The Manuscript Division oversees the papers of numerous officials from Richard M. Nixon's presidential administration. The section below features the papers of those officials with materials related to Watergate. Notably, Clark Clifford did not serve under President Nixon; however, he did work with Nixon's predecessor, President Lyndon Johnson, whose practices are sometimes cited as laying the groundwork for President Nixon's own internal surveillance.
While Robert H. Bork is probably best known for his unsuccessful nomination to the Supreme Court, he played a pivotal role in the October 20, 1973, events known as the Saturday Night Massacre. President Richard M. Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor appointed by Richardson to investigate events related to the Watergate break-in. The president wanted to bar Cox from obtaining incriminating White House tape recordings. Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, refused and both immediately resigned. As solicitor general, Bork was next in succession and fired Cox and his staff. The result significantly damaged Nixon’s credibility with the press and the public.
Bork’s role in Cox’s dismissal remained a point of contention over a decade later. “In 1987, when President Reagan nominated Bork for a seat on the Supreme Court, the opposition of those who viewed him as an accomplice in this chain of events successfully blocked the appointment,” writes historian Keith W. Olson.1
Admittedly, from the outset, Bork expressed doubts regarding the efficacy of a special prosecutor. In later years, Archibald Cox argued that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had not investigated the incident “as vigorously as evidence warranted,” hence the necessity of his appointment as special prosecutor. Bork disagreed arguing that the DOJ “would have made the case just as it was ultimately made.” Arguments that anyone in DOJ would or could fix the case were foolish, he asserted. Fragmentation and rivalries within the department made it impossible to “bag a case.”2 According to historian Stanley Kutler, Cox and others overplayed DOJ passivity: “The U.S. Attorney’s office had in fact discovered the cover-up conspiracy and had broken the case by the time Cox took control, and before Senator’s Ervin’s committee provided a public venting of what the prosecutors had learned.”3
Bork’s superiors in DOJ also played a significant role in the affair. While both Attorney General Richardson and deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned in protest, both encouraged Bork to stay and carry out the order as a means to maintain some continuity in the department. Bork agreed. “Somebody has to carry out the President’s order,” he said while also acknowledging doing so left him in a troubling position. “But then how could I stay on and be regarded as an apparatchik? I’d have to resign too,” he concluded.4
In the end, Richardson convinced Bork to stay. Bork then drafted a “brisk two-paragraph letter of dismissal.” Bork appraised Chief of Staff Alexander Haig of his conundrum; he would issue the order but once having done so he might have to resign. According to Bork, “[Haig] didn’t really much care about the second part of my quandary.”5
New to Washington, D.C., Bork’s biggest misstep might have been a failure to court the press. Though he did repeat Nixon’s instructions that “the Department of Justice will continue with full vigor the investigations and prosecutions that had been entrusted to the Watergate Special Prosecution Force,”6 he remained silent on the appointment of a second special prosecutor. On October 23, Bork signed the order abolishing the Special Prosecutor’s office effective October 21. Its functions were to be folded into the DOJ. For several days, Bork never adequately explained his actions to the press, nor did Richardson provide a public explanation that fully encapsulated the debate that had unfolded in events preceding the dismissal. On October 24, Bork held a press conference at which he announced: “We will go wherever we need to get the evidence for this prosecution,” and mused about appointing a new special prosecutor. Following the appointment of Senator William Saxbe of Ohio to Attorney General on November 1, Bork named conservative Texas Democrat Leon Jaworski as the new special prosecutor. Bork stated clearly that Jaworksi would have complete freedom to pursue the investigation, a point that contradicted an October 26 statement by Nixon that would have limited such efforts.7
From the time he assumed office through the November 1 appointment of Jaworksi, the Watergate Special Prosecution Force established under Cox had experienced no significant disruptions of its work. No DOJ prosecutors were dismissed or felt obligated to resign on principal. In the end, Bork proved “neither the passive instrument his detractors portrayed, nor was he any kind of hero in the affair, as his supporters – including Elliott Richardson – later testified,” argues Kutler.8
The extent to which Bork’s role in the Saturday Night Massacre colored his career and his 1987 Supreme Court nomination remains in debate. Olson and Kutler’s observations aside, decades later, Justice John Paul Stevens expressed his belief that Bork had been wronged in the nomination process and suggested Bork’s opponents had “included misstatements” regarding the former solicitor general’s views and “unfair comment” on his character “motivated in part by a fear that his approval might lead to the reexamination and possible overturning of Roe v. Wade.” However, Stevens made no reference to Watergate or the Saturday Night Massacre attributing the failed nomination instead to Bork’s own missteps during the hearings and the opposition of liberal legal scholars and organizations.9
The Robert H. Bork Papers consist of three parts and all parts contain Watergate material. Files in Part I are not comprehensive but do include correspondence, copies of internal Justice Department reports, and extensive newspaper and magazine articles about Bork’s firing of Cox. Files to consult are: Part I: Correspondence series (letters are arranged by date), Part I: Subject File (Justice Department and Watergate folders), and Part I: Speeches and Writings File. It is unclear from the finding aid the exact folders where the Watergate writings occur in the Part I: Speeches and Writings File.
