Wednesday, June 16, 1971 - 8:22pm - 8:25pm
Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman
White House Telephone

President Nixon: Hello.

John D. Ehrlichman: Yes, sir.

White House Operator: [Chief Domestic Policy Adviser] Mr. [John D.] Ehrlichman.

President Nixon: Yeah, John, I [was] just reading the memorandum with regard to the grand jury thing. Have you talked to [Attorney General John N.] Mitchell about it? Is--”?

Ehrlichman: No, I haven't, I thought I'd better clear [it] with you first.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: Because I didn't know what you might have been talking with him about.

President Nixon: No, I haven't talked to him about it. No.

Ehrlichman: I'll give him a call tonight.

President Nixon: Fine. . . . Well, what--”how does--”your thought is to--”I mean, it isn't a question, I mean, the delay is one thing, I think, in terms of reconsidering whether we go ahead with it, of course, is something else. That's something that has profound implications, you know.

Ehrlichman: Sure. I understand. It just occurred to me today as I read the pleadings--”

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: --”that there was a possibility that we could get the kind of an adverse finding on the merits--”

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: --”in this--”

President Nixon: Right.

Ehrlichman: --”hearing that we really ought to have a chance to take a look at.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: If we once launch that grand jury and then get an adverse ruling from the court and stop it, then I think we've got a bad--”

President Nixon: Well--”

Ehrlichman: --”face off.

President Nixon: What does it really get down to? If you delay it, does that mean the Times goes ahead and--”the temporary restraining order [TRO] apparently applies for four days only, is that right?

Ehrlichman: It expires by its terms Saturday at noon or one o'clock.

President Nixon: So they'd go ahead and print.

Ehrlichman: They'd print the Sunday edition anyway, regardless of what the grand jury did.

President Nixon: Yeah. I'm not too concerned about what they print now. The point is you don't want to have an adverse--”

Ehrlichman: I don't want to appear to be calling off a grand jury in mid-flight.

President Nixon: Right. Right. That makes a lot of sense. Well have you talked to [Assistant Attorney Genearl for the Internal Security Division Robert C.] Mardian about it?

Ehrlichman: No, I'll give [Attorney General] John Mitchell a call and--”

President Nixon: Whoever you think is really in charge, you know.

Ehrlichman: All right.

President Nixon: You might call and chat a bit a bit about it.

Ehrlichman: All right.

President Nixon: It's--”I agree with you, it's important not to have an adverse court ruling right in the face of all this. But--”

Ehrlichman: Well, I'll get his estimate--”

President Nixon: We have to go--”naturally we have to go forward on the--”one way or another on the--”not only on the Times but on the person who--”obviously the FBI thing can go forward, I understand.

Ehrlichman: Right.

President Nixon: That is going forward, is it not?

Ehrlichman: Right. That's very vigorously under way.

President Nixon: Don't you have to--”now on that, does that require a grand jury, or how does that work?

Ehrlichman: It would, you see, but there isn't any reason why they can't go ahead and finish their investigation and then convene--”

President Nixon: Right.

Ehrlichman: --”the grand jury on Monday, instead of on Thursday.

President Nixon: Yeah. And let the--”

Ehrlichman: And, then you'll know what the court did on the TRO.

President Nixon: In effect, let the Times go ahead and print?

Ehrlichman: Sure--”if we get an adverse ruling. I think the chances are that the court will grant an injunction.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: Pending a trial on the merits.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: Or, he'll extend the TRO, one or the other.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: But that's just a hunch. Because the issues are very complex. I'd be very surprised if he could dispose of them Friday or Saturday.

President Nixon: Yeah, they are complex, I know. Yeah. All right, well, you--”

Ehrlichman: I'll talk with him.

President Nixon: --”sort of talk to John--”

Ehrlichman: Right.

President Nixon: Kick it around. OK?

Ehrlichman: Fine.

President Nixon: 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. 115--“117. (↑)

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