Taking Back Our Stolen History
The Watergate Break-In: A CIA Coup to Overthrow US President Richard Nixon
The Watergate Break-In: A CIA Coup to Overthrow US President Richard Nixon

The Watergate Break-In: A CIA Coup to Overthrow US President Richard Nixon

On June 17, 1972, a group of burglars, carrying electronic surveillance equipment, was arrested inside the Democratic National Committee offices at 2650 Virginia Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C., the Watergate building complex. The men were quickly identified as having ties to the Nixon reelection campaign and to the White House.

Though at the time the incident got little attention, it would snowball into one of the biggest crises in American political history, define Richard Nixon forever, and drive him out of the White House. Most historical accounts judge Nixon responsible in some way for the Watergate burglary — or at least for an effort to cover it up. And many people believe Nixon got what he deserved.

But like other epic events, Watergate turns out to be an entirely different story from an the one we thought we knew.

Below, Roger Stone tells Lew Rockwell about the CIA coup of Watergate and why Nixon was pardoned.

President Nixon sends in a team of burglars to wiretap Democratic offices at Watergate in Washington, DC. The team members have extensive CIA histories, including James McCord, E. Howard Hunt and five of the Cuban burglars. They work for the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP), which does dirty work like disrupting Democratic campaigns and laundering Nixon’s illegal campaign contributions. CREEP’s activities are funded and organized by another CIA front, the Mullen Company. The CIA’s main collaborating newspaper in America, The Washington Post, reports Nixon’s crimes long before any other newspaper takes up the subject. The two reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, make almost no mention of the CIA’s many fingerprints all over the scandal. It is later revealed that Woodward was a Naval intelligence briefer to the White House, and knows many important intelligence figures, including General Alexander Haig. His main source, “Deep Throat,” is probably one of those. In the months that followed, investigative reporting from the New York Times and Washington Post revealed what looked to be a conspiracy to cover up the break-in at the highest possible levels of government. Meanwhile, Nixon and members of his administration continuously denied any involvement.

Throughout the process, prominent administration officials were fired — some even indicted and sent to jail. The Senate launched an investigation into Nixon’s involvement and the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over secret tapes from the Oval Office. Then, on August 8, 1974, while the House of Representatives was on the verge of impeaching him, Nixon resigned from the presidency.

In 1974, the House of Representatives clears the CIA of any complicity in Nixon’s Watergate break-in.

Watergate was a coup d’etat to deflect attention from the CIA. The family of central banker Eugene Meyer owns The Washington Post, which has long established ties to the CIA. Nixon’s Watergate missteps were an excuse to remove a popular President who had just won a landslide victory and had become a threat to central banker hegemony. According to Seymour Hersh, in an article entitled “The Pardon,” (Atlantic Monthly, Aug. 1983, p.69) a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recalled that on Dec. 22, 1973, Nixon tried to get military support to resist the “eastern elite.”

“He kept on referring to the fact that he may be the last hope, [that] the eastern elite was out to get him. He kept saying, “This is our last and best hope. The last chance to resist the fascists [of the Left].” (William T. Still, New World Order, Ancient Plan of Secret Societies, p. 12)

According to Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin (The Unauthorized Biography of George Bush): “The reason the Watergate scandal escalated into the overthrow of Nixon has to do with the international monetary crisis of those years, and with Nixon’s inability to manage the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the US dollar in a way satisfactory to the Anglo-American financial elite…

“Broadly speaking, Watergate was a coup d’etat which was instrumental in laying the basis for the specific new type of authoritarian-totalitarian regime which now rules the United States. The purpose of the coup was to rearrange the dominant institutions of the US government so as to enhance their ability to carry out policies agreeable to the increasingly urgent dictates of the British [re. Rothschild] -dominated Morgan- Rockefeller-Mellon-Harriman financier faction.” http://www.tarpley.net/bush12.htm


As I have said, sham democracy is the bankers’ preferred method of social control. They groom the candidates, own the media and pay the talking heads. If an elected official gets silly notions about defending the national interest, they arrange a plane cash or an impeachment.

