Guest: David Gergen, Herb Klein, Robert Redford, Chuck Colson
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: He leaked the clues that helped bring down a presidency.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
ANNOUNCER: For more than three decades, his identity remained one of the best-kept secrets in American politics. Now the mystery behind Deep Throat has been solved.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER NIXON AIDE: We don‘t know the full story yet.
There is a lot more to be learned here.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a revealing look at Watergate‘s top whistle-blower, Mark Felt. Why is this former FBI official stepping out of the shadows now? And how will history regard the man who risked all to expose Richard Nixon‘s cover-up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People used to think Deep Throat was a criminal.
But now they think he‘s a hero.
PATRICK BUCHANAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don‘t think Deep Throat is a hero. I think Deep Throat is a snake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome to this special edition of HARDBALL, Deep Throat revealed.
He unraveled corruption at the White House and forced Richard Nixon to resign. And now the man at the center of one of the greatest presidential scandals in American history has a name, Mark Felt. The number-two man at the FBI during the early ‘70s was often suspected of being Deep Throat. But after a “Vanity Fair” report today identified him as the famous source, Bob Woodward confirmed it.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster has a look here now at how Mark Felt came to be Deep Throat.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the first and only time in U.S. history that a president, in the middle of his term, had stepped down.
NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
SHUSTER: But the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon actually began to unfold more than two years earlier. On June 17, 1972, police arrested five men trying to break in and bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee.
At the “Washington Post,” editors assigned the story to two young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Woodward and Bernstein were relentless. And their work led to stories linking Nixon reelection operatives to the burglary and to a massive campaign of political sabotage and dirty tricks.
Along the way, Woodward and Bernstein got some crucial guidance and help from, quote, “a high ranking official in the executive branch of government.” The source insisted on total anonymity and would only talk to the reporters on deep background. A “Washington Post” editor, referring to the title of an X-rated movie at the time gave the source the nickname “Deep Throat.”
In their book, “All the President‘s Men,” which was later turned into a Hollywood film, Woodward and Bernstein described scenes with Deep Throat like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that‘s all. Just follow the money.
SHUSTER: As the scandals deepened in President Nixon‘s second term, Congress began its own investigation. There were hearings...
FORMER SEN. HOWARD BAKER ®, TENNESSEE: What did the president know, and when did he know it?
SHUSTER: And then there was blockbuster testimony about an Oval Office taping system.
FRED THOMPSON, WATERGATE COMMITTEE MINORITY COUNSEL: From 1970, then until the present time, all of the president‘s conversations in the offices mentioned and on the telephones mentioned were recorded, as far as you know?
ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, PRESIDENT NIXON‘S DEPUTY ASSISTANT: That‘s correct, until I left.
SHUSTER: The tapes later established that President Nixon approved giving hush-money to the Watergate burglars. The tapes also revealed the president tried to thwart the FBI by instructing H.R. Halderman, Nixon‘s chief of staff, to claim the break-in was a CIA matter.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: When you get in these people—when you get these people in, say, “Look, the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs thing.”
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook.
SHUSTER: After Richard Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became president...
GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our long, national nightmare is over.
SHUSTER: ... Deep Throat still insisted on retaining his anonymity. And Woodward, Bernstein and “Washington Post” editor Ben Bradlee said they would only identify him after he died.
Now, however, W. Mark Felt, number-two at the FBI in the early 1970‘s, has given an interview to “Vanity Fair” magazine in which he declares, “I‘m the guy they used to call Deep Throat.”
Felt is 91-years-old and living in California. His family tells “Vanity Fair” they began to have suspicions a few years ago following conversations with Felt‘s closest friend. And when family members confronted Felt, he confirmed that he was, indeed, “The Washington Post‘s” most famous source.
His son told “Vanity Fair,” quote, “He would not have done it, speak to the ‘Post‘ during Watergate, if he didn‘t feel it was the only way to get around the corruption in the White House and Justice Department. He was tortured inside, but never would show it.”
(on-screen): Late this afternoon, Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein issued a statement formally declaring that Mark Felt was Deep Throat and that he helped “The Washington Post” immeasurably. Ben Bradlee, who was the paper‘s exclusive editor during Watergate, added that he was stunned the damn secret, as Bradlee put it, lasted this long.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Former NBC news anchorman Tom Brokaw covered the White House during Watergate. He joins us now.
Tom, your feelings about this—your reaction to this “Vanity Fair” story that Mark Felt was Deep Throat?
