While I don’t normally write articles in the first person, this analysis will be highly personal. You see, I was there throughout the Watergate scandal. I worked on Nixon’s White House staff for five years, knew and had worked with all of Watergate’s major players, and served as principal deputy on his Watergate defense team. In the latter regard, I transcribed the infamous White House tapes, supervised the document rooms holding the seized files of principal defendants, and staffed presidential counselors on Watergate issues and developments. As you might already know, it ended rather badly, with Nixon resigning in disgrace and two dozen members of his administration convicted and imprisoned.
I have fretted about this almost every day since. My wife of 45 years calls it my “Nixon obsession”: How could a staff that did so much good in Nixon’s first term have gotten it so wrong in his reelection campaign? How could rumors and accusations that I knew to be baseless at the time still persist as accepted fact in the years that followed? Why hadn’t others who knew far more than I come forward to present Nixon’s side of the story?
In 2002, as the last man standing, I set out to tell the Watergate story from an inside-the-White-House point of view — and made a startling discovery. All of the surviving records from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) are kept at our National Archives and most can be accessed through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. I got busy and, because of my insider knowledge, had a little better idea of just where to look — and I’ve uncovered some surprising documents.