Until 1972, Richard Nixon had been a compliant pawn of the Rothschild-Rockefeller cabal. In 1947, he answered an ad placed by some powerful businessmen looking for someone to run for Congress. The advertiser was none other than Prescott Bush, grandfather of Dubya, and a partner in Rothschild banking asset Brown Brothers Harriman.

After his humiliating defeat to California Governor Pat Brown in 1962, Nixon worked for John Mitchell, Nelson Rockefeller’s personal attorney and lived rent-free in a posh apartment owned by Nelson Rockefeller. His job was to become President in 1968 when, to the consternation of his conservative supporters, he pursued Rockefeller’s “internationalist” polices.

The bankers pulled the plug on Nixon because he was becoming unmanageable. Already before 1972, Nixon is heard on tape agreeing with Billy Graham that something had to be done about the “Jewish stranglehold” on the mass media or the “country will go down the drain.” He also referred to elite-party-place Bohemian Grove as “the most faggy goddamn thing I’ve ever seen”.


Jim Hougan, co-author “Silent Coup: The Removal of a President “(1992) believes Felt was badgered into playing this role by family and friends. Felt is 91 years old, and counting. A reporter who recently interviewed him found the interview an incoherent waste of time, and killed his own story.

According to Houghton, Felt wrote a book about his career in the FBI. In it, he goes out of the way to say that he met Woodward on a single occasion. This was in Felt’s FBI office, and the upshot of it was that Felt told Woodward that he would not cooperate with him in his pursuit of “Watergate.”

Houghton says no one in or around the Nixon White House was in a position to know all of the things that Throat is alleged to have told Woodward. For example, Felt had no way of knowing about the 18-and-a-half minute gap in Rosemary Woods’ tape. This strongly suggests that Throat was a composite.

“What we have here, then, is the sad spectacle of an old man being manipulated,” says Houghton. “The only person who meets [the Deep Throat] criterion, to my knowledge, is Robert Bennett. Now one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Senate, Bennett was President of the Robert R. Mullen Company in 1972-3. This was the CIA front for which Howard Hunt worked.”

Houghton obtained a memo under the Freedom of Information Act in which Bennett admits he is briefing Bob Woodward. “Woodward’s gratefulness was manifest in the way he kept the CIA, in general, and the Robert R. Mullen Company, in particular, out of his stories.”

Source: http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/ (scroll down)


The carefully staged event illustrates how far it has gone from being guardian of the public interest to being an instrument of mass deception and social control. In the New World Order, traitors like Bob Woodward and Mark Felt are “heroes” while our defenders like Richard Nixon are defamed.

George Orwell famously said, “He who controls the past controls the future.” If the best values of Western Civilization are to survive, historical truth clearly is something we must struggle to uphold.

Excerpts from his book ‘Family of Secrets’ by Russ Baker

Hanky-Panky, Cuban-Style

Almost no one has better expressed reasons to doubt Nixon’s involvement than Nixon himself. In his memoirs, Nixon described how he learned about the burglary while vacationing in Florida, from the morning newspaper. He recalled his reaction at the time:

“It sounded preposterous. Cubans in surgical gloves bugging the DNC! I dismissed it as some sort of prank… The whole thing made so little sense. Why, I wondered. Why then? Why in such a blundering way…  Anyone who knew anything about politics would know that a national committee headquarters was a useless place to go for inside information on a presidential campaign. The whole thing was so senseless and bungled that it almost looked like some kind of a setup.”

Nixon was actually suggesting not just a setup, but one intended to harm him. Perhaps because anything he might say would seem transparently self-serving, this claim received little attention and has been largely forgotten.

Notwithstanding Nixon’s initial reaction to the news of the break-in, less than a week later he suddenly learned more — and this gave him much to ponder.