TOM BROKAW, FORMER HOST OF “NBC NEWS”: Well (INAUDIBLE) for a long time felt that he was kind of the last surviving possibility. There were a lot of people on that list for awhile. And they all seemed to fall away, either by absolute denials or they didn‘t match up all the various criteria.
But Felt stayed in the hunt, so to speak. An FBI agent who would have had access to all the information that Bob was getting. He could have moved the potted plant on the balcony, probably had some nighttime techniques that he could have used.
The FBI was in chaos at that time. Edgar Hoover had died. They had a succession of acting directors and other people who were there and not part of the long tradition of the FBI. So it makes sense that it was Mark Felt.
I believed, for the last couple of years, it was probably him, based in part on conversations with people who were close to both Carl and Bob. They didn‘t have absolute confirmation, these people, but they believed that it was probably Mark Felt.
MATTHEWS: Take us back to yourself as a reporter there covering the White House for NBC, competing everyday what you read in the “Washington Post.” Did you have a sense that they had a source that was damn close to the investigation?
BROKAW: Oh, yes, they had great sources. In fact, Carl and Bob reinvented investigative journalism. You know, the Washington press corps was sitting there fat, dumb and happy in the press room. And Carl and Bob were out late at night knocking on doors, walking up and down sidewalks in the suburbs of Washington and Maryland, and asking questions of people who were relevant to all of this.
And then, in journalism, when you begin to develop some exclusive information like that, you land on the front page everyday, one of the happy circumstances is that sources begin to come to you. And you get calls that you may not have otherwise have gotten.
But, yes, it was pretty remarkable. And you know, the two of them had been Metro reporters before all of that. People forget that they were way down in the food chain at the “Washington Post.” And yet, they become two of the truly legendary figures of American journalism.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s try to put this in historic perspective, Tom. If there hadn‘t been a Watergate sleuthing operation headed by Bob and Carl, if there hadn‘t been a Deep Throat, would Nixon have made it?
BROKAW: He might have. Although, I always believed that the conspiracy was massive, and that the nefarious activity was so broad, that at some point there would have been cracks in all of that and that it would begin to unravel in another fashion.
What I think that they did, and they get full credit for this, was to initiate it and then accelerate it. But it‘s hard for me to believe that, given what we now know about what was going on, that it could have stayed that way forever. He might have made it, but it‘s hard to know.
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to go back. And you have the first-class, firsthand memory. First of all, we had the Watergate sleuthing by Carl and Bob at the “Washington Post” with the help of Deep Throat, who is apparently Mark Felt. We then had the Watergate hearings and the revelation that there was a taping system. And also we had John Dean‘s testimony.
Did it take all three, the firsthand testimony of the whistle-blower Dean, the taping system, and this incredible figure, Deep Throat, at the FBI to tell us all the story?
BROKAW: Yes, it did take all three. And the tapes were a critical component of it. That‘s where we knew about the smoking gun. It became not just a legal battle or a journalistic investigation, but it obviously became a great epic political struggle in this country.
And as late as early 1974 -- I have to stop and kind of replay the tape in my mind—Nixon still believed that he could win this on political grounds. I remember going out across the country with him to Arizona and other places, and there were people standing on their feet and cheering him in some of the more what we would now call red states.
So he was trying to win this on political grounds. And they would give up expletive-deleted tapes kind of one piece at a time, until finally he was forced to turn over all the tapes. And that‘s where they found the smoking gun.
Can I just tell you about one memorable episode?
BROKAW: I had been working on the theory that the president was claiming that he had executive privilege. He did not have to release the tapes. And I thought there was the possibility that there may have been a historic exception to that, so I had a research assistant call all the most prominent constitutional lawyers, who were conservatives, in America.
And they came back. And as one said to us, “There is executive privilege, except in cases of impeachment proceedings.” So I had this question prepared for the president. And we went to Houston for the news conference. And it was the Radio and Television News Director‘s Association.
And we had agreed on the way down there, that is, the White House press, that we would let the local news directors ask most of the questions, but that Dan Rather, and Tom Jerrold (ph), and I would be on stage. And if they chose to call on us, then we would ask a question.
And the clock was ticking. The local news directors were not getting much out of the president. And then the man who was in charge signaled for Dan to get up and ask his question. I‘m sitting there with, I think, this very odd question. And that was the exchange in which Dan and the president got into it about, “Are you running for something?”
