Video: Woodward first on Imus

updated 6/2/2005 11:29:11 AM ET 2005-06-02T15:29:11
TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT

DON IMUS:  Please welcome to the IMUS IN THE MORNING program from “The Washington Post,” Bob Woodward. 

Good morning, Mr. Woodward. 

BOB WOODWARD,  “WASHINGTON POST”:  Good morning.  How are you?

IMUS:  I’m fine, Bob.  How are you?     

WOODWARD:  Real well. 

IMUS:  Did you have any idea that Mark Felt was going to reveal his identity before he did?

WOODWARD:  You know, I had talked to him, and we were trying to get him to do it for decades, and he never would.  It looked like the story was not going to be told until he was deceased.  But he, his lawyer and family preempted us.  Scooped us. 

IMUS:  When you say “we were trying to get him to,” you mean you and the family were trying to?

WOODWARD:  No, I was.  I’d been out there and I’d been in telephone conversation with him, because I think this is an important piece of the Watergate puzzle and wanted to fill it in if he could-if he would do it voluntarily. 

IMUS:  Did he ever tell you why he wouldn’t?

WOODWARD:  Yes.  He was-this is a man who was in turmoil, not sure whether he did the right thing or the wrong thing.  And, you know, saw the cover-up, the Watergate cover-up, and chose the route to talk to me, but was so clandestine about the whole relationship to the point of paranoia. 

IMUS:  When did you first try to persuade him to reveal himself?

WOODWARD:  When Carl Bernstein and I wrote “All the President’s Men.”

IMUS:  Oh, that early?

WOODWARD:  Because we thought if we could say who this was, and I, you know, very interesting conversations in that period. 

IMUS:  There’s a certain sadness about the way this has emerged.  I mean, the fact that he’s 91.  He appears not to-he appears to have been coerced-coerced into doing this.  Is that the feeling you got?

WOODWARD:  No, I don’t.  I know his daughter, Joan Felt, and she’s looking out for his interests.  Obviously, he is a man who has dementia, seriously, at that age.  Joan always was looking out for him, and you see that one picture of him waving and happy, and I think it’s a burden lifted from him.  At the same time, his consciousness of, you know, what his role was in my-I mean, has really declined. 

IMUS:  There’s a snippy little article in “The New York Times” this morning suggesting that this is all about the money with the family. 

WOODWARD:  You know, I don’t know.  I had many conversations with Joan Felt.  She always was saying-I would never tell her that her father had been Deep Throat.  I did tell her that he had helped me at one point, and that’s why I was concerned about him and wanted to talk to him. 

But, you know, when we get to be 91, let’s all hope we have a son or a daughter who will take care of us the way she’s taking care of him. 

IMUS:  Well, I think she did say, or somebody said in one of the press conferences they had, that they hoped to make some money with this and to pay some bills and that sort of thing. 

WOODWARD:  Yes.  I think that’s in the background.  But I don’t think it’s the driving force, based on what I know of her. 

IMUS:  According to, again, Todd Purdum in “The New York Times” this morning, the family or Mr. Felt or somebody involved in it, or the-the lawyer who wrote the piece in “Vanity Fair,” that someone tried to make a collaborative deal with you.  And that that fell through.

WOODWARD:  No, I mean, they-they made some suggestions of that over the years, and my judgment was, in talking to him, to Mark Felt, that he-he wasn’t competent at that point. 

And we had-I had my lawyer, Bob Barnett, without knowing the identity of the source, deal with the issue of when does somebody do something really voluntarily, and Bob came up with some criteria which were the right ones, but certainly Mark Felt did not meet those criteria. 

IMUS:  Well, they’re suggesting this morning-we’re talking with Bob Woodward, by the way, from “The Washington Post” here on the IMUS IN THE MORNING program. 

But the suggestion is that they tried to make a book deal, that they tried to, in fact, sell it to “Vanity Fair” and other publications before settling on the publication “Vanity Fair,” which apparently the writers paid around 10 grand for. 

WOODWARD:  I don’t know.  I mean, the important issue here is that now we know who this person was, and I’ve always said over the years, once he’s identified, and then you go back and look at it, it’s obvious who it was.  You know, we worked very hard for over 30 years to protect him, because that was the deal. 

IMUS:  Did anyone other than you and Carl and Ben Bradlee know who Deep Throat was?

WOODWARD:  My wife, Elsa Walsh.  Sometimes you have to tell your wives these things. 

IMUS:  Well, I saw Carl in some interview saying that-maybe the both of you, that the smart thing you’ve done is not to tell your first wives. 

WOODWARD:  Yes, you’ve got that. 

