James Rosen’s eye-opening look at Watergate through the eyes of John Mitchell
HH: A special couple of hours ahead on the Hugh Hewitt Show. An extraordinary new biography is out, and if you have a gift-buying need either for Father’s Day, or when we replay this in the fall, for Christmas or a birthday or anything else, if the person you’re thinking about buying was born before 1960, they are going to love this book. It’s called The Strong Man: John Mitchell And The Secrets Of Watergate. I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. And its author, James Rosen, joins me now from Washington, D.C., where he’s of course a correspondent with the Fox News Channel. James Rosen, welcome, congratulations on an extraordinary book for reasons I’ll discuss. But I hope that impression is widely shared among people who’ve had a chance to read it thus far.
JR: Hugh, thank you for your kindness. I very much appreciate it.
HH: Let’s talk a little bit about The Strong Man: John Mitchell And The Secrets Of Watergate. But first, you. Give people a little bio on your background as a journalist, James.
JR: I’m, was born in Brooklyn, raised in Staten Island, New York. I attended the Johns Hopkins University, earned a B.A. in political science, kicked around in local politics for a little bit, went back to grad school, got a Masters in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Sometime after college, around 1991, I started work on this book, and just kept with it while I was doing other things, getting that Masters degree. I crawled my way through, up through the ranks of small market television. I did a stint in Rockford, Illinois, a stint in the Bronx, joined Fox News in 1999, covered the White House for the last year of Bill Clinton, the first four of George Bush, covered the State Department under Condoleezza Rice for about two years, and mostly, recently, I’ve been doing campaign stuff.
HH: Now James, you’ve also been a print reporter. This is one of the things that distinguishes you in your work on television, is that you have worked the print side. I think it brings a lot of depth to your reporting on television.
JR: Thank you.
HH: But I mean, you’ve been an editor for Playboy, but you’ve been writing for some of the big papers for years.
JR: I have been, I was never a daily deadline print reporter, but I have done a lot of publishing in magazines. My first article was in National Review in 1992. I want to acknowledge here a debt to the late, great William F. Buckley, Jr., who gave me my start in journalism, gave me a grant to start the John Mitchell book back in 1991, got me published in National Review for my first article the next year. And I really regret that Mr. Buckley did not live to see the official publication of The Strong Man, but I think he would have liked it.
HH: Let’s talk a little bit about the book itself, the history of the book, not the contents of it, because I find it’s kind of an extraordinary journey. I’m drawn to it, of course, because I went out to San Clemente in 1978, having graduated from Harvard, went to work for David Eisenhower, and six months later, was spending lots of time, almost every day, with Richard Nixon through the period of time in which you put John Mitchell back, by the way, at Casa Pacifica. I believe I was at that party when John Mitchell was out there.
HH: So I have a huge interest in Mitchell and in Nixon and Watergate. But I think anyone who lived through these years, young or old, is going to be drawn into this book. But you’re too young. That’s why I’m wondering how could you have said I’m going to devote, in essence, sixteen years of my life to Watergate and John Mitchell, because I could see someone my generation doing it, but you’re too young.
JR: I was born in 1968. I grew up in New York in the 1970s. I had an older brother who kept telling me you missed everything. You missed the Beatles, you missed Woodstock, you missed Muhammad Ali, you missed Watergate, the Moon landing. And I just, as a young person, found the era that immediately preceded me, or that consumed the years when I wasn’t really senescent, to be a fascinating time, and I still do. I never imagined I would spend seventeen years on the book, of course, but it turned out that way.
HH: Now I have written on Hughhewitt.com, in one of the first reviews I did of The Strong Man: John Mitchell And The Secrets Of Watergate, that perhaps the secret to its appeal is that to get the 60s and the 70s, you have to take a firm position, you have to stand somewhere in order to see the kaleidoscope going around. You chose to stand in the space that John Mitchell occupied. Why did you go there back in 1991?