I asked my question later. But I must say, I think it got kind of lost in the backwater of that exchange, although it was written about later in books. Because what I didn‘t realize—it was the last question that Richard Nixon took at an open press conference.
And what I said to him was, when you say you have executive privilege, historians and legal authorities say it does not have application in the impeachment proceedings. So aren‘t you misleading the public or being deliberately inaccurate?
And Ron Ziegler, who was furious with me the next day—but, of course, it didn‘t get the attention that it might have because most of the focus that night was on the exchange between Dan and the president, which was blown out of proportion a little bit. When the president said, “Are you running for something, Mr. Rather,” was after there was some booing, and some laughing. And Dan, instinctively combative as he is, as we all are in those situations, struck back, “No, sir, are you?” And then the roof came down.
MATTHEWS: Of course. Hey, Tom, it‘s great having you on. Thank you for coming on tonight. Big story tonight. Thanks for coming on and giving us your insights.
MATTHEWS: : Coming up, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, who spoke today to the author of the “Vanity Fair” report, John O‘Connor.
Plus, two former Nixon aides, Pat Buchanan and David Gergen.
And later, actor Robert Redford, who played Bob Woodward in “All the President‘s Men.” He‘s coming here. You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL, Deep Throat revealed, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: It was a day of expectancy around the White House this morning as the president scheduled a meeting with Vice President Ford at 11 o‘clock. And then came word that the president had requested television time for tonight, that television time nearly upon us now.
It seemed a confirmation that he had reached the decision that was breaking out all over Congress, that he had decided to resign.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special editor of HARDBALL, Deep Throat revealed.
Coming up later in the hour, Robert Redford, who played Bob Woodward in “All the President‘s Men,” the movie, plus former Nixon counsel Chuck Colson.
But we‘re joined right now by two men who really knew Richard Nixon, Pat Buchanan, who was a longtime Nixon aide all the way back to his campaign for president. He‘s now an MSNBC political contributor.
David Gergen was an adviser to President Nixon. He is now an editor at “U.S. News and World Report.”
Let me start with you, David Gergen. I haven‘t heard from you today. Do you think that Mark Felt was a hero, as his family is describing him, or is he a traitor, as Pat has described him?
GERGEN: I‘ve never thought there was a badge of honor attached to Deep Throat. I thought whoever it did was a turncoat within in the administration, taking money from the president, and talking down in the basement. So I‘ve always had a low opinion of whoever it was.
I have listened and had an exchange today with John O‘Connor, the lawyer. And there is—I think we should hear more about the case for Mark Felt, whether he really felt that he was so pinned in that he couldn‘t go anywhere.
But I think we also ought to be very cautious about hearing this. There may be—there are many—I don‘t think we know the full tale of what his motive was. And there may have very well been vendettas on a part of the Hooverites at the FBI to go after Richard Nixon. And I think we need to know much more than we know tonight.
MATTHEWS: Well, Pat, that was, of course, reported in the “Washington Post” late this afternoon, on their own wire service, that the motive, according to the “Washington Post,” the motive for Deep Throat was to get even, to some extent, to a large extent for the FBI for having the president, President Nixon, for having passed him over for chief for director of the FBI.
BUCHANAN: Right. Well, I wouldn‘t used the term “traitor,” because I don‘t know that he was ever a Nixon loyalist.
MATTHEWS: Snake, was the word you used.
BUCHANAN: Yes, I think he‘s sneaky. And I think he‘s dishonorable in what he did.
MATTHEWS: But was he a Nixon guy or was he a civil servant?
BUCHANAN: He‘s not a civil—I mean, he‘s an FBI director, so he‘s way up there. I guess he‘s a GS-18 or whatever it is.
MATTHEWS: But he wasn‘t put there by Nixon. He was put there by Hoover.
BUCHANAN: But he‘s an assistant director of the FBI. What I‘m saying is, he has no personal loyalty to Nixon, so I don‘t consider him a traitor in that sense, as I would be if I were Deep Throat.
But I think what he did was dishonorable. And Chris, if what he did was an honorable thing, why, at least at his retirement, didn‘t he come forward and say, “Look, I want to admit what I did. And I want to tell you why I did it, because it was the right and necessary thing to do.” Why does this thing, keeping it quiet all these years? I think the man is ashamed of what he did, Chris.
MATTHEWS: That could be.
Let‘s go right now to MSNBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who was a Washington reporter during Watergate. Today, she interviewed John O‘Connor, who wrote that “Vanity Fair” article that identified Deep Throat as Mark Felt and is a Felt family associate.
