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Presidential Tapes and Documents
Statement by the President Oullining Procedures To Provide Information Related to the Watergate Investigation to the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. November 12, 1973
As a consequence of the public disclosure, 2 weeks ago, that two conversations of the President were not recorded on the White House recording system, doubts have arisen about just what happened to these conversations and why they were not recorded. The purpose of this statement is to help dispel those doubts and to spell out certain steps I will take to offer information to the court that will help determine the substance of all nine conversations subpoenaed by the court.
First, there are no missing tapes. There are two conversations requested by the courts which were not recorded. The first is a 4-minute conversation with the former Attorney General, John Mitchell, on June 20, 1972. The second is a meeting of 55 minutes with John Dean, late in the evening of Sunday, April 15, 1973.
There is no question in my mind but that the opencourt hearing, now being conducted, will demonstrate to the court's satisfaction the truth of our statements that these two conversations were never recorded. In fact there is no affirmative evidence to the contrary. I believe that when the court concludes its evaluation of the testimony and documentary evidence, public doubt on this issue will be completely and satisfactorily removed.
In the meantime, I believe it important to make a statement about this proceeding so that misconceptions about this inatter do not persist, simply because certain basic facts are not presented to the American public.
First, the Senate Select Committee did not subpoena the substance of the two unrecorded conversations. That
material was requested only by the Special Prosecutor, and the court, who believed the substance of nine presidential conversations was necessary for completion of the Watergate investigation.
We are complying fully with the Federal court decision. In seven of nine instances, the actual recording of the conversation is being submitted; this includes five conversations in which John Dean participated-September 15, 1972, March 13, 1973, two on March 21, 1973, one on March 22, 1973. For all nine conversations covered by the subpoena, such contemporaneous notes and memoranda as were made of the conversations are being provided in accordance with the court order.
Before discussing these matters, the issue of when and why the recorded conversations were listened to by me, and by others on my behall, should be placed in chrono logical perspective.
On June 4, 1973, I listened to the tape recordings of a number of conversations I had with John Dean in order to refresh my memory of those discussions. All of the conversations to which I listened that day had taken place prior to March 21, 1973. My purpose in reviewing the recordings of my conversations with Mr. Dean was to confirm my recollection that he had not reported certain facts to me prior to March 21, 1973. In late April 1973, I asked H. R. Haldeman to listen and report on the conversation of March 21, 1973, in which he had been present for a substantial portion of time. My primary purpose in having Mr. Haldeman listen to this tape was to confirm my recollection that March 21, 1973, was the date on which John Dean had first reported certain facts
There had been rumors and reports to the contrarone of them suggesting that John Dean and I had met 30 or 40 times to discuss Watergate-and I wanted to refresh
my recollection as to what was the precise and entire truth.
On September 29, 1973, I began a review of the tape recordings subpoenaed by the Special Prosecutor for the grand jury and by the Senate Select Comınittee. The reason was it had been my deliberate intention to litigace the matter up to Supreme Court, if necessary, to protect the right of confidentiality and the related principle of separation of powers. By late September, however, I had come to the conclusion that the national interest would be better served by a reasonable compromise.
Thus, in late September, I began to consider various approaches which led to what has conie to be known as the "Stennis Compromise”-turning over to both the Senate committee and the court the full substance of the relevant recorded conversations, leaving the verification of the precision and accuracy of that substance to Senator Stennis. That compromise offer, accepled by the Senate Committee Chairman and Vice Chaiman, proved unacceptable to the Special Prosecutor.
It was during this process that I first became aware of the possibility that two of the 10 conversations in question had not been recorded.
I proceeded with a review of the eight recorded con. versations and subsequently ordered a further search for recordings of the two conversations in question and an investigation into the circumstances which caused the conversations not to be recorded. The search and investigation were not finally completed until October 27.