JR: Once I was in college, I had already devoured the sort of secondary literature of Watergate, all the books, the memoirs. And I decided well, I want to see some primary material. So I spent two summers when I was at Johns Hopkins working as an intern in the National Archives’ Nixon Presidential Materials Project, which at that time controlled all of the ex-President’s papers and tapes. And those two summers just got me hooked on dealing with actual documents, actual tapes. And I decided I must make my own contribution to this literature, which was already sprawling by that point in the late 80s. and it dawned on me that the, of all the major and minor figures of the Nixon presidency and Watergate, the only ones who hadn’t written his own book, or had a book written about him, was John Mitchell, and he was the central guy. Let’s not forget, for benefit of younger listeners, John Mitchell was Richard Nixon’s law partner in the 60s, he ran both of Nixon’s winning presidential campaigns in ’68 and ’72. Mitchell then served as Attorney General of the United States, the country’s chief law enforcement officer, highest ranked law enforcement officer during a uniquely chaotic and scary time that saw the killings at Kent State, the rise of radical groups like the Weather Underground and Black Panthers, the May Day riots, and so on. And then by virtue of his involvement in the Watergate cover-up, not the break-in but the cover-up, Mitchell was convicted on criminal charges and sent to prison, the highest ranking United States government official ever to go to prison. Nixon didn’t do time, Agnew didn’t do time, John Mitchell, the former Attorney General of the United States, did 19 months. There were no books written by or about Mitchell. There were three about his colorful, volatile wife, Martha Mitchell, who had a knack for drinking a lot and calling reporters in the middle of the night, and saying provocative things to them, and thereby became famous. Three books about her, none by or about the guy that reshaped the modern Supreme Court, the guy that helped desegregate the modern public school system in the South, and integrate the public schools there, and who was basically a major actor on the American political scene. That’s why I chose Mitchell.
HH: As we work through these two hours, we’re going to cover many of those segments in depth. But I want to start, however, by noting you have…I’m a Watergate guy. I know this stuff. I helped build the Nixon Library for goodness sake. But there’s sources in this book previously never explored or explained or exposed. Hat’s of to you. You found stuff like the handwritten notes of Haldeman and Ehrlichman. You had lots of interviews here, and you got stuff that was only recently declassified. Give the audience a sense of the new material you put on the table in The Strong Man: John Mitchell And The Secrets Of Watergate.
JR: I conducted 250 interviews for this book, with major and minor figures from Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger and others on down. I also used the Freedom Of Information Act aggressively over many years’ time to pry loose literally hundreds of thousands of new documents and tapes that had never before been seen by any other researcher. I like to say, Hugh, if you want to blow your dad’s mind, get him this book, because this is not your father’s Watergate. I come to some very bold, revisionist conclusions about the central mysteries of that time, such as who order the Watergate break-in, what was the purpose, what was the role of CIA. To give your audience two examples…
HH: Well, wait. James…
JR: Yes, sir.
HH: Let’s tease them the right way. They’re going to have to earn it.
JR: (laughing) All right.
HH: (laughing) We’re not going to put it all in the first ten minutes. They’re going to have to earn it. Let me ask you, though, to set up still, did you get to sit down with Mitchell? You often refer to an interviewer sitting with Mitchell in the third person. Is that James Rosen?
JR: No. Mitchell died three years before I started work on this project. What I did want to mention was two sets of archives that no other researcher had every before asked to see, which I was quite shocked. One was the internal files of the Watergate special prosecution force.
JR: These were the special prosecutors in Watergate. What did they know about Watergate? And when did they know it? And chiefly about their star witnesses whose testimony helped bring down Nixon and Mitchell, John Dean and Jeb Magruder? The internal memos flying back and forth by the staff lawyers on the Watergate special prosecution staff, including Richard Ben Veniste, who later became famous as a member of the 9/11 Commission, showed that the Watergate special prosecutors knew very early on that their chief witnesses, Dean and Magruder, were peddling deeply flawed testimony, and that that testimony would need to be reshaped, reworked actively by the prosecutors in order to secure a conviction against the person everyone regarded as the big enchilada in the case, John Mitchell.
HH: I will foreshadow something here, James, is I put down certain chapters, I thought to myself some ethics professors in the legal academy are going to have to look here and come to a conclusion about whether prosecutorial misconduct occurred here, because you’ve laid a predicate for assuming that it has. What’s your sense of that?
JR: I think I agree with you that it deserves that kind of examination. At a minimum, exculpatory materials were withheld from John Mitchell and his defense team.
HH: That’s what I mean. That is a, that’s a huge problem for history as they look back. That is what…an innocent man, or a man presumed to be innocent, is supposed to get that from the prosecution, and they sat on it.