What did you make of your interview with O‘Connor today, Andrea?
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I had a lot of questions. I had questions about the motivation, about whether or not he was mentally capable of making this decision, he, Mark Felt. Because Woodward, in the piece at least, is said to have been concerned that Mark Felt, his friend of many years, was not up to making that kind of a decision and that he was under family pressure.
I asked him whether they had been paid. The family, Joan Felt, denied, the daughter, that they had been paid. Clearly, O‘Connor was paid as a contributor, as an author by “Vanity Fair.” But he said, really, this family had decided that they had to persuade their father that he was not dishonorable, that it was an honorable thing and heroic thing to have been Deep Throat.
But he did feel ashamed for many, many years because he was a loyal FBI man, but he was really loyal to J. Edgar Hoover. And he felt that Patrick Gray and the new regime at the FBI had really turned the FBI on its head.
Now, Woodward acknowledges in a “Washington Post” story tonight, in their on-line “Washington Post,” that clearly Mark Felt thought that he was passed over. So Pat is right about that. He thought that it should have been a career person who was put in, not someone brought in, a submariner, a Navy man, brought in, as Patrick Gray was. And clearly Felt believed that Patrick Gray had turned against the institution, the FBI, and had actually done the White House‘s bidding, was destroying evidence, had, in fact, destroyed the contents of Howard Hunt‘s safe, although he didn‘t do this at the time that he had begun to be Deep Throat.
So his motivations, according to O‘Connor, were pure initially. And his motivation in coming forward now was that the family pressed him to believe that he needed to say something before he died. His memory is flawed. He has not Alzheimer‘s or some other disease, according to the family, but he does forget things.
But according to O‘Connor, at least, who has spent a lot of time on him, he is crystal-clear on the subject of Richard Nixon, and crystal clear on the subject of Bob Woodward, whom Felt still considers to be a friend.
MATTHEWS: OK. More with Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan, and David Gergen when we come back.
And in a moment, former Nixon communications director Herb Klein‘s going to be here. And later, actor Robert Redford, who played Bob Woodward in “All the President‘s Men.” Rob Redford‘s going to be there. This is a special edition of HARDBALL, Deep Throat revealed, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it‘s a terrible moment for the country, a terrible moment for Mr. Nixon. But over all, we have not reacted badly to the tragic events which are unfolding, and the power is going to be transferred in an orderly and constitutional way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL, Deep Throat revealed.
We‘re back with Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan and David Gergen.
We‘re joined right now by former Nixon communications director Herb Klein.
Mr. Klein, it‘s an honor to have you back. I haven‘t talked to you in years. Let me ask you, what do you think was Watergate all about, to you as an old Nixon hand?
HERB KLEIN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:
Watergate was (INAUDIBLE) a mistake in the first place. And I think Jeb Magruder and a few other people thought that they could prove to us they could have a different kind of intelligence gathering that was illegal. And it was wrong.
I think that the problem was that the White House never stopped and tried to get rid of the people involved, and then went foreword with the power grab.
MATTHEWS: Why did President Nixon destroy his presidency by intervening the cover-up for the break-in if he had nothing to do with it?
KLEIN: I think he had nothing to do with the break-in. I think that‘s pretty clear. I think he intervened because he thought that he could preserve the presidency more easily, just as previous presidency, and things before.
MATTHEWS: Let me go Andrea Mitchell. Your thoughts on the incriminating tape. Of course, June 23rd, it‘s all about that, in addition to Deep Throat. It‘s where Nixon went to chief of staff Halderman, or Halderman went to him, they had a conversation and decided to use the CIA to stop the FBI investigation.
MITCHELL: Indeed. One of the things to remember is the importance of Deep Throat. And the tapes really give you the flavor of the time, and how abusive the situation was, how fearful people were, how much the “Washington Post” reporters and their editors and publisher felt intimidated by the White House.
And if it had not been a source at as high a level as Mark Felt, number-two in the FBI, Ben Bradlee might have backed off and not have backed his reporters. He said so himself tonight.
Let me just show you a bit of a transcript, or read you a bit of a transcript, of an October taping in 1972 between Halderman and Richard Nixon. And the subject was Mark Felt, because Halderman suggested that the leaks that were coming out might have been from Felt.
And at this point, Nixon says, “What can we do about it?” And Halderman says, “If we move on him, he‘ll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that‘s to be known in the FBI. He has access to absolutely everything.”