Part II of the collection includes material in its Subject File series with a folder for each of the following topics: Solicitor General, Special Prosecutor, and Watergate Affair. Two briefing books pertaining to Bork's tenure as Solicitor General reside in Part II: Supreme Court Nomination File. Two folders, Watergate (television series) and Watergate Affair, are located in the Part III: Subject File series. An extensive set of files relating to the posthumously published book Saving Justice: Watergate, the Saturday Night Massacre and Other Adventures of a Solicitor General detail Bork's reflections on the Nixon administration and contain original documents from the period. The book files are located in Part III: Speeches and Writings File.
The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.
“It should be remembered that the public was considerably more innocent … in the days before the Watergate hearings,” noted Clark M. Clifford in his memoir, Counsel to the President. Advisor to four democratic administrations and Secretary of State under President Lyndon Johnson, Clifford recognized the impact of the Watergate Affair on the broader public.
Admittedly, the Clark M. Clifford Papers lack a robust archive of material related to Watergate. Boxes 55 and 56 of the Subject File series, containing printed matter and correspondence, serve as the most directly applicable portion of the collection to the affair. However, as William Safire wrote in the New York Times External in 1991, Johnson engaged in his own breach of presidential standards when he attempted to undermine Nixon’s presidential run in 1968 after Nixon had helped to do the same to the president’s peace negotiations regarding the Vietnam War. Drawing on Clifford’s memoirs, Safire argued, “Watergate’s crimes grew from seeds planted in the power abuses of the Johnson Administration’s ‘October Surprise’.” Though some observers would disagree with Safire’s narrative, researchers interested in this line of argument should consult the Public Service and Subject Files series particularly those folders related to Lyndon Johnson or the Vietnam War. Consisting of letters sent, memoranda, cards, notes, printed matter, and miscellaneous items, the General Correspondence series provides some insight into the pre-Watergate activities that Safire suggested contributed to Nixon’s own actions.
The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.
“My feelings about Mr. Nixon remained the same until his death — a tangle of familial echoes, affections, and curiosities never satisfied,” Leonard Garment wrote in his 1997 autobiography, Crazy Rhythm: From Brooklyn and Jazz to Nixon’s White House, Watergate, and Beyond. At first blush, Garment appeared an odd match for President Richard M. Nixon, the former a liberal Republican who had voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960, the latter, a law and order conservative who lost to the Massachusetts senator in one of the closest presidential elections in United States history. Yet Garment served President Nixon at the highest levels as White House Counsel before stepping down late in 1973.
During his time in the White House, Garment served a critical role during Watergate “discouraging Nixon from destroying White House tapes, pushing unsuccessfully for the president’s early resignation in 1973, and recommending to his successor, Gerald R. Ford, that Nixon be pardoned,” noted the New York Times External in its 2013 obituary for Garment. Researchers interested in how Watergate impacted United States international relations might also consider that Garment advised the president on foreign policy. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli Crisis, Garment encouraged Nixon to take an active role arguing that in the face of the political scandal the president needed to appear engaged and forceful on the issue of Middle East conflict: “It’s up to you to give people the feeling that someone is in charge.”10
The White House File series in the Leonard Garment Papers contains appointment books, a chronology of events for 1973, job description for Garment, memoranda, and miscellany from Garment's service in the White House during the administrations of Nixon and Ford and would be the first part of the collection researchers will want to consult. The Speeches and Writings series, pertains in part to his memoir and might be worth exploring. The largest part of the collection, the Subject File series consists of correspondence, legal papers, writings by others, printed matter, biographical material, business papers, and miscellaneous files but focuses much more on the 1980s and 1990s, though it is possible it contains material that reflects on Watergate and the Nixon administration retrospectively.
The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.
