Robert Sack Discusses the House Committee on the Judiciary Impeachent Inquiry, Part 1

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bjbj Naftali: Hi. I m Tim Naftali. I m the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential
Library Museum in Yorba Linda, California. It s September 27, 2011 and I have the honor
and privilege to be interviewing Judge Robert Sack for the Richard Nixon Oral History Program.
Judge Sack, thank you for doing this. Sack: re welcome. Naftali: d like to situate you
in the 1960 s and get a sense of what you re doing before you find yourself in the 70s
involved in the impeachment inquiry. Sack: I was a fairly recently minted partner what
was then considered a midsized firm. Now it would be some sort of boutique but then it
was considered midsized. And one of my recent, a man who became a partner even more recently
than I did, I think was 1972, and now we re talking about early January of 1974. He was
not only a partner of mine but became a tremendously close friend. We had interesting backgrounds
that were alike in some ways and different in others and his name was Bob Owen, whose
name you ve probably come across in preparing for this. And one day Bob came in January
Bob came into my room. He had an office nearby. He walked into my office and shut the door
and he never did that. And he came in and he said, excuse me. And he said, Bob, what
are you doing for the next six months? And I said, nothing, why are you asking? And then
he told me that John Doar was putting together a staff and what the staff was doing and he
said he had recommended me to John for whatever reason that he did and was I interested. To
my eternal credit I said, let me ask my wife first. I said, I m inclined to do it. I said,
I haven t done any public service. I actually did say that at that time that I remember
that my father had been in New Guinea during World [inaudible] for about 18 months and
I said, if he can do 18 months in New Guinea I should be able to do 6 months in Washington.
Went home, my wife then wife said that was fine and she was going to move the family
down and we re going to do it the right way. I went down, had an interview with John Doar,
he offered me the job and I accepted it. At the time, I should say, that my specialty
was becoming in those days you started as a lawyer and they didn t even say that you
were a litigator. They said you were a lawyer and I would do some litigation and masterful
of none but I would do litigation. I did a fair amount of corporate work but I was increasingly
centering my practice in press law, that is to say so-called first amendment law but it
s representing the press and throughout my career my principal client was The Wall Street
Journal. And so that was my vantage point at the time, as I say, press lawyer. Naftali:
So it s because of the fact that Mr. Owen was a partner was it Patterson Belknap and
Webb? Sack: Patterson Belknap and Webb at the time, yes. Naftali: So that was your connections,
the fact that Sack: Yes. Partners. Naftali: ve heard that Mr. Owen was what Professor
Fiss calls were the Kitchen Cabinet of John Doar. He was quite close to John Doar. Sack:
Yes. Naftali: He had been in the Civil Rights Sack: Oh, yes. I think he was the deputy.
I think he was John s deputy. He spent a lot of time down in Mississippi, particularly,
when it was burning. Naftali: Yes. These Civil Rights workers died there. Sack: Yeah. Naftali:
So, it s January, 1974. Sack: Correct. Naftali: You agreed to do this. Sack: Yes. Naftali:
What did they say you were going to do? Sack: I don t know that they told me what I was
going to do. I seem to remember John telling me later that they didn t tell me what I was
going to do. I went down, I said, you don t have to promise me anything. And I remember
this very specifically because he later reminded me that I never made any demands as to what
I would do. If he wanted me and thought the project needed me I would do it. Naftali:
What were your first tasks when you reached Washington? Sack: Gosh. I really s hard to
remember exactly what happened first. We were just being brought in, I supposed signed forms
and I was sitting at a table with, I think, somebody if you showed me his picture and
told me his name then I d know who it was. Behind me was Hillary Rodham, who of course
I d never met, and we started, I guess familiarizing ourselves with what had happened thus far.
But it wasn t for a week or ten days or so. It could ve been two weeks, it could ve been
the end of the week, that I started to John began to develop a particular role for me.
Naftali: And this is the time when there is a discussion about the grounds for impeachment?