IMUS:  There was a report that Carl’s son, who was 8 years old, was at a camp in, I believe someplace in the Hamptons, and told a friend of his, another 8-year-old, that it, in fact, was Mark Felt, and that this 8-year-old, a couple of-some years later, when he was either in high school or college, wrote a paper about it. 

WOODWARD:  Yes. 

IMUS:  Do you know if that’s true?  How would Carl Bernstein’s kid know this?

WOODWARD:  Well, he didn’t know.  You know, I think his wife at the time, Nora Ephron, that was her guess.  But it was not knowledge.  I mean, a lot of people had suggested this was who it was. 

And again, if you look at the stories Carl and I did and the coverage, and the people have asked the question, well, how did two young reporters on the metro staff convince Ben Bradlee to really jeopardize “The Post,” not only journalistically but economically.  And Ben knew we had a high level source in the FBI, and that was great comfort to him. 

IMUS:  I’m going to ask you some questions now that are-that are contained in your piece in “The Washington Post” this morning, because I’m just assuming that everybody who listens to the program probably doesn’t get a copy “The Washington Post,” including me out here in the middle of New Mexico.  How did you meet Felt?

WOODWARD:  In the White House.  When I was in the Navy, I did some courier work for the chief of naval operations.  And I went over there one day, bringing documents.  I don’t know what they were.  They were all sealed up. 

And I had to wait, and this guy came in and sat down, and he had to wait, too.  I think there was lots of waiting that goes on in the White House.  We were kind of like two passengers on a long airline flight who don’t know each other, so we started talking.  And that’s how I met him. 

IMUS:  And at that time, well, you said you were in the Navy.  So when did he first-he gave you-he provided you with information before the Watergate break-in, right?

WOODWARD:  Yes, he did.  The first thing that I used as a reporter or tried to use was information that Spiro Agnew, then vice president, had taken some money.  And a reporter and I went looking at it, and Richard Cohen of “The Washington Post,” who was then the top Maryland reporter, thought it was preposterous, but we checked, and couldn’t get anywhere.  And then, of course, we now know Agnew took these kind of bribes. 

IMUS:  So the information that you got from him through all of the information you got, before Watergate and obviously after Watergate, all had to do with the Nixon administration?

WOODWARD:  Well, let’s see. 

IMUS:  In one way or another?

WOODWARD:  Yes, as best I can tell, because that was the administration in power.  Sure.  Yes.  I mean, Felt retired from the FBI in the summer of ‘73, and Nixon was still in office. 

IMUS:  Now, when Mr. Felt at that time was a fairly-when you first met him, was a high-ranking official at the FBI, subsequently became the number three guy at the FBI, and then-and then was the number two guy at the FBI. 

WOODWARD:  Right, yes.

IMUS:  And when L. Patrick Gray was appointed, he was essentially responsible for the day-to-day operation of the FBI.  Did Bradlee or did you and Carl sit around and think, man, this is-there’s something weird about that number two guy at the FBI leaking this information to us? 

WOODWARD:  Well, you know, it’s not-it’s not leaking.  And, you know, we’re going to put out a-the long version in a book of this, about this and the whole sequence, but sources are not born, they’re nurtured.  And this is somebody I met accidentally. 

We got to know each other basically because I was trying to figure out what to do with my life at that point after getting out of the Navy.  And he was kind of a career counselor-mentor.  And then when I went I into journalism, I said, “Well, that’s great, you can help me with stories.”

And he wasn’t too happy with that, but you press and you nurture, and you go back and back.  And he was a very, very reluctant source.  He was somebody who was not delivering specific information from bureau files.  And as best I can tell, I think in his own mind he was just giving us a kind of overall guidance, and not saying, oh, yes, there’s this 302 that says the following. 

IMUS:  So you-well, if you don’t describe what he was doing as leaking information, then what was he doing? 

WOODWARD:  Well, he was-he helped us immeasurably.  But, you know, there were so many other sources. 

Carl Bernstein just walked in here.  He wanted to (INAUDIBLE).

CARL BERNSTEIN:  Hey, Don.  Good morning.

IMUS:  Hi, Carl.  How are you? 

BERNSTEIN:  Good morning. 

IMUS:  I’m just asking-I’m asking Bob about what exactly Felt was doing, if he wasn’t leaking information.  He was providing some-providing guidance?  I mean, how would you characterize what he was doing? 

BERNSTEIN:  I think there’s a lot more guidance than actually giving of information.  I always stay away from the term “leak,” because usually it’s held to get information out of anybody, including people who are inclined to be willing to give it to you, that usually you still have to do some real pulling.  And this was the case. 