Considering the future president’s purported disdain for East Coast elites, L. Patrick Gray ironically first met Richard M. Nixon in 1947 at a Georgetown cocktail party. Nixon so impressed Gray that in 1960, he joined the Californian’s presidential campaign. Despite the defeat, Gray remained in contact with Nixon and when he emerged victorious in the 1968 presidential election, Gray earned a position as executive assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Robert Finch. In 1970, Gray moved to the Department of Justice as Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Civil Division. During this period, Gray drew Attorney General John Mitchell’s and by extension, Nixon’s attention for his prosecution of anti-war protesters. Two years later, with the passing of J. Edgar Hoover, Nixon appointed him Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Caught in the swirling politics of Watergate, Gray failed to gain congressional approval for a permanent appointment and served less than a year in the position though as several historians assert, the congressional hearings regarding his nomination in February and March of 1973 undoubtedly contributed to the gathering investigatory momentum. “By mid-March the skin was starting to peel off the cover-up apple, exposing more dark patches of White House involvement every day,” writes J. Anthony Lukas. “The new exposure came in an unexpected form – the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings on Pat Gray’s nomination to be F.B.I. director.”11
Initially due in part to the problems that the Watergate break-in caused the president politically, Gray “saw no reason not to impress his boss with a conscientious investigation that got to the bottom of the rogue burglary so unfairly embarrassing the White House,” writes historian Rick Perlstein, “he had no inkling that if he kept on following the scent, it would lead to the White House.”12 Gray and the FBI pursued leads vigorously at the outset, quickly discovering the money trail that would eventually lead to the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) and the White House itself. At one point, Department of Justice official Robert Mardian exclaimed to White House counsel John Dean, “For God’s sake, John, somebody’s got to slow Pat Gray down. He’s going like a crazy man.”13
Gray notified Attorney General John Mitchell about the discovered funds suggesting that it appeared to be a Central Intelligence Agency “black op.” When Gray briefed him on the matter, the agency’s director Richard Helms denied it. However, White House officials H. R. Haldeman (White House Chief of Staff) and John D. Ehrlichman (Special Assistant for Domestic Affairs) directed CIA deputy director Vernon Walters to advise Gray that it was part of agency operations and that the FBI should steer clear of it, though judging from various historical accounts, it remains unclear exactly what message Walters conveyed. Whatever Walters ultimately told Gray, the acting FBI director took it to mean he needed to tread carefully and conduct the investigation “in a manner that would not hamper the CIA.” Interviews with Manual Ogarrio and others related to the money chain were halted. At the direction of the White House, Gray had also delayed other interviews such as with Kathy Chenow, the former secretary to CREEP.14
As demonstrated by Gray’s decision to delay the investigation, for all his initial investigative fervor, he made a number of missteps that muddied his position and suggested that while conscientious, he lacked political savvy and exhibited a certain level of naivety. For example, during the judiciary hearings regarding his nomination, Gray revealed he had been regularly delivering FBI investigative reports to Dean, a statement that “amounted to the most dramatic public indication to that point that the president's men were covering up the Watergate break-in,” reflected the New York Times in its obituary for Gray in 2005.15 In total, Gray delivered 82 reports to Dean, which the administration used to brief officials prior to FBI interviews or grand jury appearances.
During the same hearings, Gray acknowledged that it took a full week for Dean to hand over the contents of Howard Hunt’s White House safe. Most damning of all, however, Gray admitted that at the direction of Dean and Ehrlichman, who promised Gray the materials had no bearing on Watergate but represented “political dynamite” for the president, were two folders containing “classified” documents from Hunt’s safe. In reality, the folders consisted of “forged documents” that had been intended for use against the Kennedys.16 At one point, Gray told Ehrlichman, “I’m pushed awfully hard in certain areas … and I’m not giving an inch and you know those areas.”17 Still, even if Gray failed to gain confirmation, the hearings fueled congressional interest in the Watergate Affair and helped bring to light the machinations of the White House.
Throughout, the investigation had been bedeviled by leaks to the press. According to Lukas, numerous agents directed their “seething” anger at Gray both due to what some perceived as a too compliant relationship with the administration and a lack of political acumen: “Nobody likes to work for a political hack,” said one agent.18 Such attitudes made preventing leaks that much harder. In response, Gray pressed Walters over the 1973 Fourth of July weekend to put the CIA request to delay the interviews in writing, which the CIA deputy director refused to do. Gray then ordered the interviews to commence.
While Gray remained unaware, by the time the congressional hearings regarding his permanent appointment commenced in February 1973, the White House had already decided his fate. Nixon had soured on Gray, not due to any level of incompetence but rather “because the hearings had hampered his capacity to cooperate with the White House and might compel him to prove his independence,” argues Lukas. Ehrlichman provided encouragement to Gray as late as March 6, “Keep up the good work my boy. Let me know if I can help,” while at the same time telling Dean, “I think we ought to let him hang there. Let him twist slowly in the wind.”19 By April 5, Nixon withdrew the nomination and Gray resigned just over three weeks later.
Though never indicted for crimes related to Watergate, Gray later testified before the Watergate grand jury at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and was investigated for his role in the affair by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force.
