Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is Ken Melson the new John Dean? History doesn't exactly repeat itself but it often stutters. How one witness testifying under oath leads to others.

The indispensable rat, without whom Richard Nixon might have hung on to his second term:

John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House Counsel, at the top of his game, 27 May 1972, in the middle of the Watergate conspiracy. Disgrace followed shortly after, and he sold out anybody and everybody he had to in order to survive.

The tale of John Dean and Watergate, from Wikipedia:

From "master manipulator" to star witness

The start of Watergate

Dean, then White House Counsel, met with Jeb Magruder (Deputy Director of CREEP) and John N. Mitchell (Attorney General of the United States, and Director of CREEP) for a presentation by G. Gordon Liddy (counsel for CREEP and a former FBI agent) on January 27, 1972, in Mitchell's office. At that time, Liddy presented a preliminary plan for intelligence gathering operations during the campaign year 1972. Reaction to Liddy's plan was highly unfavorable; Liddy was ordered to scale down his ideas, and he presented a revised plan to the same group on February 4, which was, however, left unapproved at that stage. A scaled-down plan would be approved by late March of that year. This would lead eventually to attempts to eavesdrop on the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C., and to the Watergate scandal.

Linked to cover-up

On February 28, 1973, Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his nomination to replace J. Edgar Hoover as Director of the FBI. Armed with newspaper articles indicating the White House had possession of FBI Watergate files, the committee chairman, Sam Ervin, questioned Gray as to what he knew about the White House obtaining the files. Gray stated he had given reports to Dean, and had discussed the FBI investigation with Dean on many occasions. Gray's nomination failed, and now Dean was directly linked to the Watergate cover-up.

White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman claimed that Dean was appointed by Nixon to take the lead role in coordinating the Watergate cover-up from an early stage, and that this cover-up was working very well for many months, keeping the scandal bottled up until after the 1972 elections, which were a landslide for the Republicans, with Nixon being returned for a second presidential term by a dominant margin, the second-greatest in American history, behind only Franklin Delano Roosevelt's win over Alf Landon in 1936.

Cooperates with prosecutors

On March 23, 1973, the Watergate burglars were sentenced with stiff fines and prison time; Dean hired an attorney and began his cooperation with Watergate investigators on April 6, while continuing to work as Nixon's Chief White House Counsel, never disclosing this obvious conflict to Nixon. On April 22, Nixon requested that Dean put together a report with everything he knew about the Watergate matter and even invited him to take a retreat to Camp David to do so.

Fired by Nixon

Coupled with his sense of distance from Nixon's inner circle, "The Berlin Wall" of advisors H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Dean sensed he was going to become the Watergate scapegoat, and despite going to Camp David, he returned to Washington without having completed his report. Nixon fired Dean on April 30, the same date he also announced the resignations of Haldeman and Ehrlichman.

Dean had earlier asked Nixon for formal immunity from prosecution for any crimes he may have committed while serving as White House counsel; Nixon refused to grant this, and this refusal led Dean to cooperate with the prosecutors very soon afterwards. Upon going to the prosecutors, Dean also requested immunity, which was not granted despite his many revelations.

Testifies at Senate Committee

On June 25, 1973, Dean began his testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee, in which he implicated administration officials, including Nixon fundraiser and former Attorney General John Mitchell, Nixon and himself. He was the first administration official to accuse Nixon of direct involvement with Watergate and the resulting cover-up in press interviews. Such testimony against Nixon, while damaging to the president's credibility, had little impact legally, as it was merely his word against Nixon's. Nixon vigorously denied all accusations against him that he had authorized a cover-up, and Dean had no proof beyond various notes he had taken in his meetings with the president. It was not until information about secret White House tape recordings having been made by President Nixon (disclosed in testimony by Alexander Butterfield, in July 1973), the tapes subpoenaed, and analyzed, that Dean's accusations were substantiated.

Watergate trial

Dean pled guilty to obstruction of justice before Watergate trial judge John Sirica on November 30, 1973. He admitted supervising payments of "hush money" to the Watergate burglars, notably E. Howard Hunt, and revealed the existence of Nixon's enemies list. On August 2, 1974, Sirica handed down a sentence of one to four years in a minimum-security prison. However, when Dean surrendered himself as scheduled on September 3, he was diverted to the custody of U.S. Marshals, and kept instead at Fort Holabird (near Baltimore, Maryland) in a special "safe house" holding facility primarily used for witnesses against the Mafia. He spent his days in the offices of the Watergate Special Prosecutor and testifying in the trial of Watergate conspirators Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Robert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson, which concluded on January 1, 1975. Dean's lawyer moved to have his sentence reduced, and on January 8, Sirica granted the motion, adjusting Dean's sentence to time served, which wound up being four months. With his conviction for felony offenses, Dean was disbarred as a lawyer, so could no longer practice law.

