THE ADVOCATE 779
VOL. 76 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2018
I’m not looking for a confrontation. I’ve worried a good deal through my
life about problems of imposing too much strain upon our constitutional
institutions, and I’m certainly not out to get the president of the United
As you all know, there has been and is evidence—not proof, perhaps, in
some instances, but clearly prima facie evidence—of serious wrongdoing
on the part of high government officials, wrongdoing involving an effort
to cover up other wrongdoing.
It appeared that the papers, documents and recordings of conversations
in the White House, including the tapes, would be relevant to getting the
truth about those incidents.
I’m referring not only to the Watergate incident itself, but to other things
involving electronic surveillance, break-ins at a doctor’s office and the
like. Two courts have ruled that with some exclusions not only the tapes
of nine conversations, but some very important papers, memoranda and
other documents bearing on those conversations are relevant and should
be supplied to pursue the investigation.
Last night we were told that the court order would not be obeyed, that the
papers, memoranda and documents of that kind would not be provided
at all and that, instead of the tapes, a summary of what they showed
would be provided.
I think it is my duty as the special prosecutor, as an officer of the court
and as the representative of the grand jury, to bring to the court’s attention
what seems to me to be noncompliance with the court’s order. If the
court should rule that there was satisfactory compliance then it would be
my duty in the same capacity to abide by the court’s order. And of course
I would, and we would go about our business as best we can. That’s what
I regard as the basic adherence to our institutions of justice, which should
be applied and followed in dealing with these problems.
You will say, “Well, so far as the tapes are concerned, forget legalisms.
Isn’t this a pretty good practical arrangement?” I find four, to my way of
thinking, insuperable difficulties with it.
First, when criminal wrongdoing is the subject of investigation, and
when one of those subjects is obstruction of justice in the form of a
coverup, then it seems to me it is simply not enough to make a compromise
in which the real evidence is available only to two or three men
operating in secrecy, all but one of them the aides to the president and
men who have been associated with those who are the subject of the
It’s not a question of Senator Stennis’s integrity. I have no doubt at all of
Senator Stennis’s personal integrity. But it seems to me that it’s the kind
of question where it is terribly important to adhere to the established
institutions and not to accommodate it by some private arrangement
involving as I say submitting the evidence ultimately to any one man.
My second difficulty is that I will not know, and no one else will know,
what standards have been applied in deciding what to exclude from the
summary. For example, when I give you the various written proposals
and comments that were exchanged, you will find that it is contemplated