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Report: Tapes show Nixon ordered break-ins

Nixon October 26, 1997
Web posted at: 4:29 p.m. EST (2129 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former President Richard Nixon ordered his advisers to dig up dirt on the Democrats and commit two break-ins to go after enemies, Newsweek magazine reports in its latest edition.

The report was based on White House tapes transcribed for the first time by Newsweek and The Washington Post.

In its November 3 issue, Newsweek reports the tapes show Nixon wanted to smear past Democratic presidents and try to find documents that would make President Franklin D. Roosevelt look responsible for the success of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

"We're gonna expose, God, Pearl Harbor," Nixon said.

The magazine reports Nixon wanted government files ransacked to find anything that could be leaked to smear Democrats.

Nixon was certain there were untold stories about the Bay of Pigs incident and the Kennedy administration's 1962 Cuban missile crisis and brushes with nuclear war over Berlin in 1961.

To get those documents, Nixon would have to break into the National Archives. The magazine reports that the tapes show Nixon aide John Ehrlichman proposing to send "the archivist out of town for awhile," then photographing the documents and resealing them.

"There are ways to do that?" asked Nixon. "Yes," replied Ehrlichman, "and nobody can tell we've been in there."

The tapes were recorded in the White House in June and July of 1971, after the publication of the Pentagon Papers in The New York Times.

Nixon wanted to use the media to "destroy" the leaker of the papers, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department official. Nixon believed that an Ellsberg conspiracy was being run out of the Brookings Institute.

"I want a break-in," ordered Nixon on June 30, according to the tapes transcribed by the magazine. "Get it done. ... I want the Brookings safe cleaned out. And have it cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else look bad."

Other excerpts from the tapes reported by Newsweek:

  • Nixon wanted the Internal Revenue Service to "go after a couple of media people ... Dan Schorr (then of CBS, later with CNN and now NPR), Mary McGrory (then of the Washington Star)."

    The Los Angeles Times publisher back then, Otis Chandler, was mentioned too. "I want him checked out with regard to his gardener, I understand he's a wetback."

  • On September 13, 1971, Nixon ordered aide H.R. Haldeman to have the tax men go after prominent Democratic campaign donors.

    "Please get me the name of the Jews. You know, " said Nixon, "the big Jewish contributors of the Democrats."

  • Nixon wanted to exploit Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy's fatal car accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969 by making an advertisement showing a picture of Kennedy with the caption, "Would you ride in a car with this man?"

 
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