Newly released audiotapes reveal that former President Richard Nixon ordered his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, to break into the Brookings Institution, presumably to remove documents regarding the Vietnam War, the San Francisco Examiner reports in today's editions.
The Examiner story, from its Washington bureau, was released to the Associated Press in advance of publication. The newspaper quotes from a tape of a June 30, 1971, conversation in the Oval Office, during which Nixon tells Haldeman to "just break in. Break in and take it out!"
There is no evidence that a break-in ever occurred at the Brookings Institution, a liberal, Washington-based think tank. The tape was recorded the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the New York Times and the Washington Post could publish the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department's chronicle of the Vietnam War.
Former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the newspapers, had several colleagues who worked at Brookings.
According to the Examiner, the tape is the first evidence of Nixon's involvement in potentially illegal acts before his participation in the attempted cover-up of the Watergate break-in scandal. Nixon resigned in the wake of Watergate.
The tape was included in 201 hours of audiotapes recently made public by the National Archives after the Nixon family lost a court battle to keep them sealed.