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President Richard M. Nixon at a press conference releasing the transcripts of the White House tapes, April 29, 1974 (Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, National Archives and Records Administration)

Nixon and the FBI: The White House Tapes

Oval Office Recordings Show Nixon's Support for FBI "House Cleaning" After Hoover's Death

Bureaucratic Tensions Set Stage for Felt's "Deep Throat" Leaks

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 156

Richard A. Moss, editor

Posted - June 3, 2005

Updated - June 8, 2005

Only Recorded Conversation Between Nixon and Felt Posted

Nixon on Felt's FBI Leaks: "Now why the hell would he do that?"

Nixon Rejected Felt as Interim FBI Director: "I don't want him. I can't have him"

Related Posting
June 3, 2005
The Deep Throat File
FBI Memos Detail Mark Felt's Involvement in Efforts to Identify Secret Watergate Souce
Useful Resources
Deep Throat Revealed from the Nixon Presidential Materials Project
The Presidential Recordings Program at UVA's Miller Center of Public Affairs
Finding Aids for the Nixon White House Tapes from the Social Security Administration
History of the Nixon White House Tapes at C-SPAN.org
State Department Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volumes from the Nixon era



Washington D.C. June 3, 2005 - There are few references in the surreptitiously recorded Nixon Tapes to W. Mark Felt, the former high-level FBI official recently unmasked as "Deep Throat," but the tapes are full of examples of the White House's relationship with the FBI and Nixon's thinking about a successor for J. Edgar Hoover. This sampling of tapes and transcripts, made available by the National Security Archive, shows the White House reaction to the death of Hoover, the transition to new management at the Bureau, and the seeds of bureaucratic tensions that set the stage for Felt's "Deep Throat" leaks of information to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

In the first conversation (717-10: audio - transcript), just hours after Hoover's death, President Nixon, Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler, and Chief of Staff, H. R. "Bob" Haldeman discuss the details of Hoover's death, the press reaction, and possible venues for a memorial service. Nixon was determined to have Hoover buried at Arlington National Cemetary and to conduct a large memorial service--contrary to the FBI director's wishes. Nixon told Haldeman, "By God, go out there and put a torch on the boy." Playing to Nixon's sentiments and alluding to Hoover's conflict with Robert Kennedy, Haldeman opines "The last thing he'd want is to be anywhere near Bobby Kennedy."

After more discussion on the funeral arrangements Haldeman departs, and the president's assistant, Alexander Haig, brings news that National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger's negotiations with the North Vietnamese were the "least productive on record." Nixon confides in Haig that he was critical of Kissinger's approach to negotiations, and he verbally weighs options and scenarios.

The second conversation (717-19: audio - transcript) shows Nixon and Haldeman busy at work setting the stage for Hoover's funeral. Nixon comes across as a micromanager, turning Hoover's funeral into a media event with political considerations, such as television shots, at the forefront. He also makes it plain that he would have preferred that Hoover had left the scene earlier so that he would have been able to appoint his own FBI director, implicitly someone who would have been more amenable to White House direction. The remainder of the transcript deals with other monumental events of May 1972, such as the upcoming Moscow summit, Kissinger's unsuccessful negotiations with North Vietnamese representative Le Duc Tho, and the decision to mine Haiphong Harbor and bomb Hanoi.

After Hoover's funeral on May 4, 1972, Nixon invited the acting FBI director, L. Patrick Gray III and his wife to the Oval Office. In the third conversation (719-12: audio - transcript), Nixon discusses the selection process for Hoover's successor. Nixon tells the Gray that "the house cleaning [at the FBI] is going to come, but it should not come now because we can't have any flaps about that now." Nixon also characterizes Hoover as his "closest personal friend in public life," and advises Gray on how to portray his relationship with the president and deal with the media. Interestingly, Gray tells Nixon that after his first meeting with senior FBI officials, Mark Felt had called him to say, "That was a magnificent job you did." Nixon is restrained in the presence of Mrs. Gray, avoiding the rough language that often characterized his White House conversation.

The Nixon Tapes capture the moment when President Nixon learned that Mark Felt was leaking information to the press, although the conversation (370-09: audio - transcript) does not explicitly reference Felt with the Watergate break-in or cover-up. On Oct. 19, 1972, White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman informed the president that a confidential source at fingered Felt as a source of leaks. Nixon was incredulous, and asked: "Now why the hell would he do that?" Haldeman could not ascertain a reason. Both the president and the chief of staff weighed the option of whether or not to inform Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray that Felt was a potential problem in light of preserving their confidential source. They also ponder how to deal with Felt and whether Felt was Jewish or Catholic. (Thanks to the Presidential Recordings Program at UVA's Miller Center for its help on this transcript.)

