Tapes show Nixon suggested stealing Democrats' tax files

June 05, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- Less than three months after the Watergate burglary, President Richard M. Nixon suggested to aides that someone should steal IRS records on Democrats, including his presidential opponent, George S. McGovern.

The Oval Office remarks, secretly recorded Sept. 15, 1972, are included in almost 48 hours of taped Nixon conversations that the National Archives made public yesterday.

The conversations, including 28 hours that had never been released in transcript form, display Mr. Nixon's hunger for information about his enemies and his growing despair as the Watergate cover-up unraveled, costing him his presidency.

The new tapes show, too, that Mr. Nixon secretly ordered Henry A. Kissinger's telephone calls logged to learn whether he was calling reporters -- and that he was shocked to learn that Mr. Kissinger was.

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

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

And in 1971, Mr. 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," Mr. Nixon said, according to the transcript of a meeting in the Oval Office.

Mr. 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 new tape is a 50-minute conversation among Mr. Nixon, his counsel, John W. Dean III, and Mr. Haldeman in which Mr. Nixon suggested stealing files from the Internal Revenue Service in language that seemed to condone burglary. In the meeting, Mr. Nixon asked Mr. Dean why "we never pulled McGovern's . . . file?" Mr. McGovern, a senator from South Dakota, was the Democratic nominee for president in 1972.

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

Later in the same conversation, Mr. Nixon told Mr. Dean: "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."

Mr. Nixon, 78, the only president to resign, had no comment yesterday. He has an office in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. and lives nearby in Park Ridge, N.J.

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