JR: And they sat on it. And moreover, there were smoking guns throughout the Watergate prosecutors’ own files, where in memos, they would say, and I’m paraphrasing, things like Dean’s testimony is not supported by the Nixon tapes here. We would do well simply to omit this. We shouldn’t call this fellow to the stand, because he tends to support Mitchell rather than Magruder, we will have to operate on the theory that it went down this way, or we will have to say that it happened on this date and not the date that Dean said so, because John Mitchell’s logs support him on this or that. The other set of documents, Hugh, that I was the first researcher even to ask to see, some 5,000 pages of testimony collected by the Senate Watergate Committee Investigation staff, everyone remembers seeing who lived through Watergate, the Senate Watergate hearings, in the summer of 1973, where Dean testified, Magruder testified, John Mitchell testified, Alexander Butterfield in that forum revealed that Nixon had recorded his own conversations. They riveted the nation. 80 million Americans watched. Almost every one of those witnesses, before they went on television to testify under oath, first testified under oath in what they call executive session.
HH: And you’ve got those notes. We’ll talk about them when we come back.
– – – –
HH: I’m a big fan of Richard Nixon, James Rosen, but I’ve got to tell you, it’s a pretty damning portrait of RN that emerges from this book, especially with regard, and I’m going to foreshadow here a little bit as well, when it became necessary to Nixon’s view, he threw his closest ally, and perhaps closest confidant in the government, overboard, John Mitchell.
JR: Yeah, it’s…I with I could have come to a better conclusion, but you know, you mentioned the party that you think you attended back in 1979, that ex-President Nixon held for John Mitchell after Mitchell got out of prison. At that party, with guests assembled poolside in San Clemente, Nixon said very simply in his toast, John Mitchell has friends, and he stands by them. And what he meant by that was, of course, that Mitchell had gone to prison, taken his punishment like a man, unlike most of the other Watergate characters, Mitchell never wrote a book, he never traded evidence, real or fabricated, against people more senior than him, which would have been Nixon in Mitchell’s case, in exchange for a more lenient sentence. He never went on the lecture tour, he never went on the Mike Douglas show, and he never found God. And what Nixon was also alluding to when he said Mitchell has friends and he stands by them, was implicitly an acknowledgement on Nixon’s part that everyone poolside knew from the publication and dissemination of the transcripts of the Nixon tapes, that in the spring of 1973, when things got hairy, as the Watergate cover-up was starting to unravel, Richard Nixon did not stand by John Mitchell, and that tucked away in the National Archives on great magnetic spools, for all of posterity to listen to, are 3,700 hours of tape that preserve Richard Nixon’s betrayal of his best friend.
HH: It’s a fascinating recounting here when he’s meeting with Haldeman and Ehrlichman, Nixon is, in the hideaway office, and he decides basically, Mitchell’s got to go, Mitchell’s got to fall on the sword to save the administration. John Mitchell knew that. He had figured it out by the time he went back to trial, and then of course out to San Clemente for the party in 1979. He sucked it up. It’s really quite an astonishing, lawyer’s lawyer display. I guess that’s why the title, The Strong Man, is so deserved here.
JR: Yes, and you know, in Nixon’s defense, somewhat, he agonized, the President did, for the better part of months, nine months, over the involvement of John Mitchell in Watergate, because as the book also makes clear, Nixon was hearing a lot of disinformation from some of the people around him about John Mitchell. And so he went back and forth, Nixon did, on the great question, did Mitchell do it? Did Mitchell order the Watergate break-in? Of course, I conclude in the book that he did not. Nixon vacillated on that question, and ultimately, it didn’t really matter. What mattered to him was that Mitchell had become a liability, and so Nixon made the decision he made to sort of throw John Mitchell to the wolves.
HH: Now I want to back up and find out what produced this kind of an individual, both his intellect, extraordinary, his accomplishment, significant, before he hooks up with Nixon in the 60s, and that means a little bit of time on early Mitchell. Can you give us the brief sort of walk-up…
JR: Thumbnail sketch?
HH: On where he ended up in New York practicing bond law.