On June 23, Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. “Bob” Haldeman, came into the Oval Office to give the president an update on a variety of topics, including the investigation of the break-in. Haldeman had just been briefed by John Dean, who had gotten his information from FBI investigators.

HALDEMAN: …The FBI agents who are working the case, at this point, feel that’s what it is. This is CIA….

President Richard Nixon sitting before Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman. Photograph of Nixon and Haldeman, surrounded by telegrams from people reacting to a speech. Photo credit: The White House / Wikimedia and The White House / Nixon Library

Nixon’s response would show that he had already realized this:

NIXON: Of course, this is a, this is a [E. Howard] Hunt [operation, and exposure of it] will uncover a lot of things. You open that scab there’s a hell of a lot of things and that we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have this thing go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves… This will open the whole Bay of Pigs thing…

Of course, it is important to remember that Nixon knew every word he uttered was being recorded. Like his predecessors Kennedy and Johnson, he had decided to install a taping system so that he could maintain a record of his administration. He was, in a way, dictating a file memo for future historians.

But that doesn’t make everything he said untrue. While Nixon undoubtedly spun some things, he still had to communicate with his subordinates, and the tape was rolling while he was trying to run the country. Those were actual meetings and real conversations, tape or no tape. And though the result was 3,700 hours of White House tape recordings, Nixon evinced merely sporadic consciousness of the fact that the tape was rolling. Only after his counsel John Dean defected to the prosecutors did Nixon appear to be tailoring his words.

President Nixon working in his office at the Executive Office Building, January 17, 1974. John Dean photo portrait as White House Counsel. Photo credit: The White House / Wikimedia

Nixon’s memoirs, combined with the tape of June 23, make clear that Nixon recognized certain things about the implementation of the burglary.

The caper was carried out by pros, yet paradoxically was amateurish, easily detected — an instigation of the crime more easily pinned on someone else. A break-in at Democratic Party headquarters: On whom would that be blamed? Well, who was running against a Democrat for reelection that fall? Why, Richard Nixon of course.

Nixon, who frequently exhibited a grim and self-pitying awareness of how he generally was portrayed, might have grasped how this would play out publicly. Dick Nixon: ruthless, paranoid, vengeful — Tricky Dick. Wouldn’t this burglary be just the kind of thing that that Dick Nixon — the “liberal media’s” version of him — would do? Nixon’s opponent, George McGovern, made this charge repeatedly during the 1972 campaign.

Though Nixon would sweep the election, it would become increasingly apparent to him that, where Watergate was concerned, the jury was stacked. The path was set. Someone had him in a corner.

But who?

Many people, including those within Nixon’s own base of support, were not happy with him — even from early in his administration. As Haldeman noted in his diary, one month after the inauguration in 1969:

Also got cranking on the political problem. [President’s] obviously concerned about reports (especially Buchanan’s) that conservatives and the South are unhappy. Also he’s annoyed by constant right-wing bitching, with never a positive alternative. Ordered me to assemble a political group and really hit them to start defending us, including Buchanan… [and political specialist Harry] Dent.

There would be growing anger in the Pentagon about Nixon and Kissinger’s secret attempts to secure agreements with China and the Soviet Union without consulting the military. And there were the oilmen, who found Nixon wasn’t solid enough on their most basic concerns, such as the oil depletion allowance and oil import quotas.

As for the burglary crew, Nixon recognized them instantly, because he knew what they represented. While serving as vice president, Nixon had overseen some covert operations and served as the “action officer” for the planning of the Bay of Pigs, of which these men were hard-boiled veterans.

They had been out to overthrow Fidel Castro, and if possible, to kill him.

Nixon had another problem. These pros were connected to the CIA, and as we shall see, Nixon was not getting along well with the agency.

He had no way of knowing that, two years later, his conversation with Haldeman would be publicly revealed and construed as that of a man in control of a plot — rather than the target of one.

