The Smoking Gun

Date: 
Friday, June 23, 1972 - 10:04am - 11:39am
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman
Location: 
Oval Office
Listen: 


Bob Haldeman: —on the investigation, you know, the Democratic break-in thing, we’re back in the problem area because the FBI is not under control because [L. Patrick] Gray doesn’t exactly know how to control them.1 And they have—their investigation is now leading into some productive areas, because they’ve been able to trace the money, not through the money itself, but through the bank, you know, sources—the banker himself. And it goes in some directions we don’t want it to go. Also, there have been some things, like an informant came in off the street to the FBI in Miami with—who is a photographer or has a friend who’s a photographer, who developed some films through this guy, [Bernard] Barker, and the films had pictures of Democratic National Committee letterhead documents and things. So he’s got . . . there’s things like that that are going to, that are filtering in. [John] Mitchell came up with yesterday, and John Dean analyzed very carefully last night and concludes—concurs now with Mitchell’s recommendation that the only way to solve this—and we’re set up beautifully to do it, in that the only network that paid any attention to it last night was NBC, who did a massive story on the Cuban—

President Nixon: That’s right.

Haldeman: —thing. But the way to handle this now is for us to have [Vernon] Walters call Pat Gray and just say, “Stay the hell out of this.2 This is—there’s some business here we don’t want you going any further on.” That’s not an unusual development.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman:
And that would take care of it.

President Nixon: What’s the matter with Pat Gray. You mean he doesn’t want to?

Haldeman: Pat does want to. He doesn’t know how to, and he doesn’t have any basis for doing it. Given this, he will then have the basis. He’ll call Mark Felt in, and the two of them—and Mark Felt wants to cooperate because he’s ambitious.3

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Haldeman: He’ll call them in and say, “We’ve gotten a signal from across the river to put the hold on this.” And that’ll fit rather well because the FBI agents who are working the case, at this point, feel that’s what it is: [that] this is CIA.

President Nixon: But they’re tracing the money to whom?

Haldeman:
Well they have—they’ve traced to a name, but they haven’t gotten to the guy yet.

President Nixon: Who is it? Is it somebody here?

Haldeman: Ken Dahlberg.

President Nixon: Who the hell is Ken Dahlberg?

Haldeman: He’s a—he gave $25,000 in Minnesota and the check went directly in to this guy Barker.

President Nixon: Well, maybe he’s a . . . He didn’t—I mean, this isn’t from the Committee, though; this is from [Maurice] Stans.Committee to Re-elect the President, or CREEP. Maurice Stans was the finance chairman of CREEP.

Haldeman: Yeah. It is. It was . . . It’s directly traceable and there’s some more through some Texas people in—that went to the Mexican bank which they can also trace through the Mexican bank. They’ll get their names today. And—

President Nixon: Well, I mean, there’s no way that—I’m just thinking if they don’t cooperate, what do they say? That they were approached by the Cubans? That’s what Dahlberg has to say, and the Texans too. [Unclear.]

Haldeman: Well, if they will. But then we’re relying on more and more people all the time. That’s the problem. And it does stop if we could, if we take this other step.

President Nixon: All right. Fine.

Haldeman: And they seem to feel the thing to do is to get them to stop.

President Nixon: All right, fine.

Haldeman: And they say the only way to do that is a White House instruction, and that it’s got to be to [Richard] Helms and, what’s his name? Walters.4

President Nixon: Walters.

Haldeman: And the proposal would be that Ehrlichman [clears throat] and I call them in—

President Nixon: All right, fine.

Haldeman: And say—

President Nixon: How do you call them in? I mean you just—well, we protected Helms from one hell of a lot of things.

Haldeman: That’s what Ehrlichman says.

President Nixon: Of course, this is a—[E. Howard] Hunt will—that will uncover a lot of—he had a lot of [unclear] when you open that scab there’s a hell of a lot of things and then “we just feel that this would be very detrimental to have this thing go any further, that this involves these Cubans, and Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.” Well, what the hell, did Mitchell know about this thing [unclear]?

Haldeman: I think so. I don’t think he knew the details, but I think he knew.

President Nixon: He didn’t know how it was going to be handled though, with Dahlberg and the Texans and so forth? Well, who was the asshole that did [unclear]? Is it [Gordon] Liddy? If that the fellow? He must be a little nuts.

Haldeman: He is.

President Nixon: I mean, he just isn’t well screwed on is he? Isn’t that the problem?

Haldeman: No, but he was under pressure, apparently, to get more information, and as he got more pressure, he pushed the people harder to move harder on—

President Nixon: Pressure from Mitchell?

Haldeman: Apparently.

President Nixon: Oh, Mitchell, Mitchell—is that the point that you made? [Unclear.]

Haldeman: [Unclear.] Yeah.

President Nixon:
All right, fine. I understand it all. We won’t second-guess Mitchell and the rest. Thank God it wasn’t [Charles] Colson.

Haldeman: The FBI interviewed Colson yesterday. They determined that that would be a good thing to do.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: To have him take a—

President Nixon: Good.

Haldeman: —an interrogation, which he did, and that—the FBI guys working the case had concluded that there were one or two possibilities: One, that this was a White House . . . They don’t think that there’s anything about the Election Committee. They think it was either a White House operation that had some obscure reasons for it, non-political—

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: Or it was a—

President Nixon: Cuban—

Haldeman: The Cubans and the CIA. And after their interrogation of—

President Nixon: Colson.

Haldeman: Colson, yesterday, they concluded it was not White House, so they are now convinced it is a CIA thing. So the CIA turnoff would—

President Nixon: Well, I [unclear] Helms [unclear] get that closely involved.

Haldeman: No, sir. We don’t want you to.

President Nixon: You call him. Good. Good deal. Play it tough. That’s the way they play it, and that’s the way we’re going to play it.

Haldeman: OK.

  • 1. L. Patrick Gray was acting director of the FBI.
  • 2. General Vernon Walters was deputy director of the CIA.
  • 3. W. Mark Felt was a senior FBI official. In May 2005 he was identified as Bob Woodward’s source widely known as “Deep Throat.”
  • 4. Richard Helms was Director of Central Intelligence.

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