Watergate (Thesis: Exploring The Roles Of Dean, Li Essay, Research Paper
Watergate The illegal actions sanctioned by G. Gordon Liddy and John Dean led to the prosecution of the Nixon administration s link to the Watergate break-in by special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski. The Watergate saga is a compelling story of a failed government that in two years went from:the implausible to the unthinkable-the first resignation in history of a U.S. president. Despite some alarms, institutions held steady, law was upheld, and a chastened republic survived. It was a major political scandal that began with the burglary and wiretapping of the Democratic Party s campaign headquarters, later engulfing President Richard M. Nixon and many of his supporters in a variety of illegal acts. (Schell 11). Richard Nixon had chosen not to use the traditional system (Cook 16-17) in the 1972 Presidential Election. He bypassed the national party organization (Cook 20) and created the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), all of whose fund-raising and other activities were to be devoted to the interests of one man-Richard Nixon (Emerson 22-23). With direct orders from President Nixon himself, U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell orchestrated a myriad of CREEP s dirty tricks (Kutler 84), ranging from laundered monetary contributions to forged governmental documents. Nixon desired to win the election at all costs (White 45). His paranoia over victory became so possessive that he twice ordered associates of CREEP, also known as the plumbers (Cook 51), to insert a bug into the telephone of Lawrence F. O Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Nixon believed access to his opponent s tactics would give him an inside edge to our victory (Sirica 155-156).On the night of June 17, 1972, five CREEP operatives were caught trespassing in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in Washington D.C. s prestigious hotel, the Watergate. The arrests of these conspirators would slowly uncover espionage leading to high government officials (Crowley 36), including Mitchell and President Nixon. The head of the Watergate burglary was Gordon Liddy, the intelligence chief (Cook 19-21) of CREEP, who reported to Mitchell. Assisted by former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent E. Howard Hunt, Liddy supervised the operation from other Watergate rooms. After learning of the plumbers arrest, he quickly destroyed incriminating documents and money intended to compensate the plumbers for their actions. Among those involved in the break-in at the Watergate was James W. McCord, a security consultant for the CIA. He was arrested for planting bugs in the DNC headquarters. Despite the arrest of McCord, the organization denied press claims that linked them to the break-in. CREEP realized precautions had to be taken (Emery 126-127) in order to erase any evidence revealing their involvement or its connection to the White House. The leadership of CREEP, including Mitchell, decided to try for a quick fix (Dean 195) by sending Liddy to meet with U.S. Attorney General Richard Kleindiest. Kleindiest had been Mitchell s assistant in the Justice Department before succeeding him as Attorney General. Liddy spilled the lot-that he was running the operation, that the men would keep their mouths shut, that McCord was on the regular CREEP payroll under his true name (Kulter 200-202). His confession of CREEP s involvement included possible connection to the White House and requested that McCord be released from jail. Mitchell in particular had wanted to coach McCord s statement (White 154, 156-157) in the likelihood that he might be interrogated or brought to trial. However, Liddy s personal request from Mitchell (Emery 146-147) was refused, even after Liddy reassured Kleindiest there was no risk in releasing McCord. Kleindiest interpreted this to mean no personal danger and replied: Me? Fuck what happens to me? What happens to the President if I try a fool thing like that? It s the god-damnest thing I ve ever heard of (White 160). Apparently, Kleindiest was unaware of the extent of the White House s involvement in the scandal, particularly President Nixon s. Discouraged by the operation s lack of success, Liddy set-up a conversation with former U. S. Attorney General Robert Mardian and Presidential counselor John Dean. Liddy expressed his dedication to the completion of his role, telling them that his team are all soldiers (Schell 64-66) and their commitments needed to be honored (Cook 75). Liddy was implying his agents were to receive hush-money (Cook 52-53), a payoff for their silence when questioned. He then proceeded to tell Mardian and Dean that Nixon had authorized the execution of payments. Shortly afterwards, Liddy received installments of money for the silence of those jailed (Sirica 144-145). Although the payments totaled greater than $80,000, Liddy was unable to