One of the main reasons we fundamentally misunderstand Watergate is that the guardians of the historical record focused only on selected parts of Nixon’s taped conversations, out of context. Consider a widely cited portion of a June 23 meeting tape, which would become known forever as the “smoking gun” conversation:

HALDEMAN: The way to handle this now is for us to have [CIA deputy director Vernon] Walters call [FBI interim director] Pat Gray and just say, “Stay the hell out of this… this is ah, business here we don’t want you to go any further on it.”

NIXON: Um hum.

Short excerpts like this seem especially damning. This one sounds right off the bat like a cover-up — Nixon using the CIA to suppress an FBI investigation into the break-in.

But these utterances take on a different meaning when considered with other, less publicized parts of the same conversation. A prime example: Haldeman went on to tell Nixon that Pat Gray, the acting FBI director, had called CIA director Richard Helms and said,

“I think we’ve run right into the middle of a CIA covert operation.”

Although the first excerpt above sounds like a discussion of a cover-up, when we consider the information about the CIA involvement, it begins to seem as if Nixon is not colluding.

He may well have been refusing to take the rap for something he had not authorized — and certainly not for something that smelled so blatantly like a trap. Nixon would have understood that if the FBI were to conduct a full investigation and conclude that the break-in was indeed an illegal operation of the CIA, it would all be blamed squarely on the man who supposedly had ultimate authority over both agencies — him.

[box type=”shadow” ]2016 FOIA Update! (August 30, 2016)

Judicial Watch Uncovers CIA Inspector General’s ‘Watergate History’ Report

(Washington, DC)  Judicial Watch today released a new document obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) through litigation (Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency (No. 1:16-cv-00146)) titled: “Working Draft – CIA Watergate History,” that was prepared by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.  The document was, “compiled during the latter part of 1973 and 1974.”  The introduction to the agency history states: “Undertaken as an internal CIA review of the matter, it is incomplete and remains a working paper.”  The CIA evidently never finalized the report.

The report reveals that Lieutenant General Vernon A. Walters, the Deputy Director of the CIA, met with Acting Director L. Patrick Gray of the FBI on July 12, 1972, to discuss assistance the CIA had provided to retired CIA officer E. Howard Hunt, of the White House Special Investigations Unit (“The Plumbers”).  CIA assistance to The Plumbers was terminated in August 1971.  The report states the CIA assistance had been at the request of the White House for the purported purpose of tracking down security leaks in the government.

During the July 12, 1972, meeting, Gray told Walters that he had received a call from President Nixon.  During the call, “He [Gray] told the President that he had talked to Walters and that both Walters and Gray felt the President should get rid of the people involved in the cover-up, no matter how high. Gray said he had also told this to Dean.”

Also of note is the identification of Eugenio “Musculito” Martinez as the only one of the Watergate burglars still actively being paid by the CIA at the time of the arrests on June 17, 1972.  At one point, the report quoted a CIA attorney referring to Martinez, in discussions with lawyers from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) on October 12, 1973, as “an agent.”

“Under no circumstances would the Agency give up all records relating to the Agency’s relationship with Martinez,” the CIA lawyer told WSPF, for to do so would represent “the breaking of trust of an agent.”

This means the CIA, at the time of the Watergate break-in, had “an agent” planted on the break-in team. (The FBI determined that when arrested, Martinez possessed a key to the desk of Maxie Wells, the secretary to Democratic Party official R. Spencer Oliver whose telephone was wiretapped in the Watergate break-in operation.) While Martinez’s dual role has been discussed in other Watergate histories, the declaration by CIA lawyers of Martinez’s status as “an agent” appears to add new information to the Watergate saga.

