Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nixon. Conversation. No. 005-070. 14 Jun 1971. 7:19pm - 7:22pm.

Date: Monday, June 14, 1971 - 7:19pm - 7:22pm
Participants: Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, Henry Kissinger
Location: White House Telephone

Nixon: Hello?
Mitchell: Mr. President?
White House Operator: The Attorney [General].
Nixon: What is your advice on that Times thing, John? You would like to do it?
Mitchell: I would believe so, Mr. President. Otherwise, we will look a little foolish in not.
Nixon: Mm-hmm.
Mitchell: Following through on our legal obligations and.
Nixon: Has this ever been done before?
Mitchell: A publication like this, or.
Nixon: No, no, no. Have you, has the government ever done this to a paper before?
Mitchell: Oh, yes, advising them of their.
Nixon: Oh.
Mitchell: Yes, we've done this before.
Nixon: Have we? All right.
Mitchell: Yes, sir. I would think that.
Nixon: How do you go about it? You do it sort of low key?
Mitchell: Low key. You call them and then send a telegram to confirm it.
Nixon: Mm-hmm. And say that we're just, we're examining the situation, and we just simply are putting you on notice.
Mitchell: Well, we're putting them on notice that they're violating a statute because.
Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: We have a communication from.
Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: Mel Laird as to the nature of the documents.
Nixon: Right.
Mitchell: And they fall within.
Nixon: Right.
Mitchell: A statute. Now.
Nixon: Right.
Mitchell: I don't know whether you have even noticed it, but this thing was. Mel was working [unclear].
Nixon: Henry is on the other, he just walked in, I'll put him on the other line. Go ahead.
Mitchell: Mel had a pretty good go up there before the committee today on it. And it's all over town, and all over everything, and I think we'd look a little silly if we just didn't take this low-key action of advising them about the publication.
Nixon: Did Mel take a fairly hard line on it?
Mitchell: Yes, he [chuckles] gave a legal opinion that it was a violation of the law, which.
Nixon: Well.
Mitchell: Of course puts us at.
Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: Where we have to get to.
Nixon: Well look, look, as far as the Times is concerned, hell, they're our enemies. I think we just ought to do it. And anyway, Henry, tell him what you just heard from Rostow.
Kissinger: Well, Rostow called on behalf of Johnson. And he said that it is Johnson's strong view that this is an attack on the whole integrity of government. That if you--that if whole file cabinets can be stolen and then made available to the press, you can't have orderly government anymore.
Mitchell: Well.
Kissinger: And he said if the President defends the integrity, any action we take he will back publicly.
Mitchell: Well, I think that we should take this and do some undercover investigation and then open it up after your McGovern-Hatfield.
Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: We've got some information we've developed as to where these copies are and who they're likely to have leaked them. And the prime suspect according to your friend Rostow, you're quoting, is a gentleman by the name of Ellsberg.
Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: Who is a left-winger that's now at the Rand Corporation who also has a set of these documents.
Nixon: Yeah.
Mitchell: So.
Nixon: Subpoena them. Christ, get them.
Mitchell: So, I would think that we should advise the Times. We will start our covert check and after McGovern-Hatfield, just open it up.
Nixon: Right. Go ahead.
Mitchell: Does that, does that agree with you?
Nixon: Yep.
Mitchell: All right, sir, will do.
Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: Right.

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