Nixon, “What would do you with Felt?” Halderman, “Well, I‘d ask Dean.” Nixon, “What the hell would he do?” Halderman, “He says you can‘t prosecute him, that he hasn‘t committed any crime. Dean‘s concerned if you let him know, he‘ll go out and go on network television.”
I wish he had. Nixon then says, “Is he a Catholic?” Halderman says, “Jewish.” Nixon, “Christ, put a Jew in there?” Halderman, “Well, that could explain it, too.” Does that give you a sense of how ugly things were in the Oval Office back then when they did not remember that they were being recorded, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. And by the way, if you really study the tapes
· I‘ve spent a lot of time with them—the worst possible influence in Richard Nixon, when it came to that ethnic stuff, was Bob Halderman. He always seemed to lead him into the ugly stuff, all the time when you go into those transcripts.
Pat, your view.
BUCHANAN: Well, still, look, let‘s get back to Felt. I mean, I‘m not defending the language in the Oval Office. What did felt do? He‘s sneaking around, moving flower pots, grabbing this material, leaking it to Bob Woodward.
He‘s ticked off at the president of the United States because he didn‘t get the job. He‘s buttering up “The Washington Post,” which is the most hostile institution to the president. He‘s undercutting the president in the middle of a campaign.
But I do believe this: Woodward and Bernstein are overrated as influences 1,000 percent on breaking Watergate. The man who broke it was Sirica. He put those guys under 20-year sentences. McCord breaks, and he spills his guts. That‘s what broke it open. And then the Watergate committee.
MATTHEWS: Herb Klein, what do you think was the role of the “Washington Post” breaking this story, breaking the Watergate story?
KLEIN: I disagree with Pat. I think they were a major, major factor. I also that, though, that they used—Woodward and Bernstein used the word Deep Throat commercially in their book because it wasn‘t part of the stories. I think there were a lot of sources well beyond this person who are obviously trying to get revenge, Pat Gray.
MATTHEWS: God, you know your stuff, Herb. A great newspaper man, Herb Klein. Thank you for joining us tonight.
Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan, David Gergen will be back later.
In a moment, the man who portrayed Bob Woodward in “All the President‘s Men,” Robert Redford will be here with us. And we‘ll get his reaction to the news that Deep Throat is Mark Felt.
This is special edition of HARDBALL, Deep Throat revealed, only on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Robert Redford played “Washington Post” reporter Bob Woodward in “All the President‘s Men.” He also produced that film. This is a signature scene right now from the movie. Redford as Bob Woodward meets with his source, Deep Throat, in a parking garage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ALL THE PRESIDENT‘S MEN”)
HAL HOLBROOK, ACTOR: Just follow the money.
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: What do you mean? Where?
HOLBROOK: Oh, I can‘t tell you that.
REDFORD: But could you tell me that.
HOLBROOK: No. I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know and I‘ll confirm. I‘ll keep you in the right direction, if I can, but that‘s all. Just follow the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Robert Redford, it‘s great to have you on tonight.
That film, you produced it. What made you decide, a guy who knows box office, know that this movie would have a great audience out there?
REDFORD: Well, first of all, I don‘t know box office. I don‘t think anybody really does.
REDFORD: But I was attracted to the story, because I think that‘s the basis of any good entertainment, starting with a good story.
And I got involved with this project a long time ago. It was 1972 that I actually got involved with it. And, at that time, it was a very, very small story, that no one had any idea about the mushrooming effects of this small story involving two unknown reporters on the low end of the work ladder in our society doing something that would eventually bring down the highest position in the land. To me, no one knew that that position was going to crumble. It was just what these guys were doing that nobody else was doing in the summer of 1972, when people were more focused on whether Hank Aaron was going to break Babe Ruth‘s record or not.
And I got involved in that story then and then got involved with Bob and Carl actually before they wrote the book. Then they wrote the book. And then they said, well, we‘re going to be writing this story on it. And we‘ll let you see—we‘ll let you have the film rights to it. So, I had to wait for nine months while they wrote their story.
In the meantime, all this stuff ballooned. And I thought, my God. I mean, what‘s going on? I‘m inheriting a giant thing out of what started as a small seed. So, I really kind of tracked this right from the very, very beginning. And then I spent—you had to run against the obstacle that how Hollywood is perceived by substantial institutions like the press. Are they going to screw it up? Are they going to trivialize it?