Totaling 155 pages, the declassified Secret CIA report discusses the national security environment in 1971, specifically the impact of the New York Times publication of the “Pentagon Papers,” unlawfully released by RAND Corporation military analyst Daniel Ellsberg. The establishment of the Plumbers and the CIA support requests for assistance from E. Howard Hunt are also chronicled. Another section of the report details CIA involvement in preparing a psychological profile of Daniel Ellsberg.

With respect to the Watergate incident specifically, the report describes the interaction of senior CIA officials with the Department of Justice, the FBI and White House staff. Official memoranda of record and telephone call transcripts by key government officials such as Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms and Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray are quoted and excerpted at length.

The report features a three-page summary of a November 19, 1973, WSPF interview of James Jesus Angleton, the Associate Deputy Director of Operations for Counterintelligence at the CIA from 1954 to 1975. Mr. Angleton discussed leaks of classified information to the media; reporter Seymour Hersh; the likelihood of copies of the Pentagon Papers being delivered to the Soviet Embassy; “Soviet methods of recruiting foreigners as agents and their use of leaks, i.e., Jack Anderson;” and, the Soviet Disinformation Program.

“This CIA Watergate report is an extraordinary historical document,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “Given it discloses direct CIA involvement in Watergate, it is no surprise it took 42 years and a Judicial Watch lawsuit to force its release.”[/box]

And doubly so, since the burglars and their supervisors were tied not just to the CIA but also directly back to Nixon’s reelection committee and the White House itself.

President Richard Nixon with CIA Director Richard Helms. Photo credit: CIA

Yet, however concerned Nixon certainly must have been at this moment, he played it cool. He concurred with the advice that his chief of staff was passing along from the counsel John Dean, which was to press the CIA to clean up its own mess.

If the CIA was involved, then the agency would have to ask the FBI to back off. The CIA itself would have to invoke its perennial escape clause — say that national security was at stake. This must have sounded to Nixon like the best way to deal with a vexing and shadowy situation.

He had no way of knowing that, two years later, his conversation with Haldeman would be publicly revealed and construed as that of a man in control of a plot — rather than the target of one.

Sniffing Around the Bay of Pigs

How could Nixon have so quickly gotten a fix on the Watergate crew? He might have recognized that the involvement of this particular group of Cubans, together with E. Howard Hunt — and the evidence tying them back to the White House — was in part a message to him. One of the group leaders, G. Gordon Liddy, would even refer to the team as a bunch of “professional killers.”

Indeed, several of this Bay of Pigs circle had gone to Vietnam to participate in the assassination-oriented Phoenix Program; as noted in chapter 7, Poppy Bush and his colleague, CIA operative Thomas Devine, had been in Vietnam at the peak of Phoenix, and Bush had ties to at least some from this émigré group.

So Nixon recognized this tough gang, but this time, they weren’t focused on Fidel Castro they were focused on Dick Nixon.

Hunt was a familiar figure from the CIA old guard. A near contemporary of Poppy Bush’s, but at Brown, Hunt had, as noted in earlier chapters, gone on to star in numerous agency foreign coup operations, including in Guatemala. He had worked closely with Cuban émigrés and had been in sensitive positions at the time John F. Kennedy was murdered and Lee Harvey Oswald named the lone assassin. Moreover, Hunt had been a staunch loyalist of Allen Dulles, whom Kennedy had ousted over the failed Bay of Pigs invasion; he allegedly even collaborated on Dulles’s 1963 book, The Craft of Intelligence.

Hunt was one connected fellow, and his presence in an operation of this sort, particularly with veterans of the Cuba invasion, was not something to pass over lightly. Nixon had further basis for viewing the events of Watergate with special trepidation. From the moment he entered office until the day, five and a half years later, when he was forced to resign, Nixon and the CIA had been at war. Over what? Over records dating back to the Kennedy administration and even earlier.

