Posted In: Lingering Questions on December 24, 2016
- On June 23, 1972 – just six days following the burglar’s arrest — Haldeman seeks Nixon’s concurrence to instruct the CIA to tell the FBI not to interview two witnesses in its budding Watergate investigation. The disclosure of the tape on August 5, 1974, led to Nixon’s resignation four days later.
- The author was the third person to hear that tape, the one who prepared its official transcript, and the one who first characterized it as “the smoking gun” – based largely on the reaction of Fred Buzhardt, Nixon’s lead Watergate defense counsel.
- It turns out that Nixon’s lawyers were wrong – and that the purpose of involving the CIA was to prevent the FBI from interviewing two people who had been conduits of secret and significant campaign contributions by prominent Democrats. That’s why Haldeman says, “The FBI investigation is going in a new direction that we don’t want it to go” and he briefly describes their interest in campaign contributions.
- In fact, when the FBI did interview these two individuals – Ken Dahlberg and Manuel Ogarrio – ten days later, they concluded that they had nothing to do with Watergate, nor did the campaign donations they had forwarded to Nixon’s re-election committee.
- Interestingly, this version of events is explicitly confirmed in a footnote at pp. 55-56 in John Dean’s 2014 book, The Nixon Defense, which ends with the observation, that had Nixon known “he might have lived to fight another day. In short, the smoking gun was shooting blanks.”