One of the conversations for which no recording could be found was a 4-minute telephone call I made to John Mitchell on the evening of June 20, 1972. The only telephone calls which were recorded in the residence of the White House were those made in the Lincoln Sitting Room which I use as an office. Telephone conversations in the family quarters have never been recorded during this Administration. The telephone call with John Mitchell was one that I made on the telephone in the family quarters just before going in to dinner, and consequently it was not recorded.
My conversation with John Dean on Sunday evening, April 15, 1973, was not recorded because the tape on the recording machine for my Executive Office Building office was used
up and ran out earlier in the day. The tape which was on the operating recorder on Sunday, April 15, 1973, contains recordings of the conversations in my Executive Office Building office on Saturday, April 14, 1973. It also contains a portion of the first conversation I had in that office on Sunday, April 15, 1973, which was with Attomey General Kleindienst. During that conversation the tape ran out. Normally, I see very few people in my Executive Office Building office on the weekends. How. ever, on the weekend of April 14 and 15, the activity in my Executive Office Building office was unusual and unanticipated. Certain reports made to me by my staff early in the morning of April 14, 1973, lcd me to have lengthy discussions with staff members during the day in my
office in the Executive Office Building. In addition, interna tional developments required a lengthy meeting with my Assistant for National Security Affairs late that morning.
On Sunday, April 15, 1973, I began another series of mectings in my Executive Office Building office at about I p.m. The first meeting was with Attorney General Kleindienst. Thereafter the meetings continued until late
in the cvening with the exception of a break of about 2 hours for dinner. I did not meet with John Dean until approximately 9 o'clock that cvening. Since the tape on the recorder for my Executive Once Building office had run out during my afternoon meeting with Attorney General Kleindienst, the Dean mceting was not recorded.
It should be pointed out that the court order calls for cvidentiary materials such as notes and memoranda in addition to recordings of specified conversations. The court order spells out a detailed procedure for turning materials over for Judge Sirica's private review. In recent days, in an effort to locate materials for the court, a diligent search has been made for materials that might shed further light on the substance of the conversations in question, including the unrecorded conversations with John Mitchell on June 20, 1972, and with John Dean, on the evening of April 15, 1973.
Since I have been in office, I have maintained a personal diary file which consists of notes which I have personally taken during meetings and of dictation belts on which I record recollections. The dictation bells and notes are placed in my personal diary file by my secretary. They are sealed under specific instructions that they not be transcribed.
In the course of searching my personal diary files, I have located a dictation belt that I dictated at 8:30 p.m. on June 20, 1972, on which, among other activities of the day, I referred to a telephone call with John Mitchell. The portion of the belt relating to the conversation with John Mitchell will be submitted to the court. We have also located the dictation belt of
recollections of the conversations in question for March 21, 1973, and the relevant portions of these recollections together with the actual recordings of the conversations, of course, will also be submitted to the court in compliance with its order.
Over the weekend of November 4 and 5, 1973, upon checking my personal diary file for April 15, 1973, to locate information to be produced in accordance with the court's order, I found that my file for that day consists of personal notes of the conversation held with John Dean the evening of April 15, 1973, but not a dictation belt. My original handwritten notes, made during my meeting with John Dean on the evening of April 15, 1973, will be submitted to the court.
On June 11, 1973, the Special Prosecutor requested a tape of a conversation I had with John Dean on April 15, 1973 (which I had previously offered to let Assistant Attorney General Petersen lear).
As has been pointed out, my personal diaq; file consisis of noles of conversations and dictation bells of recollections, and I believed in June that I had dictated my recollections of April 15, 1973, of conversations which occurred on that day. The response to the Special Prosecutor made on June 16, 1973, referred to such a cliccation bell. It that time, however, I did not review my file to confirm that it contained the belt.
