Sunday, June 13, 1971 - 3:09pm - 3:22pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone

Editors' Note: An earlier transcript of this conversation appears in John Prados and Margaret Pratt Porter, editors, Inside the Pentagon Papers (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2004) pp. 95–100.

President Nixon: Hello?

White House Operator: Mr. President, I have [National Security Adviser] Dr. [Henry A.] Kissinger calling you.

President Nixon: OK.

White House Operator: Thank you. The President.

President Nixon: Hello?

Henry A. Kissinger: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Hi, Henry, how are things in California?

Kissinger: Well, I just got here, and I’m going to leave very early in the morning, so I’ll be back in the early afternoon.

President Nixon: Oh, I see. I see.


NARA Excision

Category: Personal Returnable
Duration: 57s

President Nixon: OK, fine.

Kissinger: The . . . I understand you’ve talked to—

President Nixon: Yeah, [Deputy National Security Adviser Alexander M.] Haig was—I talked to him about the—

Kissinger: —to Haig already, and I just wanted to—

President Nixon: Yeah, yeah.

Kissinger: —to check in. Actually, things are fairly quiet. We’ve got the casualties now.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: And unfortunately, they’re higher than what I told you yesterday. They’re about 23.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: But still, that’s a low figure.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: That’s just four above what we had.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: They must have picked up some missing in action. The trouble with the daily casualties is that they don’t reflect the ones that died that were wounded the previous week.

President Nixon: Yep, yep. Well, on the other hand, my God, Henry, to 19, 23, good heavens.

Kissinger: Oh, yeah.

President Nixon: It’s just down to nothing.

Kissinger: That’s right.

President Nixon: I mean it’s . . .

Kissinger: And the more I’ve thought about [North Vietnamese chief negotiator] Le Duc Tho coming

west . . .

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: I’m not saying they’re going to accept it, but if they were just going to kick us in the teeth, they wouldn’t leave him there.

President Nixon: No. No.

Kissinger: So they’re at least going to explore.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, I—particularly if our Chinese friends lean on him a little, he will.

Kissinger: That’s right, and he’s stopping in—

President Nixon: And they just might lean on him a little. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kissinger: Well, we’ll get the answer in a week or so.

President Nixon: Well, that’s—Haig was very disturbed by that New York Times thing.2 I thought that—

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, I think—

President Nixon: Unconscionable damn thing for them to do.

Kissinger: It is unconscionable [unclear].

President Nixon: Of course, it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s unconscionable on the part of the people that leaked it. Fortunately, it didn’t come out in our administration.3

Kissinger: That—

President Nixon: That appar—according to Haig, it all relates to the two previous administrations.

Kissinger: —that—

President Nixon: Is that correct?

Kissinger: That is right.4

President Nixon: But I hope the—but I—my point is it—are any of the people there who participated in this thing, who—in leaking it? That’s my point. Do we know?

Kissinger: In public opinion, it actually, if anything, will help us a little bit, because this is a gold mine of showing how the previous administration got us in there.

President Nixon: I didn’t read the thing. Tell—give me your view on that in a word.

Kissinger: Oh, well, it just shows massive mismanagement of how we got there. And it pins it all on Kennedy and Johnson.

President Nixon: [laughing] Huh. Yeah!

Kissinger: And McNamara. So from that point of view, it helps us. From the point of view of the relations with Hanoi, it hurts a little, because it just shows a further weakening of resolve.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And a further big issue. [Pause.]

President Nixon: I suppose the Times ran it to try to—try to affect the debate this week or something.

Kissinger: Oh, yes. No question about it.

President Nixon: Well, it—I don’t think it’s going to have that kind of effect.

Kissinger: No. No. Because it’s—in a way, it shows . . . what they’ve tried to do—I think they outsmarted themselves, because they had put themselves—they had sort of tried to make it “Nixon’s War,” and what this massively proves is that, if it’s anybody’s war, it’s Kennedy’s and Johnson’s.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: So that these Democrats now bleating about where it went wrong—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —or what we’re doing wrong, this graphically shows that—that who—who is responsible for the basic mess.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: So I don’t think it’s having the effect that they intend.

President Nixon: Well, you know . . . it’s—it may not have the effect they intend. They—the thing, though, that Henry, that to me is just unconscionable, this is treasonable action on the part of the bastards that put it out.

Kissinger: Exactly, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Doesn’t it involve secure information, a lot of other things? What kind of—what kind of people would do such things?

Kissinger: It has the most—it has the highest classifications, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: It’s treasonable. There’s no question it’s actionable. I’m absolutely certain that this violates all sorts of security laws.

President Nixon: What—what do we do about it? Don’t we ask for an—

Kissinger: I think I—I should talk to [Attorney General John N.] Mitchell.

President Nixon: Yeah.


NARA Excision

Category: Privacy
Duration: 33s

President Nixon: No, I think you should. You tell Mitchell that—

Kissinger: And this is not—an occasional leak is bad enough.

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: But this is everything the Defense Department possessed.

President Nixon: Yeah. Let me ask this: Call Mitchell. I think you should talk to Mitchell and ask him about his just calling this—getting this fellow in on the purpose of . . . this was a security leak, and we want to know what does he have, did he do it.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: And put him under oath.

Kissinger: That’s right. I think we ought to do that. I think we ought to wait until after—

President Nixon: Another thing to do would be to have a congressional committee call him in.