The bulk of the L. Patrick Gray Papers documents his time as acting director of the FBI. Watergate materials are scattered throughout the collection. The papers chronicle the FBI investigation into the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, Gray’s actions at the time, his recounting and explanation of these events during testimony at congressional hearings and before grand juries, while under investigation by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and in preparation for writing a book. The Federal Bureau of Investigation series comprises files generated during Gray’s year as acting director. Position papers on issues, practices, and proposed changes at the FBI, memoranda to special agents in charge, notes Gray took at meetings, and notes he added to routing slips illuminate the actions of the FBI under his leadership. Notably in this series, researchers will find the Watergate detailed memoranda file Gray used at his confirmation hearings, general investigation division summaries of the break-in investigation, a compilation of questions and answers, and digital files containing scans of the FBI’s Watergate file obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Legal File series contains documents Gray used as exhibits when he testified before the Watergate hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, as documentation submitted in response to the investigation by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and as part of his defense in the United States v. Gray which relates to his indictment for allegedly authorizing break-ins aimed at locating Weather Underground (Weatherman) fugitives while he was acting director of the FBI. Additionally, Gray’s habit of annotating memoirs and news articles related to Watergate was so prodigious the New York Times mentioned it in his obituary and such materials can be found in the collection. Researchers may also want to consult items derived or related to the memoir he co-wrote with his son, Edward Gray, In Nixon’s Web which can be found in the Speeches and Writing series.
Finally, a note on Mark Felt and the identity of Deep Throat. Gray maintained that the figure of Deep Throat did not represent an individual but a composite of several informants. Ruth P. Morgan in a 1996 essay made a similar though slightly different assertion. “In all likelihood Deep Throat represented a literary conceit based on a compilation of anonymous sources, this is one of the mysteries stimulating continued interest, especially by journalists in Watergate.” Even after Mark Felt revealed himself to be Deep Throat in 2005, Gray disputed his claim. Both prior to the announcement and afterward, his skepticism is articulated in his papers. By correspondence, notes, memoranda, and other materials, Felt is well represented in the L. Patrick Gray III Papers. Of note in this regard, the General Correspondence series contains a file of correspondence with W. Mark Felt, which includes notes on telephone conversations and copies of letters Gray sent to his lawyer in response to one of Felt’s letters.
Alexander Meigs Haig, army officer and public official, served as chief of White House staff for presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, and Supreme Allied Commander of Europe from 1974 to 1979. The Haig Papers offer an inside perspective of the last sixteen months of the Nixon presidency, particularly the effect of the Watergate investigations on the work of the staff, and their plans and strategies to respond to the scandal while trying to continue the normal operations of the White House.
The bulk of the material pertaining to Watergate is located in the White House Files series. This series is divided into three subseries: Richard M. Nixon Administration, Transition of Administrations, and Gerald R. Ford Administration. Documents relating to the Watergate Affair comprise approximately one third of the White House Files, with the majority located in the Nixon Administration subseries. Topics featured are congressional hearings, selection of legal staff, relations with the press, the presidential tapes, the threat of impeachment, the issue of executive privilege, trials of former White House staff and cabinet officials, and the firing of the special prosecutor. Many of the 1974 White House Files document the effort by the Nixon administration to shift the nation’s attention to foreign affairs and away from the possibility of impeachment. The Transition of Administrations subseries focuses on the resignation of Nixon, the transition to Gerald Ford as president, and the pardoning of the former president. The White House Files consist of appointment books and calendars, briefing books, correspondence, memoranda, notes, social invitations, speeches, speech requests, telephone logs, subject files, trip reports, and newspaper clippings.
Other material pertaining to Watergate is located in the Confirmation Hearings subseries of the Department of State series. This subseries includes briefing books compiled for Haig’s confirmation hearings as secretary of state. They pertain to major events in Haig’s career including his time with the Nixon administration, Watergate, and Nixon’s pardon.
Henry Kissinger is probably most well-known for his service as secretary of state and as an assistant to the president for national security affairs under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. The Henry A. Kissinger Papers are made up of two parts and are described in separate finding aids. Part I consists chiefly of items that coincide with Kissinger’s government service and are located at the Library of Congress. Items in Part II were given to Yale University in 2011 and are comprised of materials that are owned either by the Library of Congress or Yale University. Part II contains material originally maintained by Kissinger's staff and primarily documents his post government years. Researchers interested in Watergate may want to consult Part I of the papers. Although Part I includes only one folder mentioning Watergate, the collection provides insight about the effect of Watergate on foreign policy, contains folders relating to wiretapping and related activities during Nixon’s presidency, and features memoranda of conversations between Kissinger and Nixon. The following description of the Kissinger papers pertains only to Part I.
The collection consists of personal papers and non-record copies of official government documents which Kissinger worked on or reviewed as assistant to the president for national security affairs, 1969-1975, and as secretary of state, 1973-1977. The main body of the papers includes copies of classified government documents. Series containing a majority of classified records are identified as "classified material" though they include some unclassified items. In accordance with security regulations, documents carrying security classifications higher than confidential or secret have been separated from the larger group of classified items, replaced by cross-reference sheets, and arranged in series organized by classification category. Some declassified content from the collection, including memoranda of conversations and telephone conversations, is available online through the Digital National Security Archive External and FRUS External.
