want to. He doesn’t know how to, and he doesn’t have, he doesn’t have any basis for doing it. Given this, he will then have the basis. He’ll call Mark Felt in (W. Mark Felt, FBI deputy associate director in 1972), and the two of them--and Mark Felt wants to cooperate because he’s ambitious--
HALDEMAN: He’ll call him in and say, “We’ve got the signal from across the river to put the hold on this.” And that will fit rather well because the FBI agents who are working the case, at this point, feel that’s what it is.
NIXON: This is CIA? They’ve traced the money? Who’d they trace it to?
HALDEMAN: Well they’ve traced it to a name, but they haven’t gotten to the guy yet.
NIXON: Would it be somebody here?
HALDEMAN: Ken Dahlberg.
NIXON: Who the hell is Ken Dahlberg?
HALDEMAN: He gave $25,000 in Minnesota and, ah, the check went directly to this guy Barker.
NIXON: It isn’t from the Committee, though, from Stans?
HALDEMAN: Yeah. It is. It’s directly traceable and there’s some more through some Texas people that went to the Mexican bank which can also be traced to the Mexican bank--they’ll get their names today.
HALDEMAN: --And (pause)
NIXON: Well, I mean, there’s no way--I’m just thinking if they don’t cooperate, what do they say? That they were approached by the Cubans. That’s what Dahlberg has to say, the Texans too, that they--
HALDEMAN: Well, if they will. But then we’re relying on more and more people all the time. That’s the problem and they’ll stop if we could take this other route.
NIXON: All right.
HALDEMAN: And you seem to think the thing to do is get them to stop?
NIXON: Right, fine.
HALDEMAN: They say the only way to do that is from White House instructions. And it’s got to be to (CIA director Richard) Helms and to--ah, what’s his name . . . ? Walters.
HALDEMAN: And the proposal would be that Ehrlichman and I call them in, and say, ah--
NIXON: All right, fine. How do you call him in--I mean you just--well, we protected Helms from one hell of a lot of things.
HALDEMAN: That’s what Ehrlichman says.
NIXON: Of course, this Hunt, that will uncover a lot of things. You open that scab there’s a hell of a lot of things and we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have this thing go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves. Well what the hell, did Mitchell know about this?
HALDEMAN: I think so. I don’t think he knew the details, but I think he knew.
NIXON: He didn’t know how it was going to be handled though--with Dahlberg and the Texans and so forth? Well who was the a------ that did? Is it Liddy? Is that the fellow? He must be a little nuts!
HALDEMAN: He is.
NIXON: I mean he just isn’t well screwed on is he? Is that the problem?
HALDEMAN: No, but he was under pressure, apparently, to get more information, and as he got more pressure, he pushed the people harder to move harder--
NIXON: Pressure from Mitchell?
NIXON: Oh, Mitchell, Mitchell was at the point (unintelligible).
NIXON: All right, fine, I understand it all. We won’t second-guess Mitchell and the rest. Thank God it wasn’t Colson.
HALDEMAN: The FBI interviewed Colson yesterday. They determined that would be a good thing to do. To have him take an interrogation, which he did, and that--the FBI guys working the case concluded that there were one or two possibilities--one, that this was a White House--they don’t think that there is anything at the Election Committee--they think it was either a White House operation and they had some obscure reasons for it--non-political, or it was a--Cuban and the CIA. And after their interrogation of Colson yesterday, they concluded it was not the White House, but are now convinced it is a CIA thing, so the CIA turnoff would--
NIXON: Well, not sure of their analysis, I’m not going to get that involved. I’m (unintelligible).
HALDEMAN: No, sir, we don’t want you to.
NIXON: You call them in.
HALDEMAN: Good deal.
NIXON: Play it tough. That’s the way they play it and that’s the way we are going to play it.
NIXON: When I saw that news summary, I questioned whether it’s a bunch of crap, but I thought, er, well it’s good to have them off us awhile, because when they start bugging us, which they have, our little boys will not know how to handle it. I hope they will though.
HALDEMAN: You never know.
(Other matters are discussed. Then the conversation returns to the break-in coverup strategy.)
NIXON: When you get in--when you get in (unintelligible) people, say, “Look the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs things, and the President just feels that ah, without going into the details--don’t, don’t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is a comedy of errors, without getting into it, the President believes that it is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again. And, ah, because these people are plugging for (unintelligible) and that they should call the FBI in and (unintelligible) don’t go any further into this case period!
NIXON: (Inaudible) our cause--
HALDEMAN: Get more done for our cause by the opposition than by us.
NIXON: Well, can you get it done?
HALDEMAN: I think so.
Transcript Source: Congressional Quarterly--"Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis.”