Richard Nixon and Richard G. Kleindienst on 25 April 1973


Transcript

Edited by Nicole Hemmer, with Ken Hughes, Kieran K. Matthews, and Marc J. Selverstone

During a conversation with Attorney General Richard G. Kleindienst—just five days before Kleindienst’s resignation amid the Watergate scandal—President Nixon considers the ascension of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew to the Oval Office, should Watergate ultimately lead to Nixon’s impeachment.

President Nixon

Hello?

Richard G. Kleindienst

Yes, sir.

President Nixon

Dick?

Kleindienst

Yes, sir.

President Nixon

I was just—did you get your call through to [David R.] Nissen?[note 1] David R. Nissen was an assistant U.S. attorney.

Kleindienst

Yes, I did.

President Nixon

Fine. What did you point out to him?

Kleindienst

Well . . . I pointed out to . . . to them, you know, the essential nature of it. [President Nixon acknowledges.] What their strategy is right now is to try to persuade the judge that we ought to have this as a trial hearing. They'll wait until the case is over [unclear] and have a hearing on this.

President Nixon

[Slight chuckle.] Right.

Kleindienst

Making the basic representation that no evidence came into our possession. [Unclear] not to do this, [unclear]

President Nixon

That's good.

Kleindienst

[unclear] et cetera.

President Nixon

Let me say one other thing. I don't know how you can get this to the judge, but I think it's very important for him to know that this is a national security investigation of the highest importance. It really is, you see?

Kleindienst

Right.

President Nixon

You know that and I know it.

Kleindienst

But that—and that's what we would intend to do. But our primary objective, you know, is to downplay it, get the trial over, have a post-trial hearing.

President Nixon

A post-trial for the purpose of what? Of—

Kleindienst

Well, determining whether there was any tainted evidence [unclear].

President Nixon

Well, that's the time to do it. Or do you agree? I don't know.

Kleindienst

Well, [President Nixon attempts to interject] [unclear] we can disclose to the judge. What we want to do is to say, "Judge, here it is. No information came from the department under the law. We can't make that determination. We would, I mean, bringing this to your attention. We would like the trial to go ahead and continue. If there's a verdict of acquittal, that ends it. If there's a verdict of guilty, then we'll have a pre—a post-trial hearing to determine whether there was any tainted evidence.

President Nixon

Now, on the—on that point, though, [chuckling] the acquittal and the rest doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference, [Kleindienst acknowledges] but the main point, Dick, is I want Nissen to know that this is a very important national security investigation, which it was.

Kleindienst

He has been informed of that fact.

President Nixon

He get the point, did he? [Kleindienst acknowledges.] Good deal.

Kleindienst

How it's played for this first go-around with the judge, you know, I think we have to just use our . . . use tactics here.

President Nixon

You mean, Nissen will tell the judge, right?

Kleindienst

Yes, he will.

President Nixon

Mm-hmm. You've got it across very strong to him that this is [Kleindienst acknowledges] terribly important?

Kleindienst

Yes, I did.

President Nixon

OK. Well, sleep well, boy.

Kleindienst

[laughing] Same to you.

President Nixon

[laughing] All right.

Kleindienst

Stay in there, Mr. President.

President Nixon

Look, what the hell, you know? People say there, "Impeach the President!" Well, then they get [Spiro T.] Agnew![note 2] Spiro T. Agnew was vice president of the United States, January 1969 to October 1973. What the hell?

Kleindienst

[Laughs.]

President Nixon

Huh? [Laughs.] Is that all right?

Kleindienst

There's not going to be anything like that [unclear].

President Nixon

All right, boy. All right.

Kleindienst

Good night, sir.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and Richard G. Kleindienst on 25 April 1973,” Conversation 038-159, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [“Vice President Agnew,” ed. Nicole Hemmer] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4003590