JR: Mitchell was born in Detroit in 1913. He was actually a little bit younger, just a few months younger than Richard Nixon, but Nixon always kind of looked up to Mitchell as a sort of older brother figure. His family moved to Long Island, New York, when he was about five. Mitchell grew up there, he attended Fordham, and Fordham Law School. He had a brilliant, legal mind. Very early on in his legal career, he developed an innovation in the field of municipal bonds, which enabled states and municipalities to exceed state constitutional debt limits without going to the voters for approval. It was called the moral obligation bond. It was John Mitchell’s baby. And in the 40s and 50s and 60s, it made him a ton of money, because the concept was used literally in all 50 states. And it was first, and most greatly popularized by Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York. And it was at that point, which Mitchell living a fabulous life out in Rye, New York, living on the 17th fairway of the Apawamis Country Club Golf Course in Rye, that he, his law firm merged with Richard Nixon’s in 1967. And Mitchell’s contacts in all 50 states were so extensive, Democrat or Republican, he knew virtually every politician in America of any note. And Nixon, of course, preparing for his 1968 comeback run for the presidency, took note of that. And it wasn’t long before Mitchell was actually running the ’68 campaign.
HH: Let’s back up a little bit, though, and tell people one of the astonishing things I learned from The Strong Man is that Bobby Kennedy approached John Mitchell prior to Jack Kennedy’s run in 1960, with a request that he run Kennedy’s campaign.
JR: This was a story that Mitchell delighted in telling his children. But I also heard it from a former aide to John Mitchell’s, independently of Mitchell’s family, so it comes from two sources, that in 1960, Bobby Kennedy was kept waiting by Mitchell, who was then in private law practice and had no association with Richard Nixon, and Kennedy didn’t like that. And finally, when he got in to see Mitchell, he said how would you like to run my brother’s campaign, or help my brother’s campaign in 1960 for the presidency. And Mitchell said no. Kennedy then apparently produced a number of documents suggesting that it would be in the interest of Mitchell and his clients if he did, whereupon Mitchell, according to the story, threw Kennedy out of his office. Many, many years later, after Nixon resigned and John Mitchell got out of prison, and all the dust had settled, a former aide took Mitchell out to lunch and he said Mr. Mitchell, if you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently, and he thought for a moment, and he said I’d have run Jack Kennedy’s campaign.
HH: Now I do want to pause for a moment here, because you plant very early in the narrative, The Strong Man, a seed which flowers later, which is John Mitchell loved to exaggerate. He would tell stories of his growing up and setting fire to his schoolhouse, and throwing books into the fire. His wartime service took on a lot of barnacles that weren’t true. What was that in him?
JR: That is a very important point you’re raising, and I’m not sure I ever was truly able to get to the bottom of it. As his daughter and his brother told me, he lived very much within himself, and he would be a very hard person to get to know. And in fact, his most famous statement remains, you would be better advised to watch what we say rather than what we do about the Nixon administration. So there was a certain inscrutability about John Mitchell, which made it very hard to be his biographer. I did conclude that he perpetually exaggerated some childhood tall tales, and also that he at least at a minimum allowed to be perpetuated some false stories about his World War II service, although he served honorably, we want to point that out, in the Navy, in the South Pacific, in the latter part of the war, but stories that started to appear when he was Attorney General, to the effect that he had rescued Pappy Boyington, the Medal Of Honor winner, that Boyington thanked him once a year for the rest of his life, or that he was one of John F. Kennedy’s commanding officers in the P.T. boats service in which both men served. All of these were false. I’m not sure why Mitchell either perpetuated, or allowed to be perpetuated, these stories. One thing I was sure of, Hugh, was that Mitchell had a certain contempt for reporters, and he enjoyed seeing them made fools of. I don’t that it is smart or wise or fair, even, to draw a connection between this trait as demonstrated here, and his later convictions for perjury in Watergate.
– – – –
HH: The Decade of Shocks, James, who called it that? You mentioned him in the book, I don’t have my note right here.
JR: It’s a historian named Tom Shachtman.
HH: It’s a beautiful description for the years ’63-’74, culminating in the resignation and the trial of John Mitchell. This segment, I want to go back to the beginning of the Nixon-Mitchell relationship. It’s unlikely because, and by the way, an aside, one of the virtues of The Strong Man is when necessary, you’ll take a moment or two to describe one of the sidebar characters, in this instance, then-New York governor, future vice president, longtime Nixon thorn, Nelson Rockefeller, Rocky. And you point out Rocky was drawn to, and perhaps better than any American politician, employed the talents of talented people. He spotted John Mitchell, and brought him in to work. But why didn’t that disqualify him in the eyes of Nixon?