Following Patrick Gray's resignation as Director of the FBI, after a short and tumultuous tenure, President Nixon discussed with Attorney General Richard Kleindienst the choice of William Ruckelhaus as a short-term successor (45-34: audio - transcript). Nixon's response to Kleindienst's recommendation of Mark Felt as Acting FBI Director is noteworthy because the president rejected Felt out of hand and replied: "I don't want him. I can't have him…I want a fellow in there that is not part of the old guard, and that has not had part of that infighting in there."

More tapes and transcripts on the succession at the FBI and White House-FBI conflict will appear in the coming days.

Please note: These transcripts are works-in-progress; corrections and comments are welcome.

Richard A. Moss <rickmoss@gwu.edu> is a graduate student in history at George Washington University.

Recordings and Transcripts
Note: The following transcripts were prepared by Richard A. Moss.
Note: The transcripts are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Recording 1: Conversation Number 717-10, 2 May 1972, time: Unknown after 11:19-1140 a.m.
Location: Oval Office
Participants: Nixon, Ziegler, Haldeman, Butterfield, Haig
(MP3 - 19.5 MB)
Transcript - Tape log

Recording 2: Conversation Number 717-19, 2 May 1972, time: 12:08-12:42 p.m.
Location; Oval House
Participants: Nixon, Haldeman, Bull
(MP3 - 27 MB)
Transcript - Tape log

Recording 3: Conversation number 719-12, 4 May 1972, time: 12:03 p.m.-12:22 p.m.
Location: Oval Office
Participants: Nixon, Mr. and Mrs. L. Patrick Gray
(MP3 - 13.5 MB)
Transcript - Tape log

Recording 4: Conversation Number 24-116, 15 May 1972, time: 8:15-8:18 p.m.
Location: White House telephone
Participants: Nixon, Felt
(MP3 - 4.2 MB)
Transcript - Tape log

This taped telephone call is the only recorded conversation between Felt and Nixon, where the former briefs the president on the attempted assassination of George Wallace. Nixon expresses interest in having Bremer handled roughly.

Recording 5: Conversation Number 370-09, 19 October 1972, time: 1:48 pm - 4:15 pm
Location: Executive Office Building
Participants: Nixon, Ziegler, Haldeman, Butterfield, Haig
(MP3 - 9.7 MB)
Transcript - Tape log
(Special thanks to the Presidential Recordings Program at UVA's Miller Center for its help on this transcript)

Recording 6: Conversation Number 865-14, 28 February 1973, time: 9:12 am - 10:23 am
Audio clips: Part 1 (MP3 - 4.1 MB) - Part 2 (MP3 - 960 KB)
(Note: This recording is split into two parts. Part 1 ends on page 30 of the transcript. Part 2 picks up on page 37.)
Location: Unknown
Participants: Nixon, Dean
(MP3 - 5 MB)
Transcript (NOTE: This transcript was prepared by the National Archives and Records Administration)

Recording 7: Conversation Number 45-34, 27 April 1973, time: 4:14 pm - 4:16 pm
Location: White House telephone
Participants: Nixon, Kleindienst
(MP3 - 9.7 MB)
Transcript - Tape log

Recording 8: Conversation Number 165-10 excerpt, May 12, 1973, time: 10:11 - 10:49 a.m.
Location: Camp David Telephone
Participants: Nixon, Haig
(MP3 - 3.5 MB)

Additional White House Telephone Recordings
Note: The following White House telephone conversations do not yet have prepared transcripts. However, brief descriptions are provided below.

Recording 9: Conversation 24-107, 15 May 1972, time: 7:37-7:42 p.m.
Location: White House telephone
Participants: Ehrlichman and Nixon
Tape log

Ehrlichman reports to Nixon the burgeoning investigation of Arthur Bremer for the attempted assassination of presidential candidate George Wallace. They agree that Mark Felt would be the point man for the investigation and report to the White House directly.

Recording 10: Conversation 24-109, 15 May 1972, time: unknown between 7:42 and 7:57 p.m.
Location: White House telephone
Participants: Colson, Felt, and White House operator
Tape log

During this conversation, Felt spoke with Colson on the Bremer investigation.


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