There are several folders containing specific mentions of Watergate and wiretaps. The Watergate folder labeled “Casselman, William E., II, document classification for Watergate special prosecution force” is located in the Subject File (Classified) series (box CL 405). Files pertaining to wiretaps and related activities are located in Subject File (Classified) (box C 432) and the Top Secret series (box TS 90). Other folders about wiretaps may be found in the Department of State series (Classified) (box CL 333) and the Top Secret series (box TS 88) under the heading “confirmation hearings.”
Researchers may want to consult the Presidential File subseries of the Memoranda of Conversations (Classified) series which contains copies of Kissinger’s memoranda of conversations with President Nixon and others, briefing papers, and related documents. Other classified series that may be of interest are the Chronological File, the Geopolitical File, Cables, Memoranda to the President, the National Security Council, and the Department of State. These series along with the Memoranda of Conversations and the Subject File are the records of Kissinger’s government career. They outline the course of American international relations during Kissinger's tenure as chief foreign affairs adviser to Presidents Nixon and Ford and indicate the tactics and strategies he employed while pursuing his foreign policy objectives.
The collection includes an extensive number of transcripts of telephone conversations that chronicle both incoming and outgoing telephone calls and record Kissinger's conversations with Presidents Nixon and Ford, foreign ministers and ambassadors, domestic and foreign government officials, members of Congress, business and civic leaders, journalists, cabinet members, political leaders, staff members, and personal friends. The conversations explore a wide variety of foreign policy, political, and personal issues and include Kissinger's own candid observations.
Anthony Lake enjoyed a long career as a foreign policy adviser to three United States presidents. He began as a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State in 1962 and later served as National Security Adviser to President Bill Clinton. Although Lake’s connection to the Watergate scandal was tangential, he was one of several individuals that the Nixon administration monitored electronically using the guise of national security concerns as a justification. At the time Lake served as special assistant to national security adviser Henry Kissinger. His resignation in 1970 over the invasion of Cambodia led to the wiretapping but continued as Lake became a foreign policy adviser to Senator Edmund Muskie’s presidential campaign. Upon later learning of this surveillance, Lake sued and eventually won his case. Files relating to his litigation may be found in the Department of State series under the subject Wiretap lawsuit. These files include correspondence, copies of surveillance logs and summary letters, legal proceedings, and clippings.
As legal advisor to Henry Kissinger, and later undersecretary of state for security affairs, Carlyle E. Maw worked mostly in the field of foreign affairs and national security. Maw’s work as both an advisor to and private attorney for the State Department comprises the largest part of the Carlyle E. Maw Papers in its Henry Kissinger series. Only one folder of material pertains directly to the Watergate Affair; however, the collection thoroughly documents the wiretapping of National Security Council staff and journalists from 1969-1971 which some researchers may wish to explore as a precursor to the Watergate scandal. Consisting of correspondence, memoranda, reports, briefing books, legal papers, telegrams, speeches and printed matter, the Kissinger series serves as a window into the practices and norms of internal intelligence gathering within the Nixon administration
Daniel P. Moynihan had a long and diverse career in public service. He served in four presidential administrations, as ambassador to India, as United Nations representative, and four terms as United States senator from New York. Perhaps his most surprising job was as adviser on domestic policy issues to President Richard M. Nixon. Many viewed the two as an odd pairing, the liberal professor and the conservative president. Although Moynihan left the administration before the Watergate scandal came to dominate the Nixon presidency, his papers contain material relating to the topic. His ambassadorial papers offer insight on how Watergate affected foreign policy and provide Moynihan’s perceptions about the scandal, noteworthy since he had served with some of the White House staff later implicated in it. The Part I: India File series, particularly the correspondence and chronological file subseries, chronicle Moynihan’s reflections. In a multi-page letter to his friend, Nathan Glazer, (May 25, 1973) Moynihan expresses his thoughts about Watergate. The chronological file subseries of the Part I: India File contains Moynihan’s poignant address to the embassy staff after Nixon leaves the White House (August 9, 1974), stating that our nation was governed by law not men.
Files in the Part I: Richard M. Nixon Administration series may also be of interest to researchers. It is one of the largest series of Part I. The Nixon Administration series provides an inside view of the administration prior to Watergate and includes correspondence with some of Nixon’s advisers who were later involved in the Watergate cover-up. The series is organized into six subseries. The presidential and White House staff memoranda, found in the Correspondence subseries, provide an inside view of the policy development of the administration's domestic agenda and how the staff handled other issues, such as economic problems, civil disturbances, campus unrest, and the Vietnam War. The Part I: Addition series also contains files related to Moynihan’s tenure as Nixon’s presidential adviser.