produce enough funds to continue the pay-offs. The failure of the hush-money and a growing FBI investigation placed great pressure upon Liddy. In haste, he executed a final attempt to prevent the exposure of Watergate. Liddy contacted Nixon s counselor, John Dean, requesting that he create a red herring for the FBI (Cook 53-53); claims from reliable White House sources (Crowley 197) saying that the CIA had played a major role in the Watergate break-in. Following the orders of Liddy, Dean relayed this information to FBI director L. Patrick Gray. However, the FBI had already uncovered enough vital information in their investigation. Agents had traced Liddy s name from the Watergate hotel registry (Emery 203), under the listing, George Leonard . In addition, a confiscated address book (Emery 203) from the one of the plumbers contained Liddy s office number. The evidence pointed directly at CREEP s intelligence chief -G. Gordon Liddy. Facing certain prosecution, Liddy quickly terminated his relationship to Nixon s campaign organization. Liddy was convicted on counts of burglary in the first degree despite an innocent plea. He served 4 years, four months in jail, accepting an extended sentence because of his refusal to testify before a grand jury. Liddy remained in prison for his entire sentence, vowing to keep his silence despite several offers of immunity (Berstein and Woodward 239, 270-271). In addition to Liddy’s involvement, John Dean, III, played an important role in the Watergate cover-up. Dean originally held the position as counsel to President Nixon. His experience in the White House led him to become accustomed to burglaries and unethical tricks (Kutler 165-167) from the political world. He had suspected the Watergate fiasco was engineered by (Nixon aide) Chuck Colson (Crowley 35, 36-38). He would become fully aware of the truth in a conversation with G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy confessed he was at fault for the Watergate burglary. He strongly asserted that the tie-in with the president s campaign had become too close (Dean 51-56). In explaining his guilt, Liddy said: This is my fault. I m prepared to accept responsibility for it. In addition, if somebody wants to shoot me on a streetcorner, I m prepared to have that done. You just let me know when and where, and I ll be there (Dean 55). Dean began to realize that everyone close to the president was involved. Liddy led to Mitchell, and Mitchell led to Nixon. To investigate further, Dean opened Hunt s safe (Cook 179-180), only to stumble upon incriminating evidence. A stack of documents included phony links of President Kennedy s ordering the assassination of South Vietnam president, Ngo Dinh Diem (Apple 219-223) and other forged documents. Dean knew that the exposure of these documents could potentially destroy the entire Nixon administration. He returned the forged documents to the safe in hopes that not another soul laid eyes upon those papers (Emery 245).
With instructions from Liddy, Dean attempted to stall the FBI s progress by creating a ploy; inform Gray of CIA suspicion (Sirica 111-112, 114). Dean s ploy even received direct support from Nixon who was eager to prevent FBI investigations. However, the ploy only lasted a few days before Gray was able to hold off inquisitive reporters. Dean then tried to persuade the CIA into helping with the cover-up, yet they strongly declined. Increasing pressure from the FBI s investigation forced Dean to take matters into his own hands. (Dean 136). Dean destroyed the Diem paper and other forged documents from Hunt s safe. He then proceeded to press the CIA to help Liddy s jailed men and requested CIA funds be used for hush money . Vernon Walters, acting CIA deputy director, acknowledged Dean s predicament but said the process was unacceptable (Emery 75-77, 83). Dean was able to collect some funds from CREEP contributors for the silence of the men in jail (Dean 300-302). This idea proved to be successful until the all of the funds were used, leaving Dean no option but to create a second ploy to distract attention from the White House and President Nixon. As the FBI s investigation began to focus upon the CREEP organization, Dean decided that all unimportant evidence (Cook 139) be submitted to the investigators. The files considered sensitive (Sirica 156) were given to Director Gray, allowing Dean to claim that everything was given to the FBI (Sirica 158-160, 162). Dean knew Gray would not reveal the secret documents because of his loyalty to the Nixon administration. However, Dean lied to Gray and simply told him that the files had no connection to the Watergate break-in (Schell 214). Agents conducted interviews with the associates of CREEP. From several different statements, the FBI gained knowledge of Hunt s office. In discovering its existence, the FBI demanded a full search. Dean knew the safe in Hunt s safe contained political dynamite (White 73-80) and there were too