President Richard Nixon knew "less at the outset than we thought he did and more at the end than he ever admitted" about Watergate, says John Dean, Nixon's former counsel and author of "The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It."
Dean appeared Monday on Newsmax TV
's "America's Forum" to discuss the book, which he wrote after having transcribed all 1,000 of the former president's conversations in the National Archives.
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Before Dean took on the project, he said, only partial transcripts had been made of about 400 of Nixon's conversations. Dean hired a team of graduate students, one of them a legal secretary, who helped transcribe the 600 recorded conversations that had never been listened to.
He delved into the 18 ½-minute gap on the Nixon tapes, which Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, said she was responsible for in 1973 by accidentally hitting a record button while reaching for the telephone, though she said that would only have accounted for five minutes of the gap.
There are six possible people, including Nixon and his chief of staff, Alexander Haig, who could have erased the tape, but Dean said he cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt who did it.
"It's clear that they were talking about the cover-up and that's what was erased," Dean said.
"There was a lot of speculation at the time that this first conversation might have been talking about how they had been behind the Watergate break-in. Not true. When you listen to all these conversations, you know the range of knowledge that the people had."
Dean also learned that former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, later revealed to be "Deep Throat," one of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's sources, was a known leaker long before Watergate.
Felt was known inside the FBI as "the white rat," Dean said, a reference to his premature white hair and affinity for secretly talking to the news media.
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