Looking back at his time in the Richard M. Nixon administration, Elliot Richardson lamented that too many of his colleagues at the time were little more than “get ahead, go along organization men who took on the coloration and the value of whatever organization” for which they worked.20 Few members of Nixon’s cabinet could serve as author to such a statement: Richardson held three cabinet positions under Nixon. Even his family joked about his governmental promiscuity. "Think of the pressure ... only three years to go and eight more cabinet positions to fill," his daughter once jibed.21 Despite serving loyally, Richardson resigned from his final post as Attorney General on October 20, 1973, after refusing to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. His departure triggered the famed night of resignations and firings known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
Described by historian Stanley I. Kutler as the “quintessential Boston Brahmin in appearance, manner, and commitment,” Richardson was known as a “man with skills and versatility.”22 Richardson also exhibited a notable level of political savvy.23 "[F]rom the age of eight, when he was president of the Herbert Hoover Club at the Park School, he has been one of the subtlest of politicians," J. Antony Lukas observed half jokingly as he traced Richardson's pre-Nixon career from legislative assistant to lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and later its attorney general. Through these experiences, "Nixon's Harvard Man" had "learned the gentle art of compromise."24 Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and Nixon's domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman "darkly distrusted" Richardson both because Richardson was an "Ivy League aristocrat in a sea of Southern California advertising men," but also due to his connections to Henry Kissinger. However, due to his ability to straddle controversial positions while accommodating Nixon's policies, Richardson proved a valuable and loyal asset until the fall of 1973 when the administration "dragged [him] to Nixon's polluted well once to often. This time he would not drink."25
Some historians have suggested Richardson's reputation for ethical behavior, though not undeserved, might have been less than pure. For example, in Being Nixon (2016), Evan Thomas depicts Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox as perhaps not traitorous, but arguably, somewhat disloyal for agreeing to oppose Nixon based on their Harvard Law affinity. “They valued their loyalty to the rule of law, and to each other, far above any allegiance to Nixon,” writes Thomas. “Matched against such self-conscious pillars of rectitude, Nixon was bound to look like a small mean tyrant.”26
Insights into Richardson’s role in the Watergate investigation are found in the Attorney General Files series in Part I of the Elliot L. Richardson Papers which consists of correspondence, memoranda, appointment and scheduling information, reports, administrative data, financial matter, briefing material, legal files, invitations, speeches and statements, photographs, printed matter, and miscellaneous material.
As the individual responsible for choosing Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, the series captures the process by which Cox was selected and the trajectory of the investigation from his appointment to Richardson’s resignation. It includes Richardson’s supervision of the prosecution of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and his subsequent resignation. Memoranda of conversations by the attorney general relating to the final interplay among the White House, Congress, the Justice Department, and Richardson can be found in the series. Finally, public mail regarding Cox and Richardson, most of it sent directly to Richardson during his last days in office, but a goodly portion addressed as well to Sam J. Ervin, chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, comprise another significant portion of the series.
Working as a National Security Council staffer and special assistant to Henry A. Kissinger, Peter W. Rodman played a significant role in the Richard M. Nixon administration’s foreign policy. With Kissinger, Rodman worked on negotiations with China, peace talks with Vietnam, and managing American responses to the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. Before his death in 2008, Rodman served every president from Nixon to George W. Bush, including six years as undersecretary of defense for the latter.
The collection contains only a few folders regarding Watergate located in the Printed Matter series. However, researchers might wish to consult the General Correspondence series for the corresponding years of the Watergate Scandal for any letters discussing the matter. Additionally for those interested in exploring how the affair might have affected foreign policy regarding China, Vietnam, and the Middle East, they will want to consult materials in the Government File subseries.
Though a domestic issue, Watergate intersected with numerous foreign policy aspects of the Richard M. Nixon administration. "The same day the public learned of the White House taping system from Alexander Butterfield, Secretary of Defenst James R. Schlesinger admitted that the United States had secretly bombed Cambodia during 1969 and 1970 and that senor civilian and military officials had falsified reports," observes historian Keith W. Olson.27 The Vietnam War served as one data point in the Watergate investigation’s effect on national activities abroad. Later in life, Schlesinger would lament Nixon’s secret promise, made amidst Watergate without congressional knowledge, of “full economic and military aid” to the South Vietnamese government: “Congress knew nothing of these [commitments] … when it started bugging out of Vietnam.”28
Schlesinger began his career in the federal government in the Nixon administration, first as assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget, later assuming the chairmanship of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1971, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency in February 1973 followed by his appointment as secretary of defense in July of the same year, replacing Elliot Richardson who had become attorney general. If Watergate cascaded across various government agencies and bureaus, Schlesinger, like Richardson, witnessed it from several vantage points most notably as CIA director and secretary of defense.