Left to right: Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell, President Kennedy and John McCone, April 1962. Map of Cuba Photo credit: CIA and Zleitzen / Wikimedia

Nixon had many reasons to be interested in the events of the early 1960s. As noted, he had been the “action officer” for the planning of the Bay of Pigs and the attempt to overthrow Castro. But even more interestingly, Nixon had, by coincidence, been in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and had left the city just hours before the man he barely lost to in 1960 had been gunned down.

Five years after the Kennedy assassination, as Richard Nixon himself assumed the presidency, one of his first and keenest instincts was to try to learn more about these monumental events of the past decade.

Both of Nixon’s chief aides, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, noted in their memoirs that the president seemed obsessed with what he called the “Bay of Pigs thing.” Both were convinced that when Nixon used the phrase, it was shorthand for something bigger and more disturbing.

Nixon did not tell even those closest to him what he meant.

When Nixon referred to the Bay of Pigs, he could certainly have been using it as a euphemism, because any way one thought about it, it spelled trouble. The Bay of Pigs invasion itself had been a kind of setup of another president.

JFK had made clear that he would not allow U.S. military forces to be used against Castro. When the invasion by U.S.-backed Cuban exiles failed, the CIA and the U.S. military hoped this would force Kennedy to launch an all-out invasion. Instead, he balked, and blamed Dulles and his associates for the botched enterprise, and, to their astonishment, forced them out of the agency. As noted in chapter 4, these were the roots of the hatred felt by Hunt, Dulles, and the Bush family toward Kennedy.

Nixon was keenly aware that Kennedy’s battle with powerful internal elements had preceded JFK’s demise. After all, governments everywhere have historically faced the reality that the apparatus of state security might have the chief of state in its gun sights — and that it certainly possesses the ability to act.

Moreover, Richard Nixon was a curious fellow. Within days of taking office in 1969, Nixon had begun conducting an investigation of his own regarding the turbulent and little-understood days leading up to the end of the Kennedy administration. He had ordered Ehrlichman, the White House counsel, to instruct CIA director Helms to hand over the relevant files, which surely amounted to thousands and thousands of documents. Six months later, Ehrlichman confided to Haldeman that the agency had failed to produce any of the files.

“Those bastards in Langley are holding back something,” a frustrated Ehrlichman told Haldeman. “They just dig their heels in and say the President can’t have it. Period. Imagine that. The Commander-in-Chief wants to see a document and the spooks say he can’t have it . . . From the way they’re protecting it, it must be pure dynamite.”

President Richard Nixon confers with assistants H. R. Haldeman, Dwight Chapin, and John D. Ehrlichman, March 13, 1970. Photo credit: The White House / National Archives

Nixon himself then summoned Helms, who also refused to help. Helms would later recall that Nixon “asked me for some information about the Bay of Pigs and I think about the Diem episode in Vietnam and maybe something about Trujillo in the Dominican Republic” — all events involving the violent removal of foreign heads of state.

Fidel Castro had managed to survive not only the Bay of Pigs but also multiple later assassination attempts. Diem and Trujillo were not so fortunate. And President Kennedy, who made a lot of Cuban enemies after the botched Bay of Pigs operations, had also succumbed to an assassin’s bullet. This was a legacy that might well seize the attention of one of Kennedy’s successors.

The explosiveness of the mysterious “Bay of Pigs thing” became abundantly apparent on June 23, 1972, the day Nixon instructed Haldeman to tell CIA director Helms to rein in the FBI’s Watergate investigation. Recalled Haldeman:

Then I played Nixon’s trump card. “The President asked me to tell you this entire affair may be connected to the Bay of Pigs, and if it opens up, the Bay of Pigs might be blown . . .”

Turmoil in the room, Helms gripping the arms of his chair, leaning forward and shouting, “The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with this. I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.” . . . I was absolutely shocked by Helms’ violent reaction. Again I wondered,what was such dynamite in the Bay of Pigs story?

Nixon made clear to his top aides that he was not only obsessed with the CIA’s murky past, but also its present. He seemed downright paranoid about the agency, periodically suggesting to his aides that covert operatives lurked everywhere. And indeed, as we shall see, they did.

