Richard Nixon, John D. Ehrlichman, H. R. “Bob” Haldeman, Henry A. Kissinger, and Ronald L. Ziegler on 17 June 1971


Transcript

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

White House Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler enters the Oval Office to tell the President that the House has just rejected a proposal to set a 31 December 1971 deadline for American military withdrawal from Vietnam.

President Nixon

Did you want to ask . . . ?

Ronald L. Ziegler

[Unclear] vote was 256 to 158.

President Nixon

What?

Ziegler

Two-fifty-six to 158. They only got 158.

President Nixon

I did much better than they expected [unclear].

H. R. "Bob" Haldeman

A hundred votes.

President Nixon

Yeah.

Ziegler

So—

President Nixon

That's good.

Ziegler

OK.

Ziegler leaves.
Haldeman

The—you can maybe blackmail [Lyndon B.] Johnson on this stuff.[note 1] Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States from November 1963 to January 1969.

President Nixon

What?

Haldeman

You could blackmail Johnson on this stuff, and it might be worth doing.

President Nixon

How?

Haldeman

The bombing halt stuff is all in the same file. Or in some of the same hands.

President Nixon

Oh, how does that show—oh, I wondered, incidentally, if that's—

Haldeman

It isn’t in this. It isn’t in these papers, but the whole bombing halt file . . .

President Nixon

Do we have it? I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it, Henry.

Haldeman

We can’t find—

Henry A. Kissinger

We have nothing here, Mr. President.

President Nixon

Damn it, I asked for that, because I need it. [Unclear]

Kissinger

Yeah, but Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together for three years.

Haldeman

We have a basic history of it—constructed on our own—but there is a file on it.

President Nixon

Where?

Haldeman

[Tom Charles] Huston swears to God there’s a file on it at Brookings.[note 2] Tom Charles Huston was a White House aide.

Kissinger

I wouldn’t be surprised.

President Nixon

All right, all right, all right, you [unclear]

Haldeman

In the hands of the same kind of [unclear]

President Nixon

Bob—

Haldeman

The same people.

President Nixon

Bob, now, you remember Huston’s plan? Implement it.

Kissinger

But couldn’t we go over? Now, Brookings has no right to have [President Nixon attempts to interject] classified documents.

President Nixon

[Unclear.] I mean, I want it implemented on a thievery basis. Goddamn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.

Haldeman

They may very well have cleaned them by now, with this thing getting to—

Kissinger

No, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the file on the bombing halt.

Haldeman

My point is, Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them.

Kissinger

But what good will it do you, the bombing halt file?

Haldeman

The bombing halt—

President Nixon

To blackmail him.

Haldeman

The bombing halt—

President Nixon

Because he used the bombing halt for political purposes.

Haldeman

The bombing halt file would really kill Johnson.

Kissinger

Why do you think that? I mean, I didn’t see the whole file, but . . .

Haldeman

On the timing and strategy of how he pulled that?

Kissinger

I—

President Nixon

I think it would hurt him.

Kissinger

Mis—well, I—[speaking over President Nixon] as you remember, I used to give you input—I used to—as you remember, I used to give you information about it at the time, so I have no—

President Nixon

I know.

Kissinger

I mean, about the timing.

Haldeman

Yeah.

Kissinger

But I, to the best of my knowledge, there was never any conversation in which they said we’ll hold it until the end of October. I wasn’t in on the discussions here. I just saw the instructions to [W. Averell] Harriman.[note 3] W. Averell Harriman was an ambassador-at-large and chief U.S. delegate to the Paris Peace Talks under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

President Nixon

Well, anyway, why won’t Johnson have a press conference in your view?

Haldeman

Because he’s smart enough not to. From Johnson’s viewpoint, if he has a press conference, it does [unclear]—he will see exactly what we see, which is that the thing that that will accomplish is clearly put this as a battle of Lyndon Johnson’s credibility versus the world.

Ehrlichman

Be a lightning rod.

Kissinger then asked on Bryce N. Harlow’s behalf if the President cared whether Harlow accompanied Vice President Spiro T. Agnew for his entire upcoming world tour. The President left it up to Harlow, saying he mainly wanted the White House aide to keep the Vice President out of trouble. The conversation subsequently turned to what role Agnew could play in the administration’s response to the Pentagon Papers leak and other related subjects.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon, John D. Ehrlichman, H. R. ‘Bob’ Haldeman, Henry A. Kissinger, and Ronald L. Ziegler on 17 June 1971,” Conversation 525-001 (PRDE Excerpt A), Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Chasing Shadows, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006738