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Did Nixon Approve the Watergate Break-In?


[Released July 30, 2003]

In recent days, the Associated Press, Reuters, the Scripps Howard New Service, and others have published statements by Jeb Magruder in which he accused President Nixon of authorizing the Watergate break-in during a telephone conversation with John Mitchell on March 30, 1972. According to these press reports, Mr. Magruder makes the charge during a PBS documentary being broadcast tonight.

Mr. Magruder's reported statements are directly contradicted by his own memoir, An American Life (Atheneum, 1974), and by Nixon White House records which are maintained by the National Archives and available to reporters, television producers, and the general public.

In the detailed description in his book of his March 30, 1972 meeting in Key Biscayne with John Mitchell and Fred LaRue, Mr. Magruder does not mention a telephone call to Mr. Haldeman nor any interaction with the President or Mr. Ehrlichman. He also writes, "I know nothing to indicate that

Nixon was aware in advance of the plan to break into the Democratic headquarters."
Documents and tapes available at the National Archives also contradict Mr. Magruder's reported statements.

In the Scripps Howard report by Bill Straub, Mr. Magruder says that during the meeting, Mr. Mitchell asked him to call Bob Haldeman to discuss the proposed break-in plan. Mr. Straub quotes Mr. Magruder as saying that in the same conversation Mr. Mitchell spoke first to Mr. Haldeman and then to John Ehrlichman and finally to President Nixon, whose voice Mr. Magruder says he could hear through the receiver being held by Mr. Mitchell.

The White House Daily Diary, which details all the President's meetings and telephone calls, shows that Mr. Ehrlichman did not meet or talk with President Nixon at any time on March 30, 1972. According to a review of the day's White House tape recordings, which are available to the public at the Nixon Project in College Station, Maryland, as well as detailed logs of the tapes as prepared by U.S. archivists, none of the participants in any of the President's meetings placed or took a telephone call from Key Biscayne or from Messrs. Mitchell or Magruder. If the President had spoken by telephone with Mr. Mitchell as described by Mr. Magruder, it would have been captured by microphones on his telephone and in his office.