So, we had a lot of obstacles to get over. And so, therefore, accuracy and authenticity and a lot of research became very important. So, when I got that involved in the research with Bob and Carl, who were very generous and certainly very cooperative, I learned far more than I ever expected to know about Watergate.
MATTHEWS: You created an entire “Washington Post” newsroom, didn‘t you, for the program, for the movie?
REDFORD: Yes. They were a little bit too out of control when we went in there. You either had people trying to pretend like we weren‘t there or people going into the bathrooms to put makeup on.
I mean, it got so out of control that we said, you know, we can‘t get our work done here. We‘re going to have to go out to Hollywood. And then they‘re going to say, oh, you see? They went Hollywood with the movie.
REDFORD: But we took it pretty seriously. We duplicated the room exactly as it was.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the garage scenes. We saw one earlier. I think we‘re going to see one again here in a minute. Let‘s take a look at another garage scene here with Deep Throat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ALL THE PRESIDENT‘S MEN”)
HOLBROOK: The list is longer than anyone with than anyone can imagine. It involves the entire U.S. intelligence community, FBI, CIA, and Justice. It‘s incredible. Cover-up had little to do with Watergate. It was mainly to protect the covert operations that leads everywhere. Get out your notebook.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: God, it‘s like a sighting of a ghost.
Bob, did they tell you roughly who Deep Throat was or anything about him when you were quizzing them on the movie backdrop, the backstory?
Obviously, that was a huge attraction for me, because of the cinematic, theatrical value. I queried it in the very beginning. And Bob and Carl—it was mostly Bob, because Bob had the contact. Bob chose not to reveal. And I chose to honor that. I didn‘t feel it was my position to be aggressive about it. And I didn‘t.
And I figured, if Bob ever wanted me to know, he‘d tell me. And, in the meantime, part of me hoped that it wouldn‘t come out, because the mystery had such theatrical advantages.
REDFORD: And then now, of course, all these years went by.
But, no, he never told me. I never asked. I speculated.
MATTHEWS: And what was your guess? What was your guess, Bob, in terms of the last third of a century to think about this?
REDFORD: Well, in the beginning, when it was hot, there were a whole bunch of names that went around, which I won‘t bore with you.
But, over time, I certainly remember that thinking that, whoever did this, whoever leaked, must have had some—I don‘t want to say vendetta, but some reason for doing it. Either the integrity was being threatened of the institution itself. I did feel it probably was someone around the FBI, because I thought that they had some stake in it. And I read an article later that pretty much confirmed that the FBI was enormously threatened by Nixon‘s desire to control all forms of government and based on what he did with the FBI and the CIA.
And so, therefore, it probably might be Patrick Gray. And so, for a long time, I figured it was Patrick Gray, because it made sense that, if the FBI wanted to prevent themselves from being demolished by Nixon in his march for power, control, that they might have a stake in doing that. But I figured it was probably Patrick Gray. And Mark Felt—there‘s a lot of speculation in—you know, there‘s a lot of revision thinking about, oh, well I thought all the while.
No, I didn‘t. But I did think it probably was in the FBI.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘ll put that down as a leaner. You‘re right next to him.
Anyway, thank you, Robert Redford, who produced this best picture.
REDFORD: You‘re welcome.
MATTHEWS: Best picture, “All the President‘s Men.”
When we return, Chuck Colson, the former chief counsel to President Nixon, will join us with his reaction to the announcement today that Mark Felt is Deep Throat.
This is a special edition of HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, former Nixon special counsel Chuck Colson joins with us his reaction to today‘s bombshell that Mark Felt was Deep Throat.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Chuck Colson was chief counsel to President Richard Nixon. He was special counsel, actually. He pleaded guilty to Watergate-related charges and served seven months in prison. Following Watergate, he turned from politics to religion and founded the Prison Fellowship ministries.
Late today, I asked him what his reaction was to the news that Mark Felt was Deep Throat.
CHUCK COLSON, FORMER NIXON SPECIAL COUNSEL: I was shocked, Chris, because I worked with him closely. And you would think the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you could talk to with the same confidence you could talk to a priest.
That‘s such a sensitive job. You wouldn‘t expect him to be out at night sneaking around in dark alleys, trading information with Woodward and Bernstein. I never thought Mark Felt was a candidate for—for Deep Throat.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the role of “The Washington Post” reporting by Woodward and Bernstein, helped along, obviously, by Deep Throat, Mark Felt. Do you think Richard Nixon could have survived had “The Washington Post” not had those stories?