Despite climbing the ladder within the administration, Schlesinger eventually occupied an oppositional position within it. During Senate hearings in 1973, Schlesinger, then CIA director, acknowledged that the agency has been "insufficiently cautious" when it loaned CREEP member Howard Hunt a camera, tape recorder, false identification papers, and disguises, which due to Hunt's focus on domestic surveillance, violated CIA policy regarding internal security or law enforcement matters.29 "In the days leading up to Nixon’s resignation, in August 1974, Mr. Schlesinger … became so worried that Nixon was unstable that he instructed the military not to react to White House orders … unless cleared by him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,” noted the New York Times in his 2014 obituary.30
Foreign policy issues beyond Vietnam emerged, particularly in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. Historian Stanley L. Kutler suggests that Nixon’s deteriorating political strength “emboldened” critics who questioned the administration’s “real motives” toward Israel and of its détente policies with the Soviet Union. According to Kutler, Schlesinger and the Joint Chiefs of Staff worked with Senator Henry Jackson (a Democrat from Washington state) “and the sympathetic staff on the Armed Services Committee” to limit Nixon’s efforts at détente, a viewpoint shared by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who accused Jackson and others of paralyzing Nixon’s detente efforts toward the Soviet Union.31
Researchers will find numerous materials relevant to these issues. The Subject File series provides the most significant and extensive documentation regarding Watergate’s effect on foreign policy in the James L. Schlesinger Papers. Schlesinger’s involvement in issues such as détente, Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), the Arab Israeli and the Vietnam Wars are all represented. The series consists of correspondence, memoranda, reports, articles, writings, notebooks, notes, photographs and a scrapbook, press releases, speeches and statements, congressional hearings and testimony, printed matter, campaign material, and charts.
The Subject File series also documents Schlesinger's six month tenure as CIA Director when he submitted all information to congressional oversight committees regarding the agency’s involvement in Watergate, which includes his memorandum to agency employees asking them to report activities undertaken by them outside the CIA's charter. Finally, Schlesinger kept numerous background files on Secretary of State Kissinger, which are also located in the series.
Researchers might wish to consult the General Correspondence and Personal File series. The latter includes appointment books and telephones logs from his final year at the Department of Defense.
Serving as Secretary of the Senate from 1966 to 1977, Francis R. Valeo remains arguably more notable for his role in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court case which upheld a 1974 amendment to the 1971 Campaign Finance Act that required public disclosures regarding public financing of presidential elections and the limits on individual contributions. However, in addition to being Secretary of the Senate, Valeo was an acknowledged expert on East Asia and often worked with and advised majority leader Senator Mike Mansfield on the subject.
For researchers interested in foreign policy during Watergate, the Francis R. Valeo Papers contain materials documenting his three trips to China between 1972 and 1976, which followed Nixon’s reopening of relations with the nation. Located in two series, the Travel File and Senate File series, it consists of correspondence and reports summarizing the findings and results of the missions as well as agendas, memorabilia, printed matter, and photographs.
Though better known for his tenure as Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, Caspar W. Weinberger held several positions within the Richard M. Nixon administration beginning with Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (1970) then assuming the Deputy Director position in the Office of Management and Budget (1970-1972) eventually ascending to its directorship in 1972 before becoming Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (1973-1975).
Prior to the Watergate Affair, Weinberger effectively carried out Nixon’s impoundment policy, in which he and the president asserted the executive branch could withhold funding directed by Congress as a means to prevent profligate spending. For researchers interested in the relationship between the administration and Congress before Watergate, the Caspar W. Weinberger Papers provide insights into the debates and disagreements between the two in the years leading up to the scandal. Only one folder in the collection is dedicated to Watergate. Throughout his service in the Nixon administration, however, Weinberger kept “journal notations or diary notes of important events and meetings” which can be used in conjunction with other White House officials, cabinet members and subject files to explore broader issues affecting the government during Watergate. These notes can be found in the following series: Federal Trade Commission, Office of Management and Budget, and Health, Education, and Welfare Department.
Serving first as Special Assistant to the President, 1969-1972, then as Director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy, Clay T. Whitehead shaped White House and national communication policy leading the movement within government to deregulate the industry. According to numerous observers, his efforts contributed to the explosion in cable television, the decline in the power of broadcast television networks, and laid the groundwork for advances in cellular and internet technology.
Whitehead also deployed rhetoric reminiscent of the administration's use of terminology such as “elitist gossip” to characterize national journalism. In a speech following Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 landslide victory, Whitehead lamented what he and the administration viewed as a pervasive liberal media bias within national news especially in regard to the three major television networks. He suggested that if local station managers failed “to correct [the] imbalance” and “take action against this ideological plugola,” when the time came, the federal government might reconsider license renewals.32 In a memorandum that same year, Whitehead encouraged the president to increase the power of local news outlets which “are generally less liberal and more concerned with education than with controversial national affairs.” A “decentralized system” would be less influential and provide “social activists” with fewer avenues of communication, he concluded.