He was a very reluctant giver of information.  And also, that I asked Bob yesterday, “How many meetings and phone calls do you think there were in the whole time that we covered the story?”  And it’s fewer than 10. 

WOODWARD:  Or maybe-I mean, if you include phone calls, it may be a dozen.  But, you know, just an example from “All the President’s Men” to show how it worked, Carl and I learned from another reporter at “The Post” just a few days after Watergate there were these cryptic entries in two of the address books of the burglars, said H. Hunt or Howard Hunt-W.H., White House, with a phone number. 

Now, anyone can carry anyone’s phone number around.  If, you know, a burglar is caught with your phone number, that doesn’t mean you’re involved.  But it was a hard piece of evidence, and I called Felt and said, you know, “We want to be careful about guilt by association.”  And he said, “Look, don’t worry, Hunt’s involved.”

Now, that sort of backup allowed the story to be written, which was, you know, just a few days after Watergate, above the fold in “The Washington Post,” saying there is a White House connection to the burglary operation. 

IMUS:  So he didn’t look at what he was doing as being a violation of his oath of office in providing information that they were gathering as an official investigative arm of this investigation, the FBI  providing the newspaper with a-he just-I’m...

WOODWARD:  Well, it’s got all of the ambiguity...

IMUS:  It sounds...

WOODWARD:  ... and the approach, avoidance of human nature.  You know, I think he was distancing himself from-so he wouldn’t be in a position of, you know, this came in from a specific FBI  file, but...

BERNSTEIN:  The truth is, you know, we don’t know all of his motivations. 

IMUS:  Right.

BERNSTEIN:  And during the period, he was really never asked.  We-I think there was enough trouble when Bob had these brief meetings and conversations to deal with whatever information we were trying to get without going into a question of what was motivating him.  So it’s only later, much later, that we could really speculate, and never have got a complete answer to his motivation. 

IMUS:  Did all of the information that you all attribute to Deep Throat in your book actually come from him? 

WOODWARD:  Yes. 

BERNSTEIN:  Absolutely. 

IMUS:  So-so part of the-well, one element of...

BERNSTEIN:  But do you mean the original information, Don, or-very often, he confirmed information we had gotten elsewhere.  In fact, that was more often the case than-than original information. 

IMUS:  Well, let me give you an example.  What they’ve talked about on-all over cable television, and maybe regular television, that the information about these gaps in the-in the White House tapes, and the information that they were deliberately erased, that information came-there was only a few people, according to John Dean and others, who actually knew about these erasers, and when Felt provided you, according to your book, with the information, it was five months after he had left the FBI, and that was...

WOODWARD:  That’s exactly right, but...

IMUS:  Well, just let me finish.

WOODWARD:  ... but, you know, it’s like the old CIA people, they never leave.  And obviously he had contacts, and that was before anything came out about tape gaps or erasers. 

IMUS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  You remember the 18.5 minute gap.  And it turned out to be correct.  He had good information.  He had-I mean, remember, he was a Hoover man.  He was...

IMUS:  Well, did he have his own Deep Throat? 

(LAUGHTER)

BERNSTEIN:  You got it. 

WOODWARD:  Obviously, you know, you’re the number two and you spend all your life in the bureau. 

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  So he-so he must have had-there must have been a mole in the White House, right? 

WOODWARD:  No, not necessarily.  I mean, the...

BERNSTEIN:  We wish there would have been. 

WOODWARD:  Yes.  Good point. 

The FBI  has all kinds of information, as we know.  And enough of this has come out about, you know, files and data and so forth, and a lot of it’s official, a lot of it’s unofficial.  Newspaper clippings, gossip, you know, what the neighbor said and so forth, and somebody in that position has a staggering amount of data. 

IMUS:  Well, do you think he had other people helping-helping him provide you with the guidance that you were provided to allow you to investigate this?  I mean, were there other agents?  Was there-was there somebody checking to see if the flower pot was moved or that sort of thing or...

WOODWARD:  Possibly. 

BERNSTEIN:  You know, in terms of a network, I think that’s probably unlikely, but we’d have to speculate there too.  But certainly he worked among other people.  And whether he might have asked somebody else what’s going on here or what’s going on there, that’s certainly within the realm of possibility. 

IMUS:  So that would mean that there maybe were other people who knew that he was talking to you, Bob, do you think? 

BERNSTEIN:  I doubt that seriously. 

But what do you think, Bob? 

WOODWARD:  Yes, I doubt it also.  But again, there-and this is-you know, we know what happened from our end, and we’ll put all of this down, each step.  And all our notes are at the University of Texas.  The notes on this will go there, and people can kind of pick through and see how it happened.  And, you know, it’s...