JR: Well, it’s interesting, John Mitchell at that time was a Wall Street lawyer, and Nelson Rockefeller made use of Mitchell’s legal gifts to embark on an enormous construction program for the state of New York. And as I say, this was aped in almost all 50 states by other governors. The reason that this didn’t disqualify John Mitchell in Nixon’s eyes as a potential aide or supporter in the campaign of 1968, was number one, that John Mitchell was Nixon’s law partner by that time, and we should also point out that Henry Kissinger, who was a Harvard professor, and an expert on the use of nuclear weapons in the 1950s, had also been a supporter of Nelson Rockefeller’s in the ’68 campaign. And once Rockefeller’s campaign sort of died out, without blinking an eye, Kissinger found himself a supporter of Richard Nixon. And Nixon eagerly adopted Kissinger onto the campaign, perhaps because he spotted in Kissinger a fellow practitioner of realpolitik, both on the world stage and in the political arena. And so I don’t think that Nixon regarded those who had some prior relationship with Rockefeller as necessarily anathema for him.
HH: And before the merger of Nixon’s firm and Mitchell’s firm, he’s this very successful bond lawyer. And you referred to him as many people do. Bond lawyers are three steps above the archangels. What is that? Where’s the origin of that?
HH: By the way, I have a couple of partners who are bond lawyers. They love that. But tell me what the origin of that is.
JR: That came from a book called A Question Of Judgment by Robert Shogan, who covered the Justice Department for the L.A. Times in the early ’70s. And he was referring to the tendency among some bond lawyers to regard themselves with a certain air of superiority. The Bond Bar in the 1940s, which was where Mitchell cut his teeth, was a notoriously staunchy bastion of old-school, old boys club type of fraternal atmosphere. And I think that’s where that phrase comes from.
HH: It certainly does, but what’s interesting about the Fordham Fordham John Mitchell, is that in many respects, there’s a mirror here of Nixon, East Coast to West Coast, Nixon, Whittier and Duke, and crawling his way up, John Mitchell, Fordham, Fordham, doesn’t come from a lot of money but breaks into Wall Street. No wonder they were attracted to each other.
JR: Yes, and the difference, though, the key difference, Hugh, between the two men was that John Mitchell, while ascending the classes and earning the confidence of the Rockefeller family, and becoming a very successful lawyer and member of golf clubs and that sort of thing, retained a kind of bemused contempt for the upper classes and their ways, and never lost sight of his sort of Scotch-Irish roots. He was sort of like a tough cop, as one of his aides put it to me. Richard Nixon craved the approval of the upper classes, burned with some kind of class envy and resentment that he would never truly be accepted by the Kennedys or the Rockefellers. Mitchell didn’t need that acceptance. He had it, and yet didn’t need it. And that was something that drew Nixon to Mitchell.
HH: Now let’s talk a little bit about the merger. One person approaches John Mitchell in your book and said why did you choose to join Nixon’s law firm, and he responded Nixon joined my law firm. What’s the truth there?
JR: The truth is that Mitchell was wrong there. Nixon’s name was already on the law firm shingle of Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie and Alexander when Caldwell, Trimble and Mitchell was sort of acquired by, and merged with the Nixon law firm. So the merger took place because Mitchell’s law firm, largely on the basis of his genius, had become the number one law firm in the country on the very lucrative work of municipal bonds and the financing of public works projects. Nixon, Mudge, Rose wanted to tap into that, and so that’s why that merger took place.
– – – –
HH: James Rosen, here we are at the end of a primary campaign that’s been extraordinary and rule-breaking, and at the cusp of a presidential campaign which could be as difficult and as close of that of 1968. But when you take us in The Strong Man back to the campaign of ’68, it was not about primaries. It became about primaries, but up until that time, no one really had focused that much on them. But it was John Mitchell’s strategy, with Richard Nixon’s concurrence and assistance, that Nixon had to run and win. Explain that to people.
JR: Nixon was a national figure by 1968, of many years’ standing. But he had not won an election on his own since 1950. He in fact had lost his last two elections, the presidential race against John F. Kennedy in 1960, and the gubernatorial race in California, in 1962. And that race had ended with Nixon’s shrill, self-emulating cry of just think what you’re going to be missing, he said to the press. You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore. Not a bad impersonation, right?
HH: Well, I don’t think so. It’s not that good, James. Those of us who worked with him a lot, we can do it pretty well, James, but go ahead.
