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Republican Party Dinner
The President's Remarks at a Republican Fundraising Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel. May 9, 1973
Mr. Vice President, and all of the distinguished guests, because everyone here is a distinguished guest tonight:
I had been hearing that this would be less than an enthusiastic dinner tonight, and I must say you have proved that perhaps the critics were wrong.
I do know, too, that this is an evening when you have been paying tribute to some who have led our party in the past year in fact over the past years, to Chairman Bob Dole, Bob Wilson, and Peter Dominick, and I wish to pay tribute to them, too, and also to the new leaders
the new leadership that is up here, George Bush, and Bob Michel, Bill Brock. They are a great team, and they are a team that the Vice President and I will be very proud to work with for the victory that we are going to win in 1974.
Having mentioned the Vice President, I thank him for his indefatigable campaigning in all the years since we have been together in Washington. He has had to carry, as is often the lot of the Vice President, the campaigning load when the President has some other responsibilities to undertake, and he has carried that load with great dedication and great effectiveness, and I am proud to have him as a member of our team.
Now, as is always my custom, before speaking before any audience of such a distinguished group as this, I asked the chairman what I should talk about, and it just happened this afternoon I met with the chairman, Chairman Bush, and also his other two colleagues and our new finance chairman, Mr. Wilson from Tennessee, and we had a discussion about this dinner tonight and what you would like to hear about.
You already heard the Vice President praise the accomplishments of the Administration and so for me to add to that would simply be, of course, adding praise for what he says I have done, but which you have made possible, and all of us working together have made possible, and I will have something to say about that as I conclude tonight.
But it has always been my practice before any kind of audience to take on those subjects that some people think you don't want to take on because they are difficult.
Let me say, I didn't get where I am by ducking tough issues; I am keenly aware of the fact that many Americans—everybody in this room, for example--are concerned about the developments that we have been reading about and hearing about in recent weeks and recent months.
I expressed my concem just a few days ago on national television. I will not add to what I said then, except to make some comments that I think are quite appropriate at this time.
In the American political process one of the most difficult tasks of all comes when charges are made against high officials in an Administration. That is a very great test of an Administration, and many times, in the history of our country, Administrations have failed to meet ebe test of investigating those charges that might be embarrassing to the Administration, because they were made against high officials in an Administration.
We have had such a situacion. We have been con: fronted with it. We are dealing with it. And I will simply say to you tonight that this Nation, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, all Americans, can have confidence in the fact that the new nominee for Atromey General, Elliot Richardson, and the special prosecutor that he will appoint in this case, will have the total cooperation of the executive branch of this Government; they will get to the bottom of this thing; they will see to it that all of those who are guilty are prosecuted and are brought to justice. That is a pledge I make tonight and that I think the American people are entitled to.
But I would add that the place where that should happen is in the courts of law. Charges are these days made rather easily, as we know, in our political process and there is sometimes a tendency for us to convict the innocent in our own mind before they have the opportunity to be heard, before they have the opportunity, even if charges are made, to be tried.
And let us resolve tonight that until we hear the evia dence, until those who have been charged have had a chance to present their case in a court of law, let's uphold the great American tradition that an individual, even a government official, is innocent until he is proven guilty.
I also want to add a word with regard to what all this is going to mean to the next 3/2 and a bit more years that we have in office as a result of the election last November. I can assure you that we will get to the bottom of this very deplorable incident. We shall do everything that we can to develop new legislative tools which will deal with this kind of abuse and other abuses as practiced too often in many campaigns by both parties over the years.
But the most important thing I want to say tonight is this: We are not going to allow this deplorable incident to deter us or defect us from going forward toward achieving the great goals that an overwhelming majority of the American people elected us to achieve in Novema ber of 1972.
We received the greatest popular majority in history for good reasons. The American people had a clear choice, and the same reasons and that same choice exists today as did exist then. And when we look at those goals, some of which the Vice President has referred to so cloqueady, when we look at those goals, it is our responsibility at this time to go forward now and achieve them, and that we do intend to do. And I can assure you that whether it is in a Cabinet meeting that we will be having in the
known times when I wondered if I had very many friends, and every man or woman who has been in politics knows that when you win, they are all your friends, and when you lose, it is pretty hard to find them, except when you lose and they are still there, they are the real friends.
Let me say, I don't stand here tonight as a loser. We sland here tonight as winners, and we are going to win again. But I shall always remember this group tonight, remember that when the going was tough, you hung in there, remember that when the challenge was greatest, you didn't lose your faith. And if some of you think, “Why does this kind of challenge have to come to us? Why do we have to endure it?”, let me remind you that the finest sicel has to go through the hottest fire, and I can assure you, my friends, this room is full of fine steel tonight.