Dean is one Watergate character that I'm sure Kenneth Melson (or Kenneth Melson's lawyer) has studied, just as I'm sure Melson has pulled out the history books to see how Oliver North avoided prison in the Iran-Contra scandal. But there is another fellow mentioned in the narrative above whose tale makes those folks in the White House who know their history pray that the Gunwalker hearings do not unearth a modern-day version of.

Meet Alexander Porter Butterfield. The son of an early Navy flyer, Butterfield became an Army pilot in World War II, flying P-38s in the Pacific Theater. He remained in the Air Force and won a Distinguished Flying Cross for heroic photo recon work in Vietnam.

After Nixon's election in 1968, Butterfield's friendship with H. R. Haldeman earned him a job as Deputy Assistant to the President. From Wikipedia:

Butterfield was highly regarded for his dedication to the job which led him to work very long hours. He was a deputy to Haldeman, and aside from routine matters such as visitor tours of the White House, Butterfield provided briefing papers for the President. Among his responsibilities was the setting of Nixon's schedule and the maintenance of his historical records, which included the operations of the secret taping system which Nixon had installed in the White House.

When Nixon was re-elected, Butterfield was appointed on December 19, 1972 as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. He was routinely asked to appear before the United States Senate committee headed by Sam Ervin and was interviewed by staff of the committee on July 13, 1973, prior to going before the Senators. John Dean had previously mentioned that he suspected White House conversations were taped, and the committee was therefore routinely asking witnesses about it. Butterfield did not want to voluntarily tell the committee of the system, but had decided before the hearing that he would, if asked a direct question.

As it happened, Butterfield was asked the direct question by the minority (Republican) counsel, Donald Sanders. He told the staff members that "everything was taped ... as long as the President was in attendance. There was not so much as a hint that something should not be taped." All present recognized the significance of this disclosure, and Butterfield was hastily put before the full Committee on July 16 to put the taping system on the record. Chief Minority Counsel, Fred Thompson, catapulted himself into history by asking "Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?"

The rest, as they say, is history.

There was no predicting what any of the witnesses called to testify under oath would say, and Butterfield's answer was greeted with incredulity. This was Nixon's "oh, shit!" moment. The rest of the battle was a losing rear-guard action on the part of the White House defending what was on those tapes, including the infamous "18-1/2 minute gap."

Butterfield, who was not involved in the Watergate cover-up, was never under any threat of prosecution himself so he had nothing to lose by telling the truth.

The Butterfields of Gunwalker are, in addition to Melson's possible (indeed, likely) reprise of John Dean, the people whose testimony under oath the White must fear the most.

Funny thing about testifying under oath -- whether forty years ago or next month -- you just never can tell what a witness is going to give away when sworn.

Once upon a time, it was the the second term of a President.

This time?

That is what the White House is worried about.


bruce said...

i hope we can use gunwalker to impeach president bongo.

Anonymous said...

You gotta understand. The media hated Nixon.

They do NOT, hate Obama or any of his brother and sister Marxists in the congress, senate or the bureaucracies.

They love all Marxists and do everything they can to protect and promote both Marxist principle and those who support them.

It's simply a fact. Make of that what you will but you'd be a fool to ignore it.

Mark Matis said...

Nixon's "crime" was not the original break-in, but the coverup. Best available evidence says he did NOT know of the break-in until after the fact, and definitely did NOT authorize it. He DID realize, however, that ABCNNBCBCS and their dead-tree fellow travelers DID NOT CARE if he knew of or authorized the break-in, and that they would report it as if he HAD regardless of the truth. That foul swill was as damnable then as they are now.

Obama, on the other hand, most likely knew about planning for Gunwalker, and encouraged it enthusiastically, recognizing that his lapdogs would cover for him.

Of course, I may indeed just be a "negative barometer", but that's not the way I'm placing MY bets.

Anonymous said...

There's another link here between the current administration and Nixon's. The boys from CREEP and "The Plumbers" felt that they were above the law. Remember David Frost's interviews with Nixon years later? Nixon said "It's not illegal if the president does it!" Isn't that pretty close to Obama's "under the RADAR"?

Nixon probably had no direct connection with the Watergate burglary. Obama probably had no direct connection with Fast and Furious. But as soon as Obama said "I did not authorize it", knowing full well that that was at best a half-truth, he became eyeballs deep in the coverup. Nixon's taped supervision of the coverup and his suggestions that his underlings lie under oath is what brought him down. All that's needed at this point is Obama's "Just tell them that, to the best of your recollection, you cannot recall" moment, and he's toast.

Anonymous said...

They will throw Melson and whoever else(except Holder)under the bus. Obama will get a free pass from the MSM, including FAUX NEWS. Obama will be re-elected. Deal with it.

Dedicated_Dad said...

I REALLY wish I could be optimistic about this, but...

I'm betting Melson will take the 5th, and all the rest involved in "the deal" will say "What? We can't bargain away the man's RIGHTS!"

If they thought his testimony would damage Dear Reader or Holder or Incompetano or... -- the deal would never have been made...