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Now, I want future Presidents to be able to make hard decisions even though they think they may be unpopular, even though they think they may bring them down in the polls, even though they may think they may bring upon them criticism from the Congress which could result in demands that he resign or be impeached.
I want future Presidents to be able to take the strong, right decisions that he believes are right. That is what I did then, and that is what I intend to do in the future.
After that answer, it is only right for me to tum to the left. (Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, I am Paul McGonigle, from KOY Radio in Phoenix, You have become so accessible of late, not only with Washington news conferences but with appearances such as these, a group of us were talking a while ago that it is difficult to think of something new to ask on a subject that hasn't been beaten to death like Watergate, for example, and-[laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, ask that, I am used to it. (Laughter).
MR. McGovIGLE. What I would like to ask you, sir, is why this accessibility has not marked your
Administration throughout the entire tenure of your years in the White House?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, with forums like this I think I should be more accessible, I agree.
No, seriously, the press conference is a very useful medium through which a President can convey his views to the American people. There are times, however, when a press conference, a President determines, would not be useful, because of very sensitive negotiations that are going on where even a "no comment” could be very unhelpful.
I would suggest that in the future, as I see the future, it is likely that I will continue to have a considerable number of meetings with the press, and I would welcome the opportunity to take the questions that people from Phoenix and the Washington press corps ask. I will try to answer them as responsibly as possible.
Q. Mr. President, Chris Clark, WLAC-TV, Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. President, it appears likely that the House Judiciary Committee might subpoena the tapes and records which you have refused to give to them. My question is this: Will you honor such a subpoena and turn over such records if that becomes the case?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think in response to that question, I should put it in perspective by pointing out what we have already provided to the committee, and what our general policy is, and what the status appears to be at the present time with regard to possible future furnishing of information. I have already directed that all of the information that we turned over to the Special Prosecutor, which includes 19 tapes and over 700 documents, be turned over to the House Judiciary Committee. In addition, I have directed that seven Government agencies turn over several boxloads of documents that they requested be turned over so that they could conduct their investigation.
In addition to that, as you know, Judge Sirica yesterday directed that the records of the grand jury, any records that might be pertinent to this investigation, be turned over to them. That was done not only without our opposition but with our acquiescence because we want them to have all the facts they need to conduct a thorough inquiry. Before, however, they have examined any of this material, they demanded 42 more tapes, several hundred documents, and access to every document and/or tape, in effect, which is in the White House.
Now on that point we are still discussing the matter with Mr. Doar, the counsel for the committee, and of course he is discussing it with the committee members. The reason that we do not say “Come in and bring your U-Haul trailer and haul it out” very simply is this: It is not because of a lack of desire to cooperate. It is, first, because we believe that the committee has enough information to conduct its investigation and to see whether any charges it may have against the President are true or false.
Second, insofar as additional documents are concerned, in other words, virtually a hunting license, or fishing license or whatever you may want to call it, within the White House is concerned, I am following the precedent that every President, Democratic and Republican, since the time of Washington has followed, and that is of defending the confidentiality of Presidential conversations and communications.
I realize that many think, and I understand that, that this is simply a way of hiding information that they should be entitled to, but that isn't the real reason. The reason goes far deeper than that.
In order to make the decisions that a President must make, he must have free, uninhibited conversations with his advisers and with others, and if the time comes when those who come to advise the President assume that anything they say, even though it is very unpopular at the moment, is going to be turned over later and made public, all he is going to find is a bunch of yes-men around him or ones that are going to play it so safe that he isn't going to get the variety of views he needs to make the right kind of decision.
So, as far as the House committee is concerned, we will cooperate. I have agreed, also, as you know, to answer any questions that are submitted in writing. I have agreed to meet with the chairman of the committee and the ranking member of the committee to answer orally any other questions that they have, and Mr. St. Clair, White House Counsel, is discussing with Mr. Doar what other methods might be found whereby we can cooperate.
But of one thing I am sure: To provide this huge amount of documents and all of the tapes would only have the effect of prolonging an investigation that has already gone on too long because, believe me, dragging out Watergate drags down America, and I want to bring it to a conclusion as quickly as we can.