IMUS:  When you guys were writing this, did you have a-was there a concern that you were unable to provide any context for the information you were receiving?  Not who was providing it, but why they were and how they were in a position to know? 

BERNSTEIN:  I think that was the great thing we were able to do in terms of giving us a kind of certainty and context of everything.  Partly from Deep Throat.  There were one or two others who were also really crucial to that, including giving us a picture of the atmosphere of the Nixon White House, which was, you know, a place of great intrigue, criminality and hysteria. 

IMUS:  Well, when you-I forget now, but when you-when you wrote these stories, how did you characterize the source for the information that you got from Felt? 

WOODWARD:  We just said “sources close to the investigation.” The deal with him was...

BERNSTEIN:  It differed time to time, depending on how many sources were involved.  In other words, if something came from an original source at-in one of the executive departments, then had gone to Felt, you know, we might say in the executive branch.  At another point, we might say close to the investigation.  It would depend on the circumstances. 

There are almost no instances except the one toward John Dean’s testimony when Felt said, “Look, this goes everywhere.”  Outside of that one, I think there were almost always other sources involved, with maybe one or two exceptions. 

IMUS:  Where would this story have gone without his help, Felt’s help? 

WOODWARD:  It’s really hard to tell.  But what’s so clear from, we hope, “All the President’s Men,” that there were dozens of sources.  And in the committee to re-elect the president, in the White House, now it’s clear, in the FBI  and other places, and so it’s a matter of piecing together. 

You know, I think somebody was talking about one of our stories about the tape gap, and it said five sources.  We often had five sources for stories. 

IMUS:  We’re talking with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein here on the IMUS IN THE MORNING program.  It’s nine minutes before the hour. 

Back to this-your relationship with him over the past 30 years, and before he lapsed into these stages of apparently dementia, how-and you may have told me this, but bear with me.  How did he feel about all of this, all of these years? 

WOODWARD:  Well, that’s what-that’s the story we’re going to tell, because it’s got some surprising twists and turns.  Just, you know, as a matter of public record, Nixon testified at Mark Felt’s trial when he was indicted for authorizing break-ins at the homes of family members of the weather (ph) underground.  The irony of that. 

When Felt was convicted, he was pardoned by none other than Ronald Reagan.  So there’s a whole three-decade story here. 

IMUS:  It seems like, just looking at it, that everybody who was involved in this, you and Carl and Ben and a number of other people, survived this and had a-you know, developed fairly successful careers out of all of this, and that the only one who didn’t benefit from this all in terms of not financially, but either-psychologically, particularly, was Mr. Felt himself.  It seems like-the impression I get is that he had a fairly miserable life for 30 years, full of regret and torment and whatever. 

WOODWARD:  I think uncertainty.  But as I was saying earlier...

BERNSTEIN:  He had a full family life, too, and a wonderful life, I think, with his wife.  I think that he-he was someone, I think, who was tormented by what had happened to this bureau that he had been a part of, and then by what his role was. 

I think there was-you know, that he did have ambivalence.  I mean, I think that’s one of the things that’s so compelling about-about the whole story.  It’s a very human enterprise. 

IMUS:  What did he do for the past 30 years?  I mean, you said at one time, Bob, he had a very public-some sort of public role.  But what was that? 

WOODWARD:  Well, no.  He wrote a book I think in ‘79 that no one noticed at all.  And...

BERNSTEIN:  Which is fascinating in retrospect. 

WOODWARD:  Yes, that’s right. 

BERNSTEIN:  In fills in a lot of gaps. 

WOODWARD:  In 20 years -- 20 years ago, OK, we unfortunately-we’re going to have to get out...

BERNSTEIN:  We’re getting yanked out of a green room. 

IMUS:  Let me ask you one final question then. 

WOODWARD:  Yes.

IMUS:  Nixon was on tape suggesting to Halderman that they break into Brookings Institute, and Henry Kissinger told Chris Matthews that that was Nixon’s way of blowing off steam, although Nixon did suggest the time they break in, 8:00 or 9:00 at night.  And my question for you is, do you think Nixon ever suggested, either kiddingly or seriously, that anyone break into Watergate? 

BERNSTEIN:  We have no-there’s nothing on any of the tapes to that effect.  What is apparent is that he knew there was a pretty full intelligence-gathering operation over at the committee to reelect.  But the most chilling thing of all is that threat to go into Brookings, in many regards. 

WOODWARD:  We need to go on the “Today Show,” Don.  Hope you understand. 

IMUS:  Thanks, Bob and Carl. 

WOODWARD:  Thanks.

IMUS:  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the IMUS IN THE MORNING program. 

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