Despite his tenure in the Nixon White House, in April 1974, Whitehead chaired a group of administration officials to oversee the government’s likely transition to a Gerald R. Ford presidency known as “The Ford Foundation.” Whitehead’s team included a Ford staff member, Philip Buchen, and three Nixon officials: Jonathan Moore, Lawrence Lynn, and Brian Lamb.
Researchers will want to consult the White House Years series and within it the Office of Telecommunications and Ford Transition subseries. The former consists of correspondence, schedules, memoranda, and speeches, testimony, and subject files containing newspaper, newsmagazine, and other articles on telecommunication, while correspondence, meeting minutes, memoranda, printed material including newspaper and magazine articles comprise the latter. Though no files in the Office of Telecommunications subseries are labeled Watergate, it is likely that memoranda and correspondence within related folders discuss the issue; however, researchers will need to explore relevant subject matter to discover them.
In regard to the Ford Transition subseries, it includes materials regarding meetings of the transition team and Ford's eventual assumption of the presidency. Though formed in April 1974, much of the team's files in this subseries date from August 1974, when the actual transition took place. Documented are the brainstorming and meetings that occurred regarding the transition to a new president and the effort to portray his administration as separate from the previous one. Included are notes and memoranda on the issues and decisions facing the team as it coordinated the unprecedented transfer of power. Also included are photographs and copies of newspaper articles on the transition.
As the youngest White House press secretary at the age of 29, Ronald L. Ziegler served in the post at a challenging time. Ziegler was loyal to President Richard M. Nixon throughout his tenure as press secretary, supporting Nixon from the beginning of the Watergate Affair until his resignation from the presidency. Although Ziegler once described Watergate as a “third-rate burglary” his papers document how it came to dominate the White House and Ziegler’s job.33 The Richard M. Nixon File series of the Ziegler Papers comprises 132 boxes. The Nixon File is organized into three subseries: Correspondence, Subject File, and Watergate File. The Watergate File contains the bulk of material relating to the Watergate Affair. Letters and documents containing references to the scandal, however, are also filed in the Correspondence and Subject File subseries. The Watergate File includes material about the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, the cover-up of the burglary, illegal wiretapping, and other unlawful activities that came under investigation during the Nixon presidency.
Researchers interested in the 1972 campaign and how it impacted strategy will find meeting notes, memorandum, correspondence, and briefs, some of which directly discuss by the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) campaign, documented in the Political Files subseries. A few examples illustrate this aspect of the subseries. In a September 1972 meeting, Ziegler and others discuss the committee's filing of a countersuit against the Democratic National Committee with Maurice Stans, Nixon loyalist and CREEP finance committee chairman, filing a libel suit the following day. "Stans is [apparently] going to announce his libel suit tomorrow himself. He is to do it before cameras, but not take any questions. Most at the meeting felt that he looked like a crook on the tube and felt it was unfortunate that he was going to do this.” Ziegler appeared to agree with the group's opinion, initially writing in his own hand, "I agree he is a crook," but at some point, crossed out "is a crook" and replaced it with "looks bad on the tube." In another meeting later the same month, surrogates were instructed to stop discussing the scandal. "It was noted that none of the stories playing [in] the Washington press have moved out of town or made the nets. There is some optimism that the whole thing can be turned off." In October, the committee agreed to focus on criticizing McGovern for "mud slinging" and "smear tactics" believing such an approach "blurs the Watergate issue."34
The legal files comprise the largest segment of material in the Watergate File subseries, documenting Nixon's dealings with various parties from federal courts, congressional committees, and special prosecutors. Much of the litigation treated in the files concerns legal clashes over requests for White House documents and tape recordings of oval office conversations that led to Nixon resigning rather than face impeachment for obstructing justice and other charges.
Also in the Watergate File are a set of chronologies consisting of calendars, weekly and monthly summaries of events, notes, meetings, press briefings and releases, staff memoranda, press clippings, and other material that chronicle the activities of the president, Ziegler, and other White House staff. These chronologies and the press briefing files provide a time sequence of some of the key events and dates of Watergate. Files worthy of special mention are the day folders, from July 19 to 29, 1974, highlighting Watergate and Nixon's final days inside the White House.
For those interested in Nixon’s life after his resignation, the Richard M. Nixon Transition File series may be of interest. Ziegler accompanied Nixon to San Clemente, California, and this series chronicles Ziegler's work there for the former president. The transition files also include Nixon's statement, press clippings, and other material relating to his pardon by Gerald R. Ford.