Q. Henry Keys, United Press International, Washington. Mr. President, I wonder if you would explain the difference between a statement you made last August regarding payments to the Watergate defendants and what
you said at your press conference this month. You will recall that in August, you said you were told that the funds were being raised for attorneys' fees and this month that Mr. Dean had told
money was to be used for keeping the defendants quiet, not simply for their defense. Could you explain the difference between those statements?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I stated in Chicago, my statement on March 6 was incorrect insofar as it said that I learned that payments had been made prior to the time that the demand for blackmail by Mr. Hunt-alleged demand for blackmail, I should say, since it has not yet been tried—that payments had been made for the purpose of keeping defendants still.
I should have said they were alleged to have been made, because as a matter of fact, those who were alleged to have made payments to defendants for their defense fees and for their support, Mr. Ehrlichman, Mr. Haldeman, Mr. Mitchell, all have denied that that was the case. They have said it was only for the support of the defendants and only for their attorney's fees, which would be completely proper.
Under the circumstances, therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to say anything further on this point, because these men have a right, now, in a court of law, to establish their innocence or to have established the guilt, if they are guilty, of whether or not the payments were made for one purpose or the other.
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Q. Mr. President, Carl Connerton, KWBA Radio at Baytown. In the early portion of 1960, you made a statement at what you
conference, stating that the press wouldn't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Here it is mid-1970, do you feel that the press is kicking Nixon around again?
THE PRESIDENT. Before this audience, I answer that? (Laughter) No, I realize that perhaps—the year was 1962-after I lost for President I probably didn't feel I should have any difficulties with the press, I had had enough already. So, after 1962, with no political future, I said that I didn't intend to be participating in politics and thoroughly expected that that would be the case. And that, therefore, the press would enjoy kicking somebody else around rather than me.
But to come to the heart of your question, there is always--as my friend, now retired, of the Washington Star, Jack Horner, senior White House correspondent for many years, said, "There is always an adversary relationship between the President and the press”—that is healthy, that is good.
I think the press has a right to criticize the President, and I think the President has the right of self-defense. I would suggest, also, that we should follow this rule: The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.
Q. Mr. President, I am Don Owen from KSLA-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana. You made the statement that to drag out Watergate is to drag down this country. you feel that this country would be better off tonight and in the immediate years ahead if the Watergate break-in had gone undetected and that the actions of that group of people had never been reported to the American people?
The PRESDENT. Certainly not. The action was wrong; the action was stupid. It should never have happened. It should not have been covered up, and I have done the very best that I can over the past year to see that it is uncovered.
I have cooperated completely with not only the grand jury but also with other investigative agencies and have waived executive privilege perhaps further than I should
in terms of the office of the Presidency in order to cooperate.
When something happens like this, to say “Cover it up, forget it,” when it is wrong, this of course is completely against our American system of values, and I would very, very seriously deplore it.
I would also suggest, not by way of defense, but I was often criticized after the 1960 campaign that I ran my own campaigns. In the year 1972, I am afraid I was too busy with the trip to China, the decision on May 8 with regard to the bombing and mining in the Haiphong area, the trip to the Soviet Union, the negotiations in Vietnam which brought that war to a conclusion, that I frankly paid too little attention to the campaign.
Now, I don't intend to be in another campaign, needless to say, but I also want to say that if I had any
advice for candidates in the future, “Run your own campaign, regardless of what the press says.”
think without qualification, clearly assigns to the House of Representatives impeachment investigations, how can the House meet its constitutional responsibilities while you, the person under investigation, are allowed to limit their access to potential evidence?
The President. Which one of the questions do you want me to answer? (Laughter]
First, with regard to the first part of the question, Mr. Rather, what I was referring to with regard to cooperation was that Mr. Jaworski, at the time he handed down the indictments, said that he had the full story on Watergate. You reported that on CBS, I think, as did other reporters, quite properly.
Now as far as appearing before the grand jury was concerned, I respectfully declined to do so, and incidentally, I would advise no President of the United States to appear before any grand jury. That would be not in the interest of the Presidency of the United States.
Now, if you would repeat your second question so that we can keep our train of thought.
Mr. Rather. Well, the second question had to do with the House impeachment investigation. I pointed out that you have sought to limit, to define the limits of that investigation, what evidence they have access to and what evidence they should not have access to.
Now, given the constitutional assignment to the House of Representatives of an impeachment investigation without qualification, how can the House committee do its job as long as you, the person under investigation, is allowed to limit their access to potential evidence?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Rather, referring to the House of Representatives, just like the President, it is bound by the Constitution. The Constitution says specifically that a President shall be impeached for treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.