COLSON: Oh, I don‘t think so, because you already had Judge Sirica, who was putting tremendous pressure on the defendants.
The case ultimately would have blown wide open by virtue of the judicial process that was going on. It was a conspiracy that couldn‘t have been kept the way it was. Woodward and Bernstein, of course, have a lot of credit for bringing it down, because they kept the drumbeat up day after day. But I think it would have happened anyway.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Richard Nixon and the 23rd of June taped conversation that he had with H.R. Bob Haldeman, his chief of staff, wherein he asked Haldeman to go over to the CIA to see the CIA director, Richard Helms and his director, Vernon Walters, and tell them to say to the FBI, kill this case. Don‘t investigate Watergate anymore, because it‘s a CIA matter that goes all the way back to the Bay of Pigs.
What‘s your concept of why that happened? What was that all about?
COLSON: Well, that was the smoking-gun tape. That‘s where Nixon really himself implicated himself in a criminal conspiracy. Once that tape came out, his presidency was finished.
But the whole idea was, he wanted to use the CIA for political purposes, although there was a little bit of merit to it, because the CIA had—had a lot of things that they had done in this investigation where their footprints were—their fingerprints were all over it.
But it—it couldn‘t be justified. That was the tape that brought Nixon down. Now, of course, we understand that the FBI was working—or at least Mark Felt was working against him at the same time. So, it was wheels within wheels. It was certainly skullduggery at the highest level.
MATTHEWS: I was just going over some tapes that I was able to read—listen to over at the National Archives many years ago. And I was reading them again today because of this big development of Mark Felt admitting that he‘s Deep Throat.
And I—and I came across one where Nixon was telling the people around him, Haldeman, to go dig up some stuff on the opposition, get some intelligence on the negative—on the enemy. And he said, don‘t use Colson.
What did you make of that, that he said, don‘t use Colson, because he wanted to get Haldeman to dig up incriminating information on people like O‘Brien?
COLSON: Well, there were two or three times that Nixon kept me out of things, where I think he knew what I would have told him. And I don‘t know whether this was one of those cases or not.
But there were occasions when I told Nixon there were things that shouldn‘t be done. And not many people did that. Haldeman did it once in a while. I‘ll give him credit for that. Why he said it in that particular case, opposition research, I can‘t imagine.
MATTHEWS: I have one tape I looked at where Richard Nixon told Haldeman, his chief of staff, to go break into the Brookings Institution and get some stuff out of there that he thought was related to the Pentagon Papers.
Did you ever see any evidence or hear any evidence firsthand that Richard Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in?
COLSON: No, I don‘t think he ordered the Watergate break-in.
The Brookings matter, I was sitting in the Oval Office with Haldeman and Nixon when Nixon looked, turned to Bob Haldeman. He said, Bob, I‘ve been telling you, I want a team of men here who can go in and do black bag jobs as I need them. He said, there‘s national security documents. I want you to get them.
And I have just written some memoirs, Chris, which are going to come out next month reflecting on some of the things in Watergate. And I single out that one conversation. Interesting you should raise it, because that was the one that should have been a red flag for me. I should have stood up and said, hey, Mr. President, no. But you—you get numbed after a while. That‘s one of the problems. And your sense of loyalty overrides your—your sense of integrity.
And, in that sense, I can—I almost can understand Mark Felt, because what he saw going on, obviously, he thought should be exposed. I just think he went about it the wrong way. I think, if he had walked into the—Pat Gray, director of the FBI, and said, look, what‘s going on, I want to expose this, and together they‘d walked into the Oval Office, you might never have had a Watergate. That‘s where I would fault—I would fault Mark Felt.
MATTHEWS: Well, could Mark Felt, the Deep Throat of history, have been able to walk in and confronted the president of the United States? He was only number two at the FBI.
COLSON: Well, I would have taken the director of the FBI with me.
And if the president wouldn‘t listen, then you‘re perfectly free to go public with it. But he I think he owed it to the president first to disclose to him his misgivings. I was on the phone with the president and Mark Felt one night at—in 1972, when the president was opening up with him on really sensitive issues. You can‘t have a relationship with the head of the FBI or the deputy director of the FBI where you can‘t trust him. It is like a priest‘s confessional. You just can‘t do that.
MATTHEWS: Last question, Chuck. I‘m sorry to cut you off. I have to ask you one last question. I only have a couple seconds here.
