Summary of Testimony Regarding
Pages 167-249 of the Testimony
Rumors existed that Nixon had used the IRS as a political weapon; this lead to the Grand Jury questioning Nixon on allegations that he and members of his staff used the IRS to harass political enemies. Of specific interest to the Grand Jury were allegations that the President or the IRS under his command targeted Larry O’Brien (Democratic National Committee chairman during the 1972 campaign) and Joseph Napolitan and Claud de Sautels. These investigations related to money transferred from Howard Hughes. Nixon, desiring to widen the focus of the question to shift his answer to something he was more comfortable with, stresses the fact that the IRS was used not only to investigate Democrats but also Republicans as well. The President only briefly mentions Larry O’Brien later in these pages and does not discuss the other two named individuals except in the briefest of instances. He achieves an effective filibuster.
A Grand Jury member then asks Nixon if and how he came to know about the IRS’s investigation of O’Brian and possibly de Sautels and Napolitan. Nixon responds by saying that he had found out that the IRS had information on the Hughes-O’Brien money in the summer of 1972. He then goes on to say that he can’t remember who told him this, and claims that the Hughes-O’Brien connection was public knowledge. Nixon is then presented with a document: Investigations of us when we were out: IRS and Justice. Included in the document is a note saying, “use our power, contributors, Larry O’Brien.” Nixon chooses to discuss the “context” of the note, only to talk at length about how he was investigated by the IRS during his run on Eisenhower’s ticket in 1952 and during his gubernatorial run in 1962. He mentions nothing about O’Brien or anything relevant, only some more details about the finances of his properties and how he was compelled to release his tax returns to Look magazine. Nixon achieves another effective filibuster.
Unlike other portions of the testimony, Nixon does not seem to “forget” the events about which he is questioned. Instead, he dodges the inquiry entirely by switching the conversation to previous investigations of his own finances that have no bearing on anything Watergate related and are outside the Grand Jury’s charter.
The Grand Jury continues its inquiry in to the O’Brien affair, and additional dirty tricks engaged in by the Nixon camp. Nixon begins to shift his strategy from filibuster to deny. He offers little in the way of real answers, instead frequently claiming to have “no recollection” of the event or issue in question. In fact, Nixon wastes a significant amount of time by simply using this “no recollection” excuse or cleverly asking for questions to be rephrased or clarified. “I do not recall,” begins to come more swiftly from Nixon’s lips.
Nixon is asked to address various issues related to the Larry O’Brien controversy, such as whether he, or one of his representatives, urged the Democratic Party to drop O’Brien or used the Internal Revenue Service, via then-Treasury Secretary John Connally, to investigate and harass O’Brien and other Democratic “contributors.” When asked if he had ordered John Ehrlichman to audit Larry O’Brien’s tax returns, Nixon simply claims, “I have no independent recollection.” He also denies providing information or guidance to Treasury Secretary Connally with regards to the FBI’s investigation of the former DNC Chairman. Nixon again, fails to recall the manner in which he heard about the O’Brien investigation. Specifically, he claims, “I don’t recall personally receiving any memoranda. I do recall receiving a report that the investigation was a dry hole and that the whole matter was being dropped at some point, I don’t know who gave it to me.”
Moreover, Nixon is also asked whether he directed Ehrlichman to create a list of “Democratic” contributors to harass via the FBI (i.e. “Do you recall whether there was a discussion about using your powers against Democratic contributors?”). In answering the question, Nixon claims, “I don’t recall asking anybody to prepare a list of contributors and give it to the IRS. I have no recollection of that.” In an effort to further stress his innocence, Nixon even goes on to say, “I have no recollection of seeing this list.”
Before answering the question, however, he also filibusters quite a bit by repeatedly asking for clarification of the term “contributors” and then “Democratic contributors.” After settling this matter he continues to filibuster, and proceeds to highlight his belief that the FBI, at the time, harassed both Democrats and Republicans (including himself,) a matter unrelated to the question at hand. Overall, Nixon wastes much time through these undeniably frustrating tactics. He either cleverly stalls or claims to have no recollection of events that took place only two or three years ago.
Finally, special note is reserved for Horowitz’s suggestion that Nixon, or one of his aides, may have been working with the Democratic Party to eliminate O’Brien. This unusual claim comes as the direct result of a phrase found in Ehrlichman’s notes referring to O’Brien: “Better they drop him now.” Unsurprisingly, Nixon quickly disregards the accusation. He responds, “You know, many times, Mr. Horowitz, people think that a President of the United States running for re-election, with a good chance to be re-elected, has a great deal of power, but even the suggestion that I or one of my representatives could have influence within the Democratic Party to get them to drop their National Chairman is so absurd that really I am not going to dignify it with a comment.” Nixon’s quickly dismissive and even humorous reaction suggests that, perhaps, there is very little truth to this largely obscure claim.
After the brief suggestion that Nixon was attempting to influence the DNC’s choice of chairmen, the discussion about “Mr. O’Brien’s tax situation” continues. One of the jurors asks Nixon about reports and other evidence related to the IRS’s investigation on Mr. O’Brien. Nixon, unsurprisingly, doesn’t recollect many details. He does say that nothing developed out of the situation, which was what he expected. Nixon is asked if he looked at Mr. O’Brien’s tax returns, but denies ever seeing them. Mr. Ehrlichman was receiving reports on the IRS investigation of Mr. O’Brien, but Nixon says that Ehrichman “never wasted my time by going into great detail about a matter of this sort.” It is noted that Mr. Ehrlichman was in contact with Roger Barth, who was an employee at the IRS, during O’Brien’s investigations.
The juror then asks about Ehrlichman’s handwritten notes from a conversation he had with Nixon in 1972, aboard Air Force One. The conversation centered on warning Senator McGovern about the “O’Brien-Hughes business.” Nixon told Ehrlichman, according to the note, that they should inform McGovern of O’Brien’s tax situation because it could be embarrassing for McGovern and the Democrats. Nixon does not have a recollection of the conversation, but says that he would be very surprised if he indicated that they were going to try to warn McGovern. Another question from Ehrlichman’s notes was about the sentences: “Get someone in Las Vegas. Do it. Ask how much he got.” According to the juror, there was additional evidence that Mr. Ehrlichman, or Mr. Barth, had someone from the IRS office in Las Vegas dig for information. Nixon, again, has no recollection of the details on the matter.
The Grand Jurors continue to press Nixon on his alleged use of the IRS to intimidate Larry O’Brien. Nixon continues to deny the allegations, responding, “I don’t recall any conversation about O’Brien’s tax problems.” The continued questioning about Larry O’Brien leads Nixon to become very agitated and testy with his questioners. He subsequently delves into a long-winded speech about the state of politics in America. Nixon argues that “politics is a rough game” and Democrats have employed the same tactics as Republicans in attacking their political opponents. Nixon goes on to say that if you want to clean up politics, you can’t punish one side “and then turn your back and forget what happens on the other side.” He also says that he ran “clean campaigns” in 1968 and 1972. Nixon then tries to put some blame on Larry O’Brien, telling the grand jury that if you were to investigate O’Brien the same way you did him, he would come out on top, he would look like the better person. However, Nixon tells the jury they should not investigate O’Brien because he now has a good job as the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association and needs the money because of his large family. Following his comments on O’Brien, Nixon chastises the entire investigation because he thinks they have overlooked actions of other people, saying that “Georgetown elites may be happy by their investigation, but their own children may not be happy years later when learning about their actions.” The next topic that the Grand Jury moves to is the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg and FBI investigation techniques.
Nixon was asked about Hoover’s investigation techniques and if he was aware of the methods that Hoover used to obtain domestic intelligence. Offering plausible deniability, Nixon states that he did not know specifically when wire-tapping was necessarily used. He states that Hoover would typically just say “a highly sensitive source as informed us” or a “highly sensitive source known to this bureau.”
Following the discussion of J Edgar Hoover and his “sensitivities,” the questioners moved on to the infamous Pentagon Papers. In typical Nixon fashion, he spent a large amount of his time discussing the Pentagon Papers never actually answering the specific questions. Instead, he expounded on executive privilege and the release of classified information. Nixon claimed that the DOJ’s decision to prosecute Ellsberg was based on his perpetual concern regarding the confidentiality of presidential discussions and the release of information that would put the lives of American spies in danger. He stated that many foreign leaders questioned the confidentiality of their discussions with Nixon after that release. He said, regardless of party, a President should protect the confidentiality of other president’s.
Following the discussion of privacy, the questioners asked Nixon about Ellsberg’s possible drug use. Nixon sidestepped these questions and offered muted speculation about his “tripping.” He speculated on Ellsberg’s mental health, claiming that Kissinger had mixed feelings about Ellsberg ever since he had him as a student.
The Grand Jury was unable to extract any useful testimony from Nixon, regarding his use of the IRS as a political weapon and many of the other dirty tricks he engaged in while President. Nixon again proves his skill at misdirection and filibuster.