I have made a diligent search for other evidenciary materials that might shed light on the substance of iny conversation with John Dean on the evening of April 15, 1973. Other than my contemporaneous notes of that meeting mentioned above, I have found no such evidence. However, I did meet with John Dean on Monday, April 16, 1973, on two occasions. The first was in the morning in the Oval Office; the second was in the afternoon in the Executive Office Building office. This was my final meeting with Mr. Dean before he left the White House staff. Both of these conversations were recorded on the White House recording system. I recently reviewed the recordings of these conversations. A comparison of my notes of the April 15, 1973, meeting and the recording of the conversation with Mr. Dean on the morning of April 16, 1973, shows both conversations covered much the same subject matter. There are references throughout the conversation on the morning of April 16 to the conversation held the evening before.
I shall voluntarily submit to the court, under the procedures applicable to recordings of conversations already covered by the court order, these recordings of my two conversations with John Dean on April 16, 1973.
In addition, as stated above and consistent with the court order, the court will be provided with: (1) The portion of the dictation belt containing my
recollection of the June 20, 1972, conversation
with Mr. Mitchell. (2) The portion of the dictation belt of my recollec
tions of the meetings with Mr. Dean on March 21,
1973. (3) Contemporaneous notes from the April 15, 1973,
conversation with Mr. Dean. (4) All other materials covered hy the court order.
I have also authorized my Counsel to make available to the court certain tape recordings not covered by the court order to assist the court in verifying that the two conversations in question were not recorded. The additional tape recordings to be provided are (a) the full reel of telephone recordings covering the period of June 20, 1972, and (b) the two reels of tape which were on the recorders for my Executive Office Building office on April 15, 1973. This will permit the court to check the sequence of the conversations against my daily logs of meetings and telephone conversations already provided to the court, and thus further demonstrate that the Mitchell and Dean conversations in question were not recorded.
I have also agreed that a group of court-approved independent experts employing the most advanced technological methods shall examine all tapes in question for any evidence of alterations to the tapes.
It is my hope that these steps will clear up this aspect of the Watergate matter once id for all.
9 Presidential Documents 1329-31
Associated Press Managing
The President's Reinarks in a Question-and-Answer
THE PRESIDENT. President Quinn and ladies and genllemen:
When Jack Horner,' who has been a correspondent in Washington and other places around the world, retired after 40 years, he once told me that if I thought that the White House Press Corps answered (asked) tough questions, he (1) should hear the kind of questions the managing editors asked him. Consequently, I welcome this opportunity tonight to meet with the managing editors of the Nation's newspapers.
I will not have an opening statement because I know, with 400 of you, it will be hard to get through all of the questions you have, and I understand the President has a prerogative of asking the first question.
Mr. Quinn (John C. Quinn, Gannett Newspapers, and president, Associated Press Managing Editors Association]
Q. Mr. President, this morning, Governor Askew of Florida addressed this group and recalled the words of Benjamin Franklin. When leaving the Constitutional Convention he was asked, “What have you given us, sir, a monarch or a republic?" Franklin answered, “A republic, sir, if you can keep it."
Mr. President, in the prevailing pessimism of the lingering matter we call Watergate, can we keep that republic, sir, and how?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Quinn, I would certainly not be standing here answering these questions unless I had a firm belief that we could keep the republic, that we must keep it, not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. I recognize that because of mistakes that were made, and I must take responsibility for those mistakes, whether in the campaign or during the course of an administration, that there are those who wonder whether this republic can survive. But I also know that the hopes of the whole world for peace, not only now, but in the years to come, rests in the United States of America. And I can assure you that as long as I am physically able to handle the position to which I was elected, and then reelected last November,
Garnele D. Jack Horner was a reporter with the Washington Suir froin 1937 until his retirement in November 1973. Since 1954 he was White House correspondent for that newspaper.
I am going to work for the cause of peace in the world, for the cause of prosperity without war and without insation ill home, and also to the hest of my ability to restore confidence in the White House and in the President himself. It is a big job, but I think it can be done, and I intend to do it.
