Monday, June 14, 1971 - 7:13pm - 7:15pm
Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman
White House Telephone

President Nixon: Hello.

White House Operator: It’s [chief domestic policy adviser] Mr. [John D.] Ehrlichman calling you, sir.

President Nixon: Yeah, OK.

White House Operator: Here you are.

John D. Ehrlichman: Thanks. Hello?

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: Mr. President—

President Nixon: Hi, John.

Ehrlichman: —the Attorney General has called a couple times about these New York Times stories, and he’s advised by his people that unless he puts the Times on notice—2

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman:—he’s probably going to waive any right of prosecution against the newspaper. And he is calling now to see if you would approve his putting them on notice before their first edition for tomorrow comes out.

President Nixon: Hmm.

Ehrlichman: I realize there are negatives to this in terms of the vote on the Hill.3

President Nixon: You mean, to prosecute the Times?

Ehrlichman: Right.

President Nixon: Hell, I wouldn’t prosecute the Times. My view is to prosecute the goddamn pricks that gave it to them.

Ehrlichman: Yeah, if you can find out who that is.

President Nixon: Yeah, I know. I mean, could the Times be prosecuted?

Ehrlichman: Apparently so. [Pause.]

President Nixon: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. They . . . on the other hand, they’re going to run another story tomorrow.

Ehrlichman: Right.

President Nixon: Why doesn’t he just wait until after that one?

Ehrlichman: Well, his point is that he feels he has to give them some sort of advance notice, and then if they go ahead and disregard, why then—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: —there’s no danger of waiver. But if he doesn’t give them notice, then it’s almost like entrapment: We sit here and let them go ahead on a course of conduct and don’t raise any objection.

President Nixon: Well, could he wait one more day? They have one more day after that. I don’t know. I don’t know.

Ehrlichman: He apparently feels under some pressure to either decide to do it or not do it.

President Nixon: Hmm. Does he have a judgment himself as to whether he wants to or not?

Ehrlichman: Yeah, I think he wants to. You might want to give him a call and talk with him about it directly, as I’m not very well posted on this whole thing.

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. How do you feel about it?

Ehrlichman: Well, I’d kind of like to have a cause of action against them in the sock in case we needed it. I’d hate to waive something as good as that. But I don’t know what the ramifications would be in terms of the Hill.

President Nixon: Oh, hell. It isn’t going to affect the vote, in my opinion, just . . . [long pause]. Mm-hmm.

Ehrlichman: Would you want to take a call from him?

President Nixon: Oh yeah, I’ll call him, I’ll call him.

Ehrlichman: All right. Good.

President Nixon: OK. Thank you.


1 A 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. 104–105. (↑)

2 On 13 June 1971 the New York Times had begun publishing articles on the Pentagon Papers, a large, classified study of Vietnam decision-making. (↑)

3 Nixon had assumed that the Times was running the Pentagon Papers stories to influence the Senate vote on a troop withdrawal timetable for Vietnam. (↑)

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