Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Friday, December 19, 2008
Goodbye, Mark Felt
The man who brought down Nixon died today at age 95.

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posted by JReid @ 8:55 PM  
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Dumb and dumber
ABC News uncovers audio of Richard Nixon describing a then young Senate counsel during the Watergate investigation, by the name of Fred Thompson (the video is available on Raw's website):
At one point in the tapes, which ABC News spent months examining at the National Archives, Nixon is told that Thompson has been appointed by Tennessee Senator Howard Baker to head the Republican end of the Senate investigation into Watergate.

"Baker has appointed Fred Thompson as minority counsel," says then Nixon aide HR Haledman.

"Oh shit, that kid," the dismayed president responds.

Later in the tapes, Nixon fretted that Thompson would be outwitted by his opposition in the Senate investigation, Democratic counsel Sam Dash.

"Dash is too smart for that kid," Nixon can be heard to say.

But the former president's most damning words for Fred Thompson came during a May 1973 conversation with then chief of staff Alexander Haig about concerns that the future senator wouldn't stand up strongly enough to Democrats.

"Oh shit, he's dumb as hell," Nixon says at the mention of Thompson's name. "Who's -- Who is he? He won't say anything."

The tapes also reveal an apparently close association between Thompson and the White House.

"[Thompson] is willing to work with us, he is also now willing to work with us on shifting some focus to the Democrats," White House counsel Fred Buzhardt told the president. "He's finally made up his mind he's got to start looking at some of their stuff."
What Nixon and Buzhardt were talking about in that last bit was Thompson's willingness to help the White House to undercut then WH counsel John Dean, who was by then cooperating with the Watergate probe. More from ABC News :
"They've finally got [Dean] under oath," Buzhardt says on a tape from June 11. "Uh, Thompson will work with us. So, good."

"Does he realize that Dean has some problems?" Nixon asks.

"Oh, yes sir," Buhardt responds. "Quite a few...He is willing to work with us; he is also now willing to work with us on shifting some focus to the Democrats. He's finally made up his mind; he's got to start looking at some of their stuff."

Later in the tape, Buzhardt says, "[Thompson is] willing to go, you know, pretty much the distance now. And he said he realized his responsibility was going to have to be as a Republican increasingly."

In his memoir of the Watergate era, Thompson admits to secretly alerting the White House to key evidence as it was discovered by congressional investigators.

Former Watergate committee investigator Scott Armstrong told ABC News that Thompson's cooperation with the White House undermined the investigation.

"It was the equivalent of two prosecutors knowing about something and one of them going behind the scenes and telling the person being accused what the witnesses were saying about him," Armstrong said.

Two months after Buzhardt's comments, Nixon resigned. Thompson would later take credit for helping to reveal the secret White House taping system that led to Nixon's downfall.
Almost like an episode of "Law and Order," only considerably less heroic at the end...

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posted by JReid @ 9:32 PM  
Friday, July 06, 2007
Fred Thompson: Nixon's mole
In today's Boston Globe, there's new information about Fred Thompson's true role in Watergate:

WASHINGTON -- The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.

Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.

"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."

Asked about the matter this week, Thompson -- who is preparing to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination -- responded via e-mail without addressing the specific charge of being a Nixon mole: "I'm glad all of this has finally caused someone to read my Watergate book, even though it's taken them over thirty years."

The view of Thompson as a Nixon mole is strikingly at odds with the former Tennessee senator's longtime image as an independent-minded prosecutor who helped bring down the president he admired. Indeed, the website of Thompson's presidential exploratory committee boasts that he "gained national attention for leading the line of inquiry that revealed the audio-taping system in the White House Oval Office." It is an image that has been solidified by Thompson's portrayal of a tough-talking prosecutor in the television series "Law and Order."

But the story of his role in the Nixon case helps put in perspective Thompson's recent stance as one of the most outspoken proponents of pardoning I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Just as Thompson once staunchly defended Nixon, Thompson urged a pardon for Libby, who was convicted in March of obstructing justice in the investigation into who leaked a CIA operative's name.

Thompson declared in a June 6 radio commentary that Libby's conviction was a "shocking injustice . . . created and enabled by federal officials." Bush on Monday commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, stopping short of a pardon.

The intensity of Thompson's remarks about Libby is reminiscent of how he initially felt about Nixon. Few Republicans were stronger believers in Nixon during the early days of Watergate. ...

Thompson, in his 1975 memoir, wrote that he believed "there would be nothing incriminating" about Nixon on the tapes, a theory he said "proved totally wrong."

The more things change...

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posted by JReid @ 8:23 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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