In all likelihood, the practice of filling the White House with intelligence operatives was not limited to the Nixon administration, but an ongoing effort.

To the intelligence community, the White House was no different than other civil institutions it actively penetrated. Presidents were viewed less as elected leaders to be served than as temporary occupants to be closely monitored, subtly guided, and where necessary, given a shove.

If the CIA was in fact trying to implicate Nixon in Watergate (and, as we shall see, in other illegal and troubling covert operations), the goal might have been to create the impression that the agency was joined at the hip with Nixon in all things. Then, if Nixon were to pursue the CIA’s possible role in the assassination of Kennedy, the agency could simply claim that Nixon himself knew about these illegal acts, or was somehow complicit in them.

Part II

A Little Exposure Never Hurts

Something had been gnawing at Nixon since November 22, 1963. Why had he ended up in Dallas the very day the man who he believed had stolen the presidency from him was shot? Nixon had been asked to go there just a few weeks before, for the rather banal purpose of an appearance at a Pepsi-Cola corporate meeting—coinciding with a national soda pop bottlers’ convention. The potential implications could not have been lost on this most shrewd and
suspicious man.

Nixon was no shrinking violet in Dallas. He called a press conference in his hotel suite on November 21, the day before Kennedy’s murder, criticizing Kennedy’s policies on civil rights and foreign relations but also urging Texans to show courtesy to the president during his visit.

More significantly, he declared his belief that Kennedy was going to replace Vice President Johnson with a new running mate in 1964. This was an especially incendiary thing to say, since the whole reason for Kennedy’s visit was to cement his links to Texas Democrats, help bridge a gap between the populist and conservative wings of the state party, and highlight his partnership with Johnson. Nixon’s comment was hot enough that it gained a place in the early edition of the November 22 Dallas Morning News, under the headline “Nixon Predicts JFK May Drop Johnson.”

This was likely to get the attention of Johnson, who would be in the motorcade that day—and of conservatives generally, the bottlers included, whom Johnson had addressed as keynote speaker at their convention earlier in the week.

Nixon had finished his business and left the city by 9:05 on the morning of the twenty-second, several hours before Kennedy was shot. He learned of the event on his arrival back in New York City. Like most people, he no doubt was shocked and perhaps a bit alarmed. Many people, Nixon included, believed that Kennedy had stolen the presidential election in 1960 by fixing vote counts in Texas and Illinois.

At the very least, the appearance of Nixon’s November 21 press conference remarks in the newspaper just hours before Kennedy’s death was a stark reminder of the large and diverse group of enemies, in and out of politics, that JFK had accumulated.

Certainly, Nixon himself was sensitive to the notion that his appearance in Dallas had somehow contributed to Kennedy’s bloody fate. According to one account, Nixon learned of the assassination while in a taxi cab en route from the airport. He claimed at the time and in his memoirs that he was calm, but his adviser Stephen Hess remembered it differently. Hess was the first person in Nixon’s circle to see him that day in New York, and he recalled that “his reaction appeared to me to be, ‘There but for the Grace of God go I.’ He was very shaken.”

As Hess later told political reporter Jules Witcover: “He had the morning paper, which he made a great effort to show me, reporting he had held a press conference in Dallas and made a statement that you can disagree with a person without being discourteous to him or interfering with him. He tried to make the point that he had tried to prevent it . . . It was his way of saying, ‘Look, I didn’t fuel this thing.’ ”

Nixon’s presence in Dallas on November 22, 1963, along with LBJ’s— and Poppy Bush’s quieter presence on the periphery—created a rather remarkable situation. Three future presidents of the United States were all present in a single American city on the day when their predecessor was assassinated there. Within days, a fourth—Gerald Ford—would be asked by LBJ to join the Warren Commission investigating the event.

Continued on next page…