We know, from the tapes, that Richard Nixon—and you were in the room—ordered the break-in of Brookings, which never actually occurred. Do you think Nixon was capable of ordering the break-in of Watergate?
COLSON: Well, yes, he‘d be capable of it, but he‘s too smart for it. It was a stupid thing to break into Watergate. Whoever did that didn‘t use their head, because there wasn‘t anything at the Watergate to find out.
If you had said, would they break into the opposition headquarters office, that‘s another matter. Maybe he would have, although I don‘t think the president would have dared say that in front of witnesses. He might have thought it and hoped somebody got the message, do it. He wouldn‘t have come right out and said it.
MATTHEWS: Well, Chuck Colson, it‘s great having you on. You have built a whole new life for yourself. And you‘ve been great to all the prisoners out there. It‘s nice having you on the show. You have built a new life, as I said. Thank you for coming on.
COLSON: I enjoy being with—I enjoy being with you always, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We‘re coming back with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan and former Nixon adviser David Gergen.
You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL, “Deep Throat Revealed,” only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL. We are back with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan, and former presidential adviser David Gergen.
Here‘s an interesting little thing to look at. Back in 1999, Tim Russert asked Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on “Meet the Press” whether Mark Felt was Deep Throat. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
TIM RUSSERT, HOST: Your son and ex-wife are quoted as saying, it‘s Mark Felt.
RUSSERT: A high-ranking member of the Justice Department.
CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR/JOURNALIST: Neither of whom has any more idea than the man in the moon who it is.
Bob and I did one really smart thing during Watergate. And that is that we told neither of our ex-wives, wives at the time, the identity of Deep Throat.
BERNSTEIN: So, indeed, I think one of the ex-wives speculated as to Mark Felt, but they certainly have no knowledge whatsoever.
RUSSERT: Bernstein knows. Woodward knows. Ben Bradlee knows. When will the rest of the world know who is Deep Throat?
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “PLAN OF ATTACK”: When that source passes away or releases us from our agreement and pledge of confidentiality.
MATTHEWS: Talk about prenuptial agreements.
Let me ask you, Pat Buchanan, what is it all about?
BUCHANAN: Oh, I think what it is ultimately about...
MATTHEWS: The whole thing we‘re talking about, Watergate, the snooping, the scooping, everything.
BUCHANAN: Well, look, it brought down a president.
And I think that cost us Vietnam, frankly. But the story of Deep Throat is—simply is—Robert Redford got it exactly right. This is a theatrical device and it‘s a literary device, which would never have made them as famous—quite as famous as they are if they simply had said, we had a very high source in the investigative process who told us this.
MATTHEWS: But they had one guy.
BUCHANAN: They had—well, they used this phrase, Deep Throat, this secret stuff.
MATTHEWS: I know. But Nixon—Nixon—you know, your guy, he said he thought it was one person. He never thought it was a composite.
BUCHANAN: Well, I think—I think it‘s one guy, but I also think there are embellishments added on and attributed...
MATTHEWS: Andrea Mitchell, what is it all about?
MITCHELL: Well, it‘s about honesty in government. And it is about an event that not only changed political history, but it also changed the way we do journalism, as Tom Brokaw referenced earlier.
And it changed the way Americans felt about their government. In the post-Watergate era, people did not have as much confidence in the Oval Office. And I don‘t think it has ever fully recovered. It has episodically. By there‘s always been a sense in the American psyche that the person who is the president of the United States, the commander in chief, could lie.
MATTHEWS: David Gergen.
GERGEN: The person who broke this was John Sirica. Pat Buchanan was right earlier in the program.
But Woodward and Bernstein deserve their awards and they were vindicated today from all those critics who said it was a composite figure. Now we know they were right all along. It was one individual. Mark Felt, I don‘t think he deserves a badge of honor. But we need to—deserve to know more about it.
But the larger picture here is that these were serious scandals. These were serious abuses of office. I think Pat and I and Herb Klein and Chuck Colson are all still puzzled. How did we ever—how did this ever happen? How did it ever get to this extent?
But the bottom line was, at the end of the day, Richard Nixon was right when he told David Frost after he left office that he was the architect of his own demise. He said: I gave my enemies a sword. And they ran me through.
MATTHEWS: They thrust it in with relish.
Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan and David Gergen.
Tomorrow on HARDBALL, author John Harris and his new book, “The Survivor,” about Bill Clinton‘s years at the White House. It‘s another White House saga. That‘s tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern.
Right now, it‘s time for “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
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