As you know, in a few weeks I shall probably be meeting with the leader of the Soviet Union in a return visit that he will be making to the United States. And as the Vice President has indicated, we have had great progress over the past year, particularly in trying to work towards not just ending a war that had gone on much 100 long-12 years, as a matter of fact--but in building a more peaceful world so that, for example, the leaders of one-fourth of all the people in the world wouldn't be out there isolated from the rest of the world, with the danger of a confrontation 15 to 20 years from now being inherited by our children, and making progress as we have made it with the other great super power, the Soviet Union, progress that does not resolve the basic differences between our various systems of government and our philosophies. They are there; they will remain. But progress towards seeing to it that differences can be resolved around a conference table after a hard bargain, which is what we did last year and what we intend to do as a result of very careful planning that is now going forward this year as well.
What I would like to say to you, my friends, is this: Every individual, I am sure, who occupies the office of President, tries to think of one thing he wants more than anything else, and I could name many goals tonight that I would want more than anything else. But more important than anything else for the present President of the United States is the goal of building a new structure of peace in the world.
And the reason that is the most important goal is that unless the President of the United States, backed by the people of the United States and the Congress, takes the leadership in this field, we will not have peace. That is the truth of the matter, because there is no other free nation that is strong enough, and there is no other group of nations that has the will to provide that leadership.
We have tried to meet that responsibility over the past 4 years, and we have made progress. We are going to continue to meet that responsibility over the next 31/2 years, as I have indicated.
But in order to meet it, it is essential that we concentrate our minds and our hearts and our souls and our energy toward achieving that goal as well as the others that I have mentioned in my speech a few days ago and that the Vice President referred to in his introduction today.
And that brings me to a personal note referring to even body here. I have had, as you know, some political ups and downs during my 27 years in politics, and I have
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:04 p.m. in the Internacional
9 Presidential Documents 660-61
The Watergate Investigation
Statements by the President. May 22, 1973
Recent news accounts growing out of testimony in the Watergate investigations have given grossly misleading impressions of many of the facts, as they relate both to my own role and to certain unrelated activities involving national security.
Already, on the basis of second- and third-hand hearsay testimony by persons either convicted or themselves under investigation in the case, I have found myself accused of involvement in activities I never heard of until I read about them in news accounts.
These impressions could also lead to a serious misunderstanding of those national security activities which, though totally unrelated to Watergate, have become entangled in the case. They could lead to further compromise of serisitive national security information.
I will not abandon my responsibilities. I will continue to do the job I was elected to do.
In the accompanying statement, I have set forth the facts as I know them as they relate to my own role.
With regard to the specific allegations that have been made, I can and do state categorically: 1. I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate
operation. 2. I took no part in, nor was I aware of, any subsequent
efforts that may have been made to cover up
Watergate. 3. At no time did I authorize any offer of executive
clemency for the Watergate defendants, nor did I
know of any such offer. 4. I did not know, until the time of my own investiga
tion, of any effort to provide the Watergate defend
ants with funds. 5. At no time did I attempt, or did I authorize others
to attempt, to implicate the CIA in the Watergate
matter. 6. It was not until the time of my own investigation
that I learned of the break-in at the office of Mr. Ellsberg's psychiatrist, and I specifically authorized
the furnishing of this information to Judge Byrne. 7. I neither authorized nor encouraged subordinates to
engage in illegal or improper campaign tactics. In the accompanying statement, I have sought to provide the background that may place recent allegations in perspective. I have specifically stated that executive privilege will not be invoked as to any testimony concerning possible criminal conduct or discussions of possible criminal conduct, in the matters under investigation. I want the public to learn the truth about Watergate and those guilty of any illegal actions brought to justice.
A climate of sensationalism has developed in which even second- or third-hand hearsay charges are headlined as fact and repeated as fact.
Important national security operations which themselves had no connection with Watergate have become entangled in the case.
As a result, some national security information has already been made public through court orders, through the subpoenaing of documents, and through testimony witnesses have given in judicial and Congressional proceedings. Other sensitive documents are now threatened with disclosure. Continued silence about those operations would compromise rather than protect them, and would also serve to perpetuate a grossly distorted view—which recent partial disclosures have given-of the nature and purpose of those operations. The purpose of this statement is threefold:
- First, to set forth the facts about my own relationship to the Watergate matter;
-Second, to place in some perspective some of the more sensational—and inaccurate-of the charges that have filled the headlines in recent days, and also some of the matters that are currently being discussed in Senate testimony and elsewhere;
—Third, to draw the distinction between national security operations and the Watergate case. To put the other matters in perspective, it will be necessary to describe the national security operations first.