Sack: Yes. Naftali: Did you participate in that discussion at all? Sack: Very little.
A word about the staff. John, on one hand, would stay in his office most of the time.
He would receive instructions by reports. Constantly writing memos to John and he d
get back to you. Almost always, me at least, in writing unless it was actually something
he was actually working on at the time. But we, on the other hand, here we are, we re
all there doing nothing but that. Most of us were not Washington people. We didn t have
particular lives outside of this. We were under strict instructions as to not talking
to anybody else about it. Instructions that were, particularly in a place like Washington,
adhere to with remarkable rigor. And so we talked to each other a lot and John had no
objection to that and so in a way, talk about what I did, but what I really had were just
two things which are memorable. First the people, as you re now getting to know them.
Extraordinary group of people who are my friends. Not they were my friends but they are my friends
all these years later and I had a ringside seat so that the experience as to what I did
and was responsible for and my experience as an auditor are kind of blended in my mind.
But to give you the most obvious example let me back up a little bit. That s my way of
background, so I knew a lot of little pieces of things but mostly I knew the people who
were working on them and when they were high and when they were low and when they were
having problems and talking about those problems. Very early in the process you asked me what
I did when came down there and I remember almost nothing at all. But pretty soon it
became clear. John was, I don t know how far into the process, of dividing the staff up
into a task. Basic overall tasks. And so some would do the Watergate, some would do the
Plumbers, and the Huston Plan and there was somebody, no doubt, doing the bombing of Cambodia.
But I was a kind of etc. I was everything else and it started out, it was called, they
had letters for each one of these various subtasks for the impeachment. Mine was initially
referred to as agency abuse and it won t surprise you, at least by the time you come to the
midpoint in your conversations, that with John that was no good because it was much
too voted so it turned to agency practices and agency practices was the use, or abuse,
or relationship, between the White House and various agencies of government although it
included the campaign finance things. So I was given an office of my own and what turned
out to be seven or eight people who worked with me I actually had more people under my
supervision than most people only because we were dealing with, at one time, about 35
different topics. And my understanding at the time was there had been so much said about
the White House and alleged abuses; some of them absurd and some them turned out to be
not absurd at all. And my understanding and my recollection was that my purpose basically
was, or the principal original purpose, was to make sure that that didn t get through.
That is, we got it on a list somewhere and we had a lawyer who would check it out as
best I was going to say he or she but I think in this case it was he, as best as he could.
So I had a kind of a we were taking over the second floor of the old Congressional Hotel,
catty corner across from the Rayburn Building, I don t know which one of the House office
buildings. Not Rayburn, but in any event, so we had the whole floor but I got what used
to be the truckers suite, the lobbyists for the truckers. So I became the chief truckers
lobbyist with the nice office in the corner and seven or eight people who were working
for me and that s how I got to be where I was and what I was doing at the start within
two weeks of the inquiry and we started to go down and go through all of those 35 different
depending on how you count allegations and sets of mostly challenges of abuse. Naftali:
Now you were doing this before the Watergate Special Prosecution Force hands over its information.
Sack: Oh, yes. Naftali: So what do you have to work with before they send you this information?
Sack: That s a good question and one that partly memory fails precisely because at that
time we would start with the charges. The charges always came from somewhere and always
cited something so you had press accounts and in some cases there had been hearings
on some of this in the House and certainly already the Ervin hearings were essentially
gone. So with the Ervin Committee, with press reports, with other activity on the hill,
there was a fair amount of stuff about it and, in fact as you probably know, we didn
t really do any original investigation. We didn t have as John Doar said, it was that
we simply didn t have the time and the resources to go out and start all over again with something
new. And we interviewed a number of people and I was involved in some of those, but we
didn t do a basic investigation job. What we were doing was putting the facts that we
had in huge boxes, some of them I think we got a lot more of value from the Ervin Committee
than we got from the Special Prosecutor. This is a long way of saying, exactly what they
were, I don t know. The people who my assistants, I shouldn t say assistants, but people who
worked on my staff were the ones who actually had this in their hands. So there was a lot
of stuff there and there would not have been very much in that the Special Prosecutor was
interested in this because it wasn t Watergate and it wasn t the Plumbers and it wasn t necessarily,
in fact, it was unlikely to be illegal activity, which by definition is what the Special Prosecutor
was doing and so we weren t in any particularly different shape after the Special Prosecutor
brought over whatever he brought over before. What I don t remember, and what was important
all of this same as it was to others, less so perhaps, is tapes, and I know there were
tapes, I think I know there were tapes in the famous bag the who was it, Ruth who came
over with them? Henry Ruth? Somebody from the Special Prosecutor, probably not Jaworski
himself, but somebody came over and gave it to John Doar, they were right outside my window,
there were cameras all over the place as he handed over that bag. m not sure what was
in that bag, was it anywhere near as important as the symbolism as the reaching across from
a prosecutor who was an executive, in the executive branch, at least in this case, but
in the executive branch. And us. But I don t think you ll find it affected a whole lot
of people what was given to us that way and dramatically. But it was other material that
was around, that we knew was around, or we found out was around and I guess would be
that the most reliable material we got was from the Ervin Committee. Naftali: Tell us
about some of the people that worked for you. Sack: Oh, you re going to embarrass me because
they were not high level hires. There s a guy named Smith McKeithen who I know quite
well and I know he worked for me and he was a lovely guy and a very smart guy. He s became
very successful law career after that. He became General Counsel he went to California
and became General Counsel, you know, corporation close to Silicon Valley. They were mostly
former government workers. There was a guy named Stamo, there was a guy named Chris Gekas,
but I can t say that we were with the exception of Smith McKeithen Fred Altshuler also had
a variety of roles and he shows up on some of my papers and I m sure that s not all he
was doing. One of the odd things, perhaps, I can t really remember who was assigned to
what if you press me I might be able we were talking about things but I don t remember
who was assigned to what part, what other part, but these people in my section, with
one exception, were not social friends and I never got to know them very well, although
they performed well. Naftali: Did you hire any of them? Or were they assigned to you?
Sack: They were assigned to me. I can t say in fact I know it was not true that I did
see some resumes at the time. For all I know, I saw the resumes because they were being
assigned to my staff but not in order to hire them. But I was involved in the hiring of
Evan Davis, which is because I was the first to interview him. He was up the street from
me and John asked me to interview him. And doing some interviews. But I think by this
time, by the time I actually arrived there, which was, like I say, the third week or so
of January, I think the hiring had pretty much been done. Naftali: There was a decision
made not to do investigations. Were you there or was it always assumed that you would just
not do investigations? Sack: It would be wrong for me to suggest that I made the decision
or was really part of making it. It was clear to me at the time, and I know we refer to
that decision either while it was being made or after it was being made, that the fact
that we couldn t possible, with 35 as I say as a rough number of the different events
that we were working with, we couldn t possibly have done any investigation. Now, I say that
it isn t as though we didn t talk to a number of people. We did. And, oh gosh, Walters,
Johnnie Walters was the name of the head of the IRS and we talked to him and it was fascinating.
I talked to George Shultz once probably I could find out, IRS, probably, but it could
have probably, yes. So we did talk to people, interview people, we got some affidavits that
were new. They were not shipped over to us. We did not get them by going across the street
where we got a lot of our stuff. Again, that s the Ervin Committee. But I certainly was
not part of that decision. Absolutely not. I didn t have the expertise, on the one hand,
and what I was doing, it was pretty clear, it was not going to be part of that investigation.
If we had a dozen investigators it s hard to believe that more than one I mean, we had
investigators on the staff. How that differed from a lawyer, I frankly don t know. But not
the kind of original investigation. It would ve been something other than what we were
looking at, I think. Naftali: How long did it take you to conclude that there were grounds
for impeachment? Sack: m glad you asked that question because it is a point in time. Usually
you say, and it s true, I came to this decision over a period of time which is certainly in
reality true. Particularly with a peculiar nature what I was doing was with all this
wide variety of things. I remember very clearly at lunchtime once, there was the top of a
garage across the street and I was walking around, I guess, counterclockwise with Bernie
Nussbaum at or about lunch, and we were walking around and Bernie had s certainly unlikely
to have it now, he had this when he was kind of concerned, serious, he would, for some
reason, take #2 pencils, I guess, and break them. It was his way for letting off steam.
So he took it out on Eberhard Faber, I guess. I remember him walking around and he would
break a pencil. I don t know what he did but break a pencil. And I m talking to him just
about where we are and what we re going to do and I said to him, one of the things about
this process? We might be greater patriots. I said that. We may do a greater job for the
country, is most likely what I said. We re doing our job better. If we went through all
of this and said, you know, these are the bad things. We ve told you what they are but
we don t think they re grounds for impeachment. A metaphor that I used was, if you re told
to look for a needle in a haystack, you re going to find a needle. You re out there and
you say, you know I looked so thoroughly but there s nothing there. That s sort of against
human nature and I think there are many people who would think that some of the special prosecutors
afterwards tend to, including the ones ironically of Bill Clinton, approve that they are out
to make a case; not to decide whether there s a case. So I was very much concerned about
that. And it changed. It changed when I listened to the tapes. Because I had a section of responsibility,
I was one of the relatively few people who had access to the tapes. That is, John wanted
me amongst these other people who had some kind of overall responsibility. To listen
to see if there s anything in there that might be of interest to what we were doing. So I
listened to all of the ones we had at the time. It was I remember the room with the
tape deck I think we must ve gotten them from the White House. I remember the room with
the tape deck. I remember several people sitting around. I remember I was lying on the floor,
with my head on the floor, maybe some pillow with my hand over my eyes trying to concentrate
because the tape quality was very poor. And I don t know whether I spent two hours or
four hours or five hours trying to listen to the tapes. And the first thing I remember
is feeling, for me, kind of bad about it because I felt like such a voyeur. I didn t kind of
like me. Before everybody knew what they were like, nobody had heard them. And it was sort
of like being in his office and I didn t think it was nice for me to be in his office. I
knew intellectually that he made them and I didn t feel like I was doing something bad
but I felt a little funny. The other thing is, at that time in connection with that experience,
having just had a conversation, or recently had a conversation, saying, gee, maybe there
s nothing here. But listening to those tapes, and having listened to them, I said, if there
isn t an impeachment in here and we can t find grounds in terms of these conversations
I ve heard, I said, a thousand years from now people will look back and wonder what
the hell we were doing here. So and that s hardly a legal answer, precise legal answer.
A legal, legal answer. But emotionally and you make decisions without toting them up,
that s what moved me to say something is just too remarkable and too bad. Not to give into
the focus of general public interest and what had happened with the Watergate prosecutor
and so on and so forth, I was stunned and amazed and all those other words. Naftali:
Among the tapes, of course was the September 1972 tape where you have Dean and the President
talking about the IRS. Sack: Yeah. Yeah. That was one of them and absolutely very important.
But there was also one, one tape at least, it was in the old executive office building
where he meets with the milk producers and the question is whether there was an exchange
for they were going to hold up price supports and have something about import restrictions
in return for money is the allegation. And it s all taped. And at one point the President
and we were all trained very carefully never to refer to him as anything but the President
and I still do. I think I do. I tend to. And the President says, chortling a little in
a way that might be familiar to you, it isn t as though we re having this taped, or recorded,
when in fact I think he had just had the taping machine installed in that particular office.
So yes, I heard that one too. Naftali: Were you part of the decision to retranscribe the
tapes? Sack: No, I was not specifically the only responsibility I had with respect to
the tapes, although we listened to them and they were a big deal, but the only responsibility
