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The burglary and bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters came as a complete surprise to me. I had no inkling that any such illegal activities had been planned by persons associated with my campaign; if I had known, I would not have permitted it. My immediate reaction was that those guilty should be brought to justice, and, with the five burglars themselves already in custody, I assumed that they would be.
Within a few days, however, I was advised that there was a possibility of CIA involvement in some way.
It did seem to me possible that, because of the involvement of former CIA personnel, and because of some of their apparent associations, the investigation could lead to the uncovering of covert CIA operations totally unrelated to the Watergate break-in.
In addition, by this time, the name of Mr. Hunt had surfaced in connection with Watergate, and I was alerted to the fact that he had previously been a member of the Special Investigations Unit in the White House. Therefore, I was also concerned that the Watergate investigation might well lead to an inquiry into the activities of the Special Investigations Unit itself.
In this area, I felt it was important to avoid disclosure of the details of the national security matters with which the group was concerned. I knew that once the existence of the group became known, it would lead inexorably to a discussion of these matters, some of which remain, even today, highly sensitive.
I wanted justice done with regard to Watergate; but in the scale of national priorities with which I had to deal and not at that time having any idea of the extent of political abuse which Watergate reflected—I also had to be deeply concerned with ensuring that neither the covert operations of the CIA nor the operations of the Special Investigations Unit should be compromised. Therefore, I instructed Mr. Haldeman and Mr. Ehrlichman to ensure that the investigation of the break-in not expose either an unrelated covert operation of the CIA or the activities of the White House investigations unit—and to see that this was personally coordinated between General Walters, the Deputy Director of the CIA, and Mr. Gray of the FBI. It was certainly not my intent, nor my wish, that the investigation of the Watergate break-in or of related acts be impeded in any way.
On July 6, 1972, I telephoned the Acting Director of the FBI, L. Patrick Gray, to congratulate him on his successful handling of the hijacking of a Pacific Southwest Airlines plane the previous day. During the conversation Mr. Gray discussed with me the progress of the Watergate investigation, and I asked him whether he had talked with General Walters. Mr. Gray said that he had, and that General Walters had assured him that the CIA was not involved. In the discussion, Mr. Gray suggested that the matter of Watergate might lead higher. I told him to press ahead with his investigation.
It now seems that later, through whatever complex of individual motives and possible misunderstandings, there were apparently wide-ranging efforts to limit the investigation or to conceal the possible involvement of members of the Administration and the campaign committee.
I was not aware of any such efforts at the time. Neither, until after I began my own investigation, was I aware of any fundraising for defendants convicted of the break-in at Democratic headquarters, much less authorize any such fundraising. Nor did I authorize any offer of executive clemency for any of the defendants.
In the weeks and months that followed Watergate, I asked for, and received, repeated assurances that Mr. Dean's own investigation (which included reviewing files and sitting in on FBI interviews with White House personnel) had cleared everyone then employed by the White House of involvement.
In summary, then:
(1) I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate bugging operation, or of any illegal surveillance activities for political purposes.
(2) Long prior to the 1972 campaign, I did set in motion certain internal security measures, including legal wiretaps, which I felt were necessary from a national security standpoint and, in the climate then prevailing, also necessary from a domestic security standpoint.
(3) People who had been involved in the national security operations later, without my knowledge or approval, undertook illegal activities in the political campaign of 1972.
(4) Elements of the early post-Watergate reports led me to suspect, incorrectly, that the CIA had been in some way involved. They also led me to surmise, correctly, that since persons originally recruited for covert national security activities had participated in Watergate, an unrestricted investigation of Watergate might lead to and expose those covert national security operations.
(5) I sought to prevent the exposure of these covert national security activities, while encouraging those conducting the investigation to pursue their inquiry into the Watergate itself. I so instructed my staff, the Attorney General, and the Acting Director of the FBI.
(6) I also specifically instructed Mr. Haldeman and Mr. Ehrlichman to ensure that the FBI would not carry its investigation into areas that might compromise these covert national security activities, or those of the CIA.
(7) At no time did I authorize or know about any offer of executive clemency for the Watergate defendants. Neither did I know until the time of my own investigation of any efforts to provide them with funds.
any way have
With hindsight, it is apparent that I should have given more heed to the warning signals I received along the way about a Watergate cover-up and less to the reassurances.
With hindsight, several other things also become clear:
---With respect to campaign practices, and also with respect to campaign finances, it should now be obvious that no campaign in history has ever been subjected to the kind of intensive and searching inquiry that has been focused on the campaign waged in my behalf in 1972.
It is clear that unethical, as well as illegal, activities took place in the course of that campaign.
None of these took place with my specific approval or knowledge. To the extent that I
in contributed to the climate in which they took place, I did not intend to; to the extent that I failed to prevent them, I should have been more vigilant.
It was to help ensure against any repetition of this in the future that last week I proposed the establishment of a top-level, bipartisan, independent commission to recommend a comprehensive reform of campaign laws and practices. Given the priority I believe it deserves, such reform should be possible before the next Congressional elections in 1974.