In citing these national security matters, it is not my intention to place a national security "cover" on Watergate, but rather to separate them out from Watergate and at the same time to explain the context in which certain actions took place that were later misconstrued or misused.
Long before the Watergate break-in, three important national security operations took place which have subsequently become entangled in the Watergate case.
-The first operation, begun in 1969, was a program of wiretaps. All were legal, under the authorities then existing. They were undertaken to find and stop serious national security leaks.
- The second operation was a reassessment, which I ordered in 1970, of the adequacy of internal security measures. This resulted in a plan and a directive to strengthen our intelligence operations. They were pro tested by Mr. Hoover, and as a result of his protest they were not put into effect.
-The third operation was the establishment, in 1971, of a Special Investigations Unit in the White House. Its primary mission was to plug leaks of vital security information. I also directed this group to prepare an accurate history of certain crucial national security matters which occurred under prior administrations, on which the Government's records were incomplete.
Here is the background of these three security operations initiated in my Administration.
Allegations surrounding the Watergate affair have so escalated that I feel a further statement from the President is required at this time.
By mid-1969, my Administration had begun a number of highly sensitive foreign policy initiatives. They were aimed at ending the war in Vietnam, achieving a settlement in the Middle East, limiting nuclear arms, and establishing new relationships among the great powers. These involved highly secret diplomacy. They were closely interrelated. Leaks of secret information about any one could endanger all.
Exactly that happened. News accounts appeared in 1969, which were obviously based on leaks—some of them extensive and detailed-by people having access to the most highly classified security materials.
There was no way to carry forward these diplomatic initiatives unless further leaks could be prevented. This required finding the source of the leaks.
In order to do this, a special program of wiretaps was instituted in mid-1969 and terminated in February 1971. Fewer than 20 taps, of varying duration, were involved. They produced important leads that made it possible to tighten the security of highly sensitive materials. I authorized this entire program. Each individual tap was undertaken in accordance with procedures legal at the time and in accord with longstanding precedent.
The persons who were subject to these wiretaps were determined through coordination among the Director of the FBI, my Assistant for National Security Affairs, and the Attorney General. Those wiretapped were selected on the basis of access to the information leaked, material in security files, and evidence that developed as the inquiry proceeded.
Information thus obtained was made available to senior officials responsible for national security matters in order to curtail further leaks.
THE 1970 INTELLIGENCE PLAN
On June 5, 1970, I met with the Director of the FBI (Mr. Hoover), the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (Mr. Richard Helms), the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Gen. Donald V. Bennett), and the Director of the National Security Agency (Adm. Noel Gayler). We discussed the urgent need for better intelligence operations. I appointed Director Hoover as chairman of an interagency committee to prepare recommendations.
On June 25, the committee submitted a report which included specific options for expanded intelligence operations, and on July 23 the agencies were notified by memorandum of the options approved. After reconsideration, however, prompted by the opposition of Director Hoover, the agencies were notified 5 days later, on July 28, that the approval had been rescinded. The options initially approved had included resumption of certain intelligence operations which had been suspended in 1966. These in turn had included authorization for surreptitious entrybreaking and entering, in effect-on specified categories of targets in specified situations related to national security.
Because the approval was withdrawn before it had been implemented, the net result was that the plan for expanded intelligence activities never went into effect.
The documents spelling out this 1970 plan are extremely sensitive. They include—and are based uponassessments of certain foreign intelligence capabilities and procedures, which of course must remain secret. It was this unused plan and related documents that John Dean removed from the White House and placed in a safe deposit box, giving the keys to Judge Sirica. The same plan, still unused, is being headlined today.
Coordination among our intelligence agencies continued to fall short of our national security needs. In July 1970, having earlier discontinued the FBI's liaison with the CIA, Director Hoover ended the FBI's normal liaison with all other agencies except the White House. To help remedy this, an Intelligence Evaluation Committee was created in December 1970. Its members included representatives of the White House, CIA, FBI, NSA, the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Defense, and the Secret Service.
The Intelligence Evaluation Committee and its staff were instructed to improve coordination among the intelligence community and to prepare evaluations and estimates of domestic intelligence. I understand that its activities are now under investigation. I did not authorize nor do I have any knowledge of any illegal activity by this Committee. If it went beyond its charter and did engage in any illegal activities, it was totally without my knowledge or authority.