many witnesses for it to disappear (White 82). Indeed, the second ploy had failed in covering this aspect of the investigation. The efforts of Dean could simply not keep up with the intensive investigation conducted by the FBI. The exposure of the forged papers would soon lead to Dean s cover-up and eventually, Nixon himself.After being indicted, President Nixon encouraged Dean to commit perjury in hopes of saving the Nixon administration. Yet Dean no longer desired to be the White House s scapegoat (Cook 233-240) and the pressure of Hunt threatening to testify worsened the situation. The Senate s ruling on opening an investigation on Watergate forced Dean to testify before a grand jury. His truthful testimony made Dean an essential witness. He gave a flawless testimony, directly from his memory, although, at times, his statements contradicted Nixon s word (Dean 304-312). Dean testified that Nixon had ordered a taping system installed in the White House to record all conversations (Cook 356-352). His testimony earned him a reduced sentence because of his cooperation with the government. The successful prosecution of Dean, Liddy, and the other plumbers was partially attributed to Watergate attorney, Archibald Cox. A Harvard professor, Cox had been a solicitor in the Johnson and Kennedy administration and was highly regarded in legal circles. Cox s primary game plan (Doyle 7-9) concentrated upon the secret White House tapes. Cox s interests focused upon the dates of June 20, 1972, and September 15; when recordings revealed Nixon s orders for the break-in and instructing his agents to commit perjury (Emery 187-190). Nixon appealed to the requests for these the tapes by citing that they were matters of national security (Schell 229-230). Despite his continuous appeals, the Supreme Court finally reached a verdict in favor of Cox s demand for the nine tapes. Although Cox had obtained a court subpoena, White House counsel Fred Buzhardt declined. Cox responded with threats of legal summons yet he was denied again. Then, Cox was reminded he was subject to superior s instructions (Doyle 239-243), demonstrating the power of the presidency, right or wrong, that could be imposed upon the people. Frustrated, Cox suggests a third party listen to the tapes and form written summaries. The President s lawyers declined quickly. The Stennis Plan was then initiated to persuade Cox not to reveal the tapes in trial: Senator Stennis was to serve as a neutral verifier of the tapes (Crowley 102, 120). Cox requested the plan include the right to future access to all evidence (Bernstein and Woodward 278), including the controversial tapes. Nixon became infuriated and pressed to fire Cox. The president then executed the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, ordering U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. (Doyle 194-197). Burdened by guilt, Richardson simultaneously retired from his position too. The new prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, was expected to give more leniency (Cook 175) to the Nixon administration. Jaworski was a well known Texas attorney, who rose unexpectedly to the position of Watergate prosecutor. Naturally, Nixon handpicked him for the position (Jaworski 11). Similar to Cox s strategy, Jaworski desired the White House tapes, only to be denied access by Nixon himself. The president attempted to distract Jaworski by offering transcripts of the tapes. Jaworski declined and earned a court decision of 8-0 (votes) for access to the recordings. J. Fred Buzhardt, Nixon s lawyer, thus informed Jaworski of the smoking gun (Jaworski 46-49) tape that had been left in silence (Emery 25-29) during the Cox prosecution. Its contents supposedly contained the President ordering a scheme of the CIA obstructing the FBI. However, a mysterious 18 + gap occurred (Schell 126-130) during the recordings, determined to be erasures done by professionals in a conclusive report (Doyle 212-219). Yet, Jaworski did not need the tape to incriminate the scandalous politician. The confession of John Dean and other information found on the tapes simply incriminated Nixon for his own words, naming him an unindicted coconspirator (Schell 230-240). Nixon s guilt caused him to deteriorate mentally and physically. To lessen Nixon s burden, Jaworski promised to make a statement to the press declaring there was no connection of deal-making (Jaworski 275-279) between him and Nixon. Facing almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Successor Gerald Ford pardoned him and declared him immune from federal prosecution. The Watergate scandal involved the most powerful men in the government and precipitated a constitutional confrontation between the executive and the judiciary (Emery 5-6) more important than any other in American history. The secrets of Watergate exposed by attorneys Cox and Jaworski revealed to the public eye an epic tale (Trewhitt 34-36) of a deceitful political underworld.