Ex-Aide Says Nixon Agreed to Break-In at Watergate

     By The Associated Press

     Sunday 27 July 2003

     WASHINGTON, July 26 (AP) - Three decades after Watergate, a former top aide to President Richard M. Nixon says that Nixon personally ordered the break-in that led to his resignation.

     The aide, Jeb Stuart Magruder, previously had said only that John Mitchell, the former attorney general who was running the Nixon re-election campaign in 1972, approved the plan to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex near the White House and tap the telephone of the chairman, Larry O'Brien.

     Mr. Magruder, in a PBS documentary that will be broadcast Wednesday and in an Associated Press interview last week, says he was meeting with Mr. Mitchell on March 30, 1972, when he heard Nixon tell Mr. Mitchell over the phone to go ahead with the plan.

     The break-in occurred about two months later, on June 17, 1972.

     Mr. Magruder, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and perjury charges stemming from the break-in and spent seven months in prison, explained his three decades of silence about Nixon's culpability by saying, "Nobody ever asked me a question about that."

     Some historians said they doubted the statements by Mr. Magruder, who was Nixon's deputy campaign director and deputy communications director at the White House. Stanley Kutler, an expert on Nixon's White House tapes, called it "the dubious word of a dubious character."

     John Dean, the former White House counsel, said he was surprised when Mr. Magruder recently told him that Nixon had encouraged the break-in in advance.

     "I have no reason to doubt that it happened as he describes it," Mr. Dean said, "but I have never seen a scintilla of evidence that Nixon knew about the plans for the Watergate break-in."

     In all, 25 people went to jail for their roles in the break-in or the attempt to cover it up.


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