It is the Constitution that defines what the House should have access to and the limits of its investigation, and I am suggesting that the House follow the Constitution. If they do. I will
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather, with CBS News. Mr. President, Mr. President
THE PRESIDENT. Are you running for something? (Laughter]
Q. No, sir, Mr. President; are you? (Laughter]
Mr. President, I believe earlier that you said that you had cooperated completely with the grand jury investigation. It was my impression—and I could be wrong about this—but that the record shows that that is not quite the fact, that number one, that the grand jury asked that you come down and tell your side of some stories they had heard, and that you declined to do that, and number two, that the Special Watergate Prosecutor, Mr. Jaworski, indicated in a letter to the Senate that he did not get all of the evidence that he thought he needed, and I would be interested in hearing you reconcile what I believe is on the record of these previous statements.
My basic question is this: That in recent days you have, in effect, attempted to define the limits of the House Judiciary Committee investigation, what evidence that they have access to. Now since the Constitution, and I
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Q. Mr. President, Tom Brokaw of NBC News. Following on my colleague, Mr. Rather's question, you referred here tonight as you have in the past, about what you call the precedents of past Presidents in withholding White House material from the House Judiciary Committee. But other Presidents protecting confidentiality of their conversations were not the subject of impeachment investigations, Mr. President, and in fact many of them wrote that the House Judiciary Committee, at least Congress, had the right to demand White House materials in the course of impeachment investigations. And history shows that Andrew Johnson gave up everything that the Congress asked him for when he was the subject of an impeachment investigation.
So, Mr. President, my question is this: Aren't your statements to that matter historically inaccurate or at least misleading?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Brokaw, it is true, as you say, that the only other President who was exposed to an impeachment investigation was Andrew Johnson, and in so far as that particular part of your question is concerned, you are correct.
However, in so far as the principle of confidentiality is concerned, that principle still stands, and it affects an impeachment investigation, as well as any other investigation. Because in the future if all that a Congress under the control of an opposition party had to do in order to get a President out of office was to make an unreasonable demand to go through all of the files of the Presidency, a demand which a President would have to refuse, then it would mean that no President would be strong enough to' stay in office to resist that kind of demand and that kind of pressure. It would lead to instability. And it would destroy, as I have indicated before, the principle of confidentiality.
With regard to the problem, I simply want to say this: It is difficult to find a proper way to meet the demands of the Congress. I am trying to do so and trying to be as forthcoming as possible. But I also have another responsibility. I must think not of myself but I must think also of future Presidents of this country, and I am not going to do anything, and I am not going to give up to any demand that I believe would weaken the Presidency of the United States. I will not participate in the destruction of the office of the President of the United States while I am in this office.
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. President.
10 Presidential Documents 335-45
SUBPOENA OF PRESIDENTIAL TAPES AND
The President's Address to the Nation Announcing His Answer to the
I have asked for this time tonight in order to announce my answer to the House Judiciary Committee's subpoena for additional Watergate tapes, and to tell you something about the actions I shall be taking tomorrow—about what I hope they will mean to you and about the very difficult choices that were presented to me.
These actions will at last, once and for all, show that what I knew and what I did with regard to the Watergate break-in and coverup were just as I have described them to you from the very beginning.
I have spent many hours during the past few weeks thinking about what I would say to the American people if I were to reach the decision I shall announce tonight. And so, my words have not been lightly chosen; I can assure you they are deeply felt.
It was almost 2 years ago, in June 1972, that five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. It tumed out that they were connected with my reelection committee, and the Watergate break-in became a major issue in the campaign.
The full resources of the FBI and the Justice Department were used to investigate the incident thoroughly. I instructed my staff and campaign aides to cooperate fully with the investigation. The FBI conducted nearly 1,500 interviews. For 9 months—until March 1973—I was assured by those charged with conducting and monitoring the investigations that no one in the White House was involved.
Nevertheless, for more than a year, there have been allegations and insinuations that I knew about the planning of the Watergate break-in and that I was involved in an extensive plot to cover it up.
The House Judiciary Committee is now investigating these charges.
On March 6, I ordered all materials that I had previously furnished to the Special Prosecutor turned over to the committee. These included tape recordings of 19 Presidential conversations and more than 700 documents from private White House files.
On April 11, the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for 42 additional tapes of conversations which it contended were necessary for its investigation. I agreed to respond to that subpoena by tomorrow.
In these folders that you see over here on my left are more than 1,200 pages of transcripts of private conversations I participated in be