Q. Mr. President, I am George Giil of the Louisville Courier-Joumal. Would you please tell us, sir, when did you personally discover that two of the nine subpoenacd White House tapes did not exist, and why did you apparently delay for a matter of weeks disclosing this matter to the Federal court and to the public?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first time that the fact that there were no recordings of the two conversations to
referred that they did not exist came to my attention on approximately September 29 or September 30.
At that time, I was informed only that they might not exist because a search was not made, because seven of the nine recordings requested did exist, and my secretary, listening to them for me and making notes for me, proceeded to go through those seven tapes.
I should point out, incidentally, that the two which did not exist, in which there were no tape recordings of the conversations, were not ones that were requested by the Senate committee, and consequently, we felt that we should go forward with the ones that were requested by both the Senate committee and the others.
When we finally determined that they could not be in existence was on October 26 of this year. And we learned it then when I directed the White House Counsel, Mr. Buzhardt, to question the Secret Service operatives as to what had happened to make sure that there might not be a possibility, due to the fact that the mechanism was not operating properly, that we might find them in some other place.
He questioned them for 2 days and reported on the 27th that he could not find them. He then, having had a date made and he asked for the date sooner with Judge Sirica, he asked for a date on Thursday, you may recall I pointed that out in my press conference on the 26th- Judge Sirica saw him on Tuesday in camera. The White House Counsel reported to Judge Sirica that the two tapes did not cxist and gave him the reasons for it.
The judge decided, and I think quite properly, that the reasons for the tape not existing should be made pubilic and those involved with access to the tapes and those who operated the machines should be questioned so that there would be no question of the White House, somebody around the President, or even the President himself, having destroyed evidence that was important even though the Senate committee had not, as I have already pointed out, subpoenaed either of these two tapes. And since we are on this subject, and I do not want to be
taking all of the time on it except that I know there is going to be enormous interest in it, not only among this audience here, but aniong our television viewers, let me point this out.
I have done everything that I possibly can to provide the cvidence that would have cxisted had we found the tapes:
First, with regard to the tape of June 20, as you may recall, it was a 5-minute telephone conversation with the former Attorney General, John Mitchell, who had just left as campaign manager or was planning to leave as campaign manager at that time.
I have a practice of keeping a personal diary-I can assure you not every day. Sometimes you are too tired at the end of a day to either make notes or dictate it into a dictabelt.
On that particular day I happened to have dictated a dictabelt, and on the dictabelt for June 20, which I found, I found that I had referred to the conversation to John Mitchell, and I think it is fair to disclose to this audience what was there because it will be disclosed to the court. It has already been offered to the court and eventually I assume will be made public.
It said, first, that I called John Mitchell to cheer him up because I knew he was terribly disheartened by what had happened in the so-called Watergate matter. Second, he expressed chagrin to me that the organization over which he had control could have gotten out of hand in this way. That was what was on that tape.
Now, turning to the one on April 15, I thought I might have a dictabelt of that conversation as well.
Let me tell you first why the telephone conversation was not recorded, not because of any deliberate attempt to keep the recording from the public, hut because the only telephones in the residence of the White House which are recorded the only telephone, there is only one, is the one that is in the office, the little Lincoln Sitting Room right off the Lincoln Bedroom. The call I made to John Mitchell was made at the end of the day at about 6:30 just before going into dinner from the family quarters, and no telephones in the family quarters ever were recorded. That is why the recording did not exist.
Turning to April 15, the conversation referred to there was at the end of the process in which Mr. Dean came in to tell me what he had told the U.S. attorneys that day. He saw me at 9 o'clock at night, Sunday night. There should have been a recording. Everybody thought there probably was a recording. The reason there was not a recording is that the tape machines over the weekend only can carry 6 hours of conversation, and usually that is more than enough, because I do not use the EOB office, that is, the Executive Office Building office rather than the Oval Office, over the weekend to that extent.
But that weckend I was in the EOB for a long conversation with Dr. Kissinger on foreign policy matters. I was there for 2 other hours, or 2 or 3 other hours, and the tape