In the spring and summer of 1970, another security problem reached critical proportions. In March a wave of bombings and explosions struck college campuses and cities. There were 400 bomb threats in onc 24-hour period in New York City. Rioting and violence on college campuses reached a new peak after the Cambodian operation and the tragedies at Kent State and Jackson State. The 1969–70 school year brought nearly 1,800 campus demonstrations and nearly 250 cases of arson on campus. Many colleges closed. Gun battles between guerrilla-style groups and police were taking place. Some of the disruptive activities were receiving foreign support.
Complicating the task of maintaining security was the fact that, in 1966, certain types of undercover FBI opere ations that had been conducted for many years had been suspended. This also had substantially impaired our ability to collect foreign intelligence information. At the same time, the relationships between the FBI and other intelligence agencies had been deteriorating, By May 1970, FBI Director Hoover shut off his agency's liaison with the CIA altogether.
THE SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT
On Sunday, June 13, 1971, The New York Times pub lished the first installment of what came to be known as “The Pentagon Papers.” Not until a few hours before publication did any responsible Government official know that they had been stolen. Most officials did not know they existed. No senior official of the Government had read them or knew with certainty what they contained.
All the Government knew, at first, was that the papers comprised 47 volumes and some 7,000 pages, which had been taken from the most sensitive files of the Departments of State and Defense and the CIA, covering military and diplomatic moves in a war that was still going on.
Moreover, a majority of the documents published with the first three installments in The Times had not been included in the 47-volume study-raising serious ques. tions about what and how much else might have been taken.
There was every reason to believe this was a security leak of unprecedented proportions.
It created a situation in which the ability of the Govemment to carry on foreign relations even in the best of circumstances could have been severely compromised. Other governments no longer knew whether they could deal with the United States in confidence. Against the background of the delicate negotiations the United States was then involved in on a number of fronts—with regard to Vietnam, China, the Middle East, nuclear arms limitations, U.S.-Soviet relations, and others in which the utmost degree of confidentiality was vital, it posed a threat so grave as to require extraordinary actions.
Therefore during the week following the Pentagon Papers publication, I approved the creation of a Special Investigations Unit within the White Housewhich later came to be known as the “plumbers.” This was a small group at the White House whose principal purpose was to stop security leaks and to investigate other sensitive security matters. looked to John Ehrlichman for the supervision of this group.
Egil Krogh, Mr. Ehrlichman's assistant, was put in charge. David Young was added to this unit, as were E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy.
The unit operated under extremely tight security rules. Its existence and functions were known only to a very few persons at the White House. These included Messrs. Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean.
At about the time the unit was created, Daniel Ellsberg was identified as the person who had given the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. I told Mr. Krogh that as a matter of first priority, the unit should find out all it could about Mr. Ellsberg's associates and his motives. Because of the extreme gravity of the situation, and not then knowing what additional national secrets Mr. Ellsberg might disclose, I did impress upon Mr. Krogh the vital importance to the national security of his assignment. I did not authorize and had no knowledge of any illegal means to be used to achieve this goal.
However, because of the emphasis I put on the crucial importance of protecting the national security, I can understand how highly motivated individuals could have felt justified in engaging in specific activities that I would have disapproved had they been brought to my attention.
Consequently, as President, I must and do assume responsibility for such actions despite the fact that I at no time approved or had knowledge of them.
I also assigned the unit a number of other investigatory matters, dealing in part with compiling an accurate record of events related to the Vietnam war, on which the Government's records were inadequate (many previous records having been removed with the change of administrations) and which bore directly on the negotiations then in progress. Additional assignments included tracing down other national security leaks, including one that seriously compromised the U.S. negotiating position in the SALT talks.
The work of the unit tapered off around the end of 1971. The nature of its work was such that it involved matters that, from a national security standpoint, were highly sensitive then and remain so today.
These intelligence activities had no connection with the break-in of the Democratic headquarters, or the aftermath.
I considered it my responsibility to see that the Watergate investigation did not impinge adversely upon the national security area. For example, on April 18, 1973, when I learned that Mr. Hunt, a former member of the Special Investigations Unit at the White House, was to be questioned by the U.S. Attorney, I directed Assistant Attorney General Petersen to pursue every issue involving Watergate but to confine his investigation to Watergate and related matters and to stay out of national security matters. Subsequently, on April 25, 1973, Attorney General Kleindienst informed me that because the Government had clear evidence that Mr. Hunt was involved in the break-in of the office of the psychiatrist who had treated Mr. Ellsberg, he, the Attorney General, believed that despite the fact that no evidence had been obtained from Hunt's acts, a report should nevertheless be made to the court trying the Ellsberg case. I concurred, and directed that the information be transmitted to Judge Byrne immediately.