JR: (laughing) Well, and it’s tempting. And the problem that hovered over Nixon’s ’68 campaign was the notion of Nixon as a loser.
JR: And in order to dispel that notion, Mitchell as the campaign manager, simply decided we have to run our candidate in a set of primaries, and win and show that he’s a proven vote-getter, and thereby established some notion of invincibility. In that era, unlike our own, what the real central of focus was the conventions. And the conventions were often contested affairs. And so was 1968. And as fact, as I’m fond of pointing out to conservatives, Hugh, who don’t like to talk about John Mitchell or Richard Nixon or Spiro Agnew, because they like to pretend that there is a straight line between Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, and maybe they throw a nod in the direction of Bill Buckley. But in fact, in the great age of radical chic, when it was least fashionable to do so, the prime exponents of law and order and conservative values were Nixon, Agnew and Mitchell. In that one occasion where Nixon, where the Republican Part had the straight-up choice between Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, they chose Dick Nixon in 1968, at that convention.
HH: Largely because of the efforts of John Mitchell to organize his 50 state contact list. I also want to pause here to tell people about Operation Eagle Eye, because I think John McCain and his staff would be well advised to read this very closely as we head into the campaign against Obama, because you know, there will be places, I wrote a book in 2004, If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat, but that was really an extraordinary anticipation by John Mitchell of what it would come down to in 1968.
JR: Yeah, one of the problems for Nixon in 1960 had been allegations, which most scholars have accepted as truth at this point, of widespread voter fraud in Texas, Virginia and Illinois, and particularly Cook County, Illinois. And so determined to avoid any recurrences of that, John Mitchell had a program called Operation Eagle Eye, where they really stayed on the people who were tending the ballot boxes in the various precincts in Cook County, Illinois, to make sure that voting returns were kept on the up and up, and also released early. This came to be a problem, I believe recently, with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in one particular primary, I think it was Lake County…
HH: Yup, Indiana.
JR: There was a delay in the release of the returns.
HH: Right, in Indiana. And I think it’s going to happen again. Now I want to forge ahead, but there is an interregnum between Nixon’s win and the installation of his administration, which comes up again and again in the book, and it’s the Anna Chennault affair.
HH: And it really is interesting, because I think you, at the conclusion of this book, say much more than the perceived crimes of Watergate, Mitchell was culpable for this?
JR: What we’re talking about is in the closing weeks of the 1968 campaign, Nixon and Mitchell were very fearful that the Johnson administration, which was of course at least nominally supporting the candidacy of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic nominee, would unleash on the campaigns some kind of October surprise, some last minute announcement of a bombing halt in Vietnam, in order to sway the campaign, the election, to Hubert Humphrey in the last few minutes, last few days. In order to guard against that prospect, Nixon and Mitchell used an intermediary, a Washington hostess named Anna Chennault, who had excellent contacts throughout Asia, in order to serve as an intermediary to the South Vietnamese government, to ensure that the South Vietnamese would understand, as Nixon and Mitchell wanted them to, that they would get a much better deal in any peace talks with North Vietnam if they had a strong Republican in office like Richard Nixon. And this has been described as an illegal act, persuasively to my mind. It constitutes private citizens interfering in the diplomatic business of the United States government, in wartime, no less. And I brought some new evidence about that effort to the table in this book. I should point out that there is a historian working on the same subject matter who tells me he has obtained Anna Chennault’s private notes from that time, and that I’ve got it all wrong. We’ll see about that.
HH: Now let’s move forward to the administration. John Mitchell didn’t want to be Attorney General. That’s clear.
HH: And how did Nixon persuade him? And how long did it take to persuade him?
JR: It took him the better part of a few days, and asking Mitchell, according to Mitchell, 23, 24, 25, 26 times. I’ve seen him use variants of those numbers in various forms. Mitchell was concerned about his wife. Martha Mitchell, his second wife, was an emotionally unstable person, with on top of that, a drinking problem. And he was concerned that if he brought her to the, under the klieg lights of Washington, and the Washington press corps, that it might be bad for her. Nixon spent a lot of time trying to convince Mitchell that it would in fact be good for her. There’s also evidence that Mitchell consulted one of Martha Mitchell’s psychiatric doctors, and who sort of gave the approval for it. So with that in mind, Mitchell reluctantly agreed to serve as Attorney General.