-It now appears that there were persons who may have gone beyond my directives, and sought to expand on my efforts to protect the national security operations in order to cover up any involvement they or certain others might have had in Watergate. The extent to which this is true, and who may have participated and to what degree, are questions that it would not be proper to address here. The proper forum for settling these matters is in the courts.
-To the extent that I have been able to determine what probably happened in the tangled course of this affair, on the basis of my own recollections and of the conflicting accounts and evidence that I have seen, it would appear that one factor at work was that at critical points various people, each with his own perspective and his own responsibilities, saw the same situation with different eyes and heard the same words with different ears. What might have seemed insignificant to one seemed significant to another; what one saw in terms of public responsibility, another saw in terms of political opportunity; and mixed through it all, I am sure, was a concem on the part of many that the Watergate scandal should not be allowed to get in the way of what the Administration sought to achieve.
The truth about Watergate should be brought out-in an orderly way, recognizing that the safeguards of judicial procedure are designed to find the truth, not to hide the truth.
With his selection of Archibald Cox-who served both President Kennedy and President Johnson as Solicitor General -as the special supervisory prosecutor for matters related to the case, Attorney General-designate Richardson has demonstrated his own determination to see the truth brought out. In this effort he has my full support.
Considering the number of persons involved in this case whose testimony might be subject to a claim of executive privilege, I recognize that a clear definition of that claim has become central to the effort to arrive at the truth.
Accordingly, executive privilege will not be invoked as to any testimony concerning possible criminal conduct or discussions of possible criminal conduct, in the matters presently under investigation, including the Watergate affair and the alleged cover-up.
I want to emphasize that this statement is limited to my own recollections of what I said and did relating to security and to the Watergate. I have specifically avoided any attempt to explain what other parties may have said and done. My own information on those other matters is fragmentary, and to some extent contradictory. Additional information
may be forthcoming of which I am unaware. It is also my understanding that the information which has been conveyed to me has also become available to those prosecuting these matters. Under such circumstances, it would be prejudicial and unfair of me to render my opinions on the activities of others; those judgments must be left to the judicial process, our best hope for achieving the just result that we all seek.
As more information is developed, I have no doubt that more questions will be raised. To the extent that I am able, I shall also seek to set forth the facts as known to me with respect to those questions.
9 Presidential Documents 693-96
The Watergate Investigation
Text of the President's Lelter to Senator Sam J. Ervin,
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I am advised that members of the Senate Select Committee have raised the desirability of my testifying before the Committee. I am further advised that the Committee has requested access to Presidential papers prepared or received by former members of my staff.
In this letter I shall state the reasons why I shall not testify before the Committee or permit access to Presidential papers.
I want to strongly emphasize that my decision, in both cases, is based on my Constitutional obligation to preserve intact the powers and prerogatives of the Presidency and not upon any desire to withhold information relevant to your inquiry.
My staff is under instructions to cooperate fully with yours in furnishing information pertinent to your inquiry. On 22 May 1973, I directed that the right of executive privilege, "as to any testimony concerning possible criminal conduct or discussions of possible criminal conduct, in the matters presently under investigation,” no longer be invoked for present or former members of the White House staff. In the case of my former Counsel, I waived in addition the attorney-client privilege.
These acts of cooperation with the Committee have been genuine, extensive and, in the history of such matters, extraordinary.
The pending requests, however, would move us froin proper Presidential cooperation with a Senate Committee to jeopardizing the fundamental Constitutional role of the Presidency.
This I must and shall resist.
No President could function if the private papers of his office, prepared by his personal staff, were open to public scrutiny. Formulation of sound public policy requires that the President and his personal staf be able to communicate among themselves in complete candor, and that their tentative judgments, their exploration of alternatives, and their frank comments on issues and personalities at home and abroad remain confidential. I recognize that in your investigation as in others of previous years, arguments can be and have been made for the identification and perusal by the President or his Counsel of selected documents for possible release to the Committees or their staffs. But such a course, I have concluded, would incvitably result in the attrition, and the eventual destruction, of the indispensable principle of confidentiality of Presidential papers.
The question of testimony by members of the White House staff presents a difficult but different problem. While notes and papers often involve a wide-ranging variety and intermingling of confidential matters, testimony can, at least, be limited to matters within the scope of the investigation. For this reason, and because of the special nature of this particular investigation, I have agreed to permit the unrestricted testimony of present and former White House staff members before your Committee.
The question of my own testimony, however, is another matter. I have concluded that if I were to loslify before the Committee irreparable damage would be done to the Constitutional principle of separation of powers. My position in this regard is supported by ample precedents with which you are familiar and which need not be recited here. It is appropriate, however, to refer to one particular occasion on which this issue was raised.
In 1953 a Committee of the House of Representatives sought to subpoena former President Truman to inquire about matters of which he had personal knowledge while he had served as President. As you may recall, President Truman declined to comply with the subpoena on the ground that the separation of powers forbade his appearance. This position was not challenged by the Congras.
It is difficult to improve upon President Truman's discussion of this matter. Therefore, I request that his letter, which is enclosed for the Committee's conve made part of the Committee's record.
c, be RICHARD Nixon
The Constitutional doctrine of separation of powers is fundamental to our structure of government. In my view, as in the view of previous Presidents, its preservation is vital. In this respect, the duty of every President to protect and defend the Constitutional rights and powers of his Office is an obligation that runs directly to the people of this country.
The White House staff will continue to cooperate fully with the Committee in furnishing information relevant to its investigation except in those instances where I determine that meeting the Committee's demands would violate my Constitutional responsibility to defend the office of the Presidency against encroachment by other Branches.
At an appropriate time during your hearings, I intend to address publicly the subjects you are considering. In the meantime, in the context of Senate Resolution 60, I consider it my Constitutional responsibility to decline to appear personally under any circumstances before your Committee or to grant access to Presidential files.
I respect the responsibilities placed upon you and your colleagues by Senate Resolution 60. I believe you and your Committee colleagues equally respect the responsibility placed upon me to protect the rights and powers of the Presidency under the Constitution. Sincerely,
"In this long series of contests by the Executive to maintain his consiitutional integrity, one sees a legiumate conclusion from our theory of government. •*. Under our Constitution, cach branch of the Government is designed to be a coordinate represenuitive of the will of the people. Defense by the Executive of his constitutirnal powers becomes in very truth, therefore, defense of popular righes-defense of power which the people granted to him.
"It was in that sense that President Cleveland spoke of his duty to the people not to relinquish any of the powers of his great ofice. It was in that sense that President Buchanan stated the people have rights and prerogatives in the execution of his office by the President which every President is under a duty to see 'shall never be violated in his person' but 'passed to his successors unimpaired by the adoption of a dangerous precedent' In maintaining his rights against a trespassing Congress, the President defends root himself, but popular government; he represents not himself but the people."
President Jackson repelled an attempt by the Congress to break. down the separation of powers in these words:
"For myself I shall repel all such attempts as an invasion of the principles of justice as well as the Constitution, and I shall esicem it my sacred duty to the people of the United Stales to resist them as I would the establishment of a Spanish Inquisition.”
I might commend to your reading the opinion of one of the conse mittees of the House of Representatives in 1879, House Report 141, March 3, 1879, Forty-fifth Congress, Third Session, in which the House Judiciary Committee said the following:
"The Executive is as independent of either house of Congress as either house of Congress is independent of him, and they can. not call for the records of his actions, or the action of his officers against his consent, any more than he can call for any of the journals or records of the House or Senate."
It must be obvious to you that if the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of the Presidency is to have any validity at all, it must be equally applicable to a President after his term of office has expired when he is sought to be examined with respect to any acts occurring while he is President,
The doctrine would be shattered, and the President, contrary to our fundamental theory of constitutional govermens would become a mere arm of the Legislative Branch of the Government if he would feel during his term of office that his every act night be subject to official inquiry and possible distortion for political purposes.
If your intention, however, is to inquire into any acts as a private individual either before or after my Presidency and unrelated to any acts as President, I shall be happy to appear. Yours Very Truly,
HARRY S. TRUSAY (Honorable Harold H. Velde, Chairman, Committee on Un-Ameri. can Activities, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.) NOTE: The text of the letter was released at San Clemente, Calif.
(Honorable Sam J. Ervin, Jr., Chairman, Select Committee on Presi. dential Campaign Activities, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.)
November 12, 1953 Dear Sir:
I have your subpoena dated November 9, 1953, directing my appearance before your committee on Friday, November 13, in Washington. The subpoena does not state the matters upon which you seek my testimony, but I assume from the press stories that you seek to examine me with respect to matters which occurred during my tenure of the Presidency of the United States.
In spite of my personal willingness to cooperate with your committee, I feel constrained by my duty to the people of the United Slates to decline to comply with the subpoena.
In doing so, I am carrying out the provisions of the Constitution of the United States; and am following a long line of precedents, commencing with George Washington himself in 1796. Since his day, Presidents Jefferson, Monroe, Jackson, Tyler, Polk, Fillmore, Buchanan, Lincoln, Grant, Hayes, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt have declined to respond to subpoenas or demands for information of various kinds by Congress.
The underlying reason for this clearly established and universally recognized constitucional doctrine has been succinctly set forth by Charles Warren, one of our leading constirutional authorities, as follows:
9 Presidential Documents 891.-92
Testimony of Secret Service Agents
The President's Letter to Secretary of the Treasury
Dear Secretury Shullz:
I hereby direct that no officer or agent of the Secret Service shall give testimony to Congressional committees concerning matters observed or learned while performing protective functions for the President or in their duties at the White House.
This applies to the Senate Select Committee which is investigating matters relating to the Watergate break-in and the current efforts which I am informed are being made to subpoena present or former members of the White House detail of the Secret Service.
You will please communicate this information to the Director of the Secret Service promptly and either you or he should then personally notify the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee. You should further advise the Chairman that requests for information on procedures in the White House will be given prompt consideration when received by me. Sincerely,
RICHARD Nixon (Honorable George P. Shulez, Secretary, Treasury Department, Washington, D.C.)
9 Presidential Documents 905