Nixon Suggested Stealing Mcgovern's Irs Files "We Have To Do It Artfully," Nixon Told Aides In A Taped Conversation Not Long After The Watergate Break-in.

Posted: June 05, 1991

WASHINGTON — Less than three months after the Watergate burglary, President Richard M. Nixon suggested to aides that someone steal the IRS records of Sen. George S. McGovern, his Democratic opponent in the 1972 presidential campaign.

In an Oval Office conversation, Nixon told White House Counsel John W. Dean 3d that "we have to do it artfully so that we don't create an issue by abusing the IRS politically. . . . And there are ways to do that. Goddamn it, sneak in in the middle of the night."

The remarks, made in the Oval Office on Sept. 15, 1972, are included in almost 48 hours of taped Nixon conversations made public yesterday by the National Archives. Twenty-eight hours of them were released publicly for the first time.

The conversations, which are sprinkled with obscenities, display Nixon's hunger for information about his political enemies and his growing despair as the Watergate cover-up unraveled, ultimately costing him his presidency.

The tapes will introduce a generation of Americans who came to maturity after Nixon and Watergate passed into history to a vengeful, paranoid Nixon who lashes at enemies. That stands in sharp contrast to the Nixon of the 1990s, whose views are accorded respectful attention by presidents and publishers as those of a wise elder statesman.

The new tapes show, too, that Nixon secretly ordered that the telephone calls of Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor, be logged to learn whether Kissinger was calling reporters - and how shocked the President was to learn that Kissinger was.

In one conversation in April 1973, Nixon agreed with a top aide's sarcastic assessment that then-Republican Party Chairman George Bush was a "Mr. Clean" for dismissing a party official caught up in campaign dirty tricks. Nixon said he tried without success to talk Bush out of relieving the official, according to one tape.

"George called it the dirty tricks department they were in," Nixon said.

And in 1971, Nixon and his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, discussed using Teamster "thugs" to break up demonstrations against the Nixon administration during the Vietnam War. "They, they've got guys who'll go in and knock their heads off," Nixon said, according to the transcript of a meeting in the Oval Office.

Haldeman responded, "Sure. Murderers. Guys that really, you know, that's what they really do. . . . And, uh, and hope they really hurt 'em. You know, I mean go in . . . and smash some noses."

Perhaps the most arresting disclosure is a 50-minute conversation among Nixon, Dean and Haldeman in which Nixon, in language that seems to condone burglary, suggested stealing files from the IRS.

In the meeting, Nixon asked Dean why "we never pulled McGovern's . . . file."

Dean explained that "I had tremendous time just trying to get" the files of Henry Kimmelman, a major financial contributor to McGovern's campaign.

"The problem is this. There are so many damn Democrats (at the IRS)," Dean said. "It would have to be an artful job to go down and get that file."

Haldeman was cautious, saying that they "shouldn't take the risk of getting us blown out of the water before the election."

Dean offered a suggestion: "The other thing is you could always increase your compliance program . . . just happens that a lot of Democrats get caught."

Haldeman said, "We'll pull a lot Republicans too and just don't look at those after we pull 'em."

Then Nixon said, "Well, they're gonna get it. . . . We've got to do it, even if we've got to kick (IRS Commissioner Johnnie M.) Walter's ass out first and get a man in there."

This led to a broader discussion about Nixon's future agenda. "It's going to be rough game," warned Nixon, one in which resignations will be demanded and positions may not even be filled. "We can leave the whole goddamn government empty," noted Haldeman, "and it wouldn't hurt the world one bit."

A Nixon historian said yesterday that he did not know whether aides acted on Nixon's suggestion.

'SURREPTITIOUS ENTRY'

"He was certainly taking the (Watergate) burglary very lightly" by talking of undertaking another surreptitious entry less than three months after the Watergate burglars were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee's office, said Bruce Oudes, author of From: The President; Richard Nixon's Secret Files.

Nixon had no comment yesterday on the tapes' release.

"The President has already discussed Watergate, he's discussed the tapes, and he is now focusing on the future," said his assistant Kathy O'Connor at Nixon's office in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Nixon, 78, lives nearby in Park Ridge, N.J.

Nixon secretly recorded 4,000 hours of conversations in the White House, but with the latest disclosures only 60 hours have been released. All of the material released yesterday had been subpoenaed by the Watergate special prosecutor for use at trials of high-level officials of the Nixon administration.

The Nixon papers and tapes are housed in a nondescript warehouse in Alexandria, Va., where a half-dozen researchers yesterday listened to them on headphones. Transcripts of all but three of the conversations were also made available.

One tape released yesterday revealed, apparently for the first time, that Nixon ordered aide Charles W. Colson to log Kissinger's outgoing calls when Kissinger was the national security adviser.

"This is in total confidence because Henry should never know," Colson told Nixon in the Jan. 5, 1973, conversation.

'WHAT DID YOU FIND OUT?'

"What did you find out?" Nixon asked.

Colson said Kissinger had placed calls to Washington columnists Rowland Evans and Joseph Kraft, among other journalists. Soon after one call, Kraft wrote a column calling the Nixon administration's stepped-up bombing campaign in Vietnam a "monstrous policy" of "murder-bombing."

"So he called Joe Kraft on Tuesday, and Joe Kraft then writes an article yesterday that just knocks the bejesus out of it," Nixon said.

"It's an outgoing call," Colson told Nixon. "He called Kraft."

"I'll be goddamned," Nixon said. "He called Kraft. I'll be a son of a bitch. That's unbelievable."

Kissinger was traveling out of the country and could not be reached for comment, according to his office in New York.

In another conversation released for the first time, Nixon told his special presidential counsel, Richard A. Moore, in 1973 that he knew nothing about the Watergate break-in on June 17, 1972, in advance, and surmised that he might have tried to stop it if he had known about it.

"Thank God, I didn't know," Nixon said in a conversation taped on April 19, 1973.

"Now, I was thinking if somebody had told me about this thing before, I think I would have said, 'Why you stupid bastards, what the hell are you bugging the national committee for?' "

Nixon also told Moore that after he was told of the break-in, "I think I was the most amazed person of all at the damned thing. I, I was floored. I thought these guys must be crazy."

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