Kissinger: I think we ought to do it after Wednesday, Mr. President.

President Nixon: A congressional committee could call him in, put him under oath, you know, and then he’s guilty of perjury if he lies.

Kissinger: But I think we ought to wait until after the vote before they get it all confused.

President Nixon: Oh, I agree. Well, you couldn’t do it before then anyway, but, you know that—to get it all set up.

Kissinger: [Unclear] begin the investigation.

President Nixon: Because you’ve got to have the questions and the investigations and know what it is. Well, we’re not going to get disturbed. These things happen, you know. [former Defense Secretary Clark M.] Clifford pops off and this guy pops off. I would think it would infuriate Johnson, wouldn’t you?

Kissinger: Oh, God. Basically, it doesn’t hurt us domestically. I think—I’m no expert on that—but no one reading this can then say that this President got us into trouble. I mean, this is an indictment of the previous administration. It hurts us with Hanoi because it just shows how far our demoralization has gone.

President Nixon: Good God.

Kissinger: But basically, I think the decision they have to make is, do they want to settle with you? They know damn well that you’re the one who’s held firm and no matter how much anyone else is demoralized, doesn’t make any difference.

President Nixon: Yeah. Right. Right. Well, you’ll find things out there pleasant enough.


NARA Excision

Category: Personal Returnable
Duration: 7s

Editor’s note: While the National Archives log for this tape indicates a deletion of 7 seconds, the audio file indicates a deletion of 1 minute, 7 seconds.

President Nixon: Well, that’s a long trip for you, but I wouldn’t—that’s—and I—Don’t worry about this Times thing. I just think we’ve got to expect that kind of crap, and we just plow ahead, plow ahead. [Unclear.]

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, if we succeed in two out of three, as you said—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —this summer—

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: Well, this will look like pygmies.

President Nixon: If we can—[chuckles]. But, boy, you’re right about one thing. If anything was needed to underline what we talked about Friday—or Saturday morning, about . . . about really . . . really cleaning house when we have the opportunity, by God, this underlines it.

Kissinger: Oh, yes.

President Nixon: And people have got to be put to the torch for this sort of thing. This is terrible.

Kissinger: [Actor Freeman] Gosden was on that plane with me and he—

President Nixon: Freeman?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Yeah, he’s a great fellow.

Kissinger: Oh, he worships you.

President Nixon: What did he think about all of this stuff?

Kissinger: He said it’s just what you have to put up with. He said he could never imagine it. And he said, well, [former Secretary of State John Foster] Dulles—he blames the State Department, which is wrong in this case, because they had nothing to do with this one.

President Nixon: No. I know.

Kissinger: But he said Dulles always used to say that he had to operate alone because he couldn’t trust his own bureaucracy.

President Nixon: [laughing] Yeah, I know.

Kissinger: I said, well, that was good for Dulles, but we pay for it now, because we’re stuck with the bureaucracy.

President Nixon: That’s right. That’s right. Well, I just wish that we operated without the bureaucracy.

Kissinger: [laughing] Well, Mr. President.

President Nixon: We do.

Kissinger: [Laughs.] All the good things that are being done—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —are done without—

President Nixon: We do. We do. We do. Well, anyway, I’ll tell you what: On the Mitchell thing, I’d just have them—have him examine what the options are.


NARA Excision

Category: Privacy
Duration: 26s

President Nixon: And the Times will justify it on the basis that it serves the national interest. Is that right?

Kissinger: Of course.

President Nixon: My God! My God! You know, can you imagine the New York Times doing a thing like this ten years ago? Even ten years ago?

Kissinger: Mr. President—and then when McCarthy accused them of treason, they were screaming bloody murder. This is treason!

President Nixon: That’s right. No, whatever they may think of the policy, it is treasonable to take this stuff out and—

Kissinger: That’s right. Oh, it’s one thing to—

President Nixon: It serves the enemy.

Kissinger: Another thing to print ten pages of top secret documents that are only about two or three years old. Well, they have nothing from our administration, so actually, I’ve read this stuff. We come out pretty well in it.

President Nixon: [Chuckles.] Well, somebody over there has got the stuff that we've got, although we—I asked Haig about that, and he said, well, look, our file as far as the White House is concerned, we’re pretty damn secure. On the other hand, of course, naturally whenever I’ve had to call [Secretary of State William P.] Rogers and [Defense Secretary] Mel [Laird] in on some of these, on Laos and Cambodia, you can be sure all that’s in some file.

Kissinger: But Mr. President, all the big things you've done in the White House. And those files will leave with you.

President Nixon: Yeah. That’s right.

Kissinger: And go to the Nixon Library—

President Nixon: But what I meant, though, that’s true of the files, but I mean, these guys of course will have made in their own records—they’ll indicate what I’ve ordered, you know.

Kissinger: Oh, they indicate what you ordered, but they weren’t in on the reasoning.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, let’s not worry about that.


NARA Excision

Category: Personal Returnable
Duration: 1m 13s


2 Nixon was referring to the publication of a classified Defense Department study of the Vietnam War, better known as the Pentagon Papers. (↑)

3 The study dealt with Vietnam decision-making before Nixon took office. (↑)

4 That statement is not quite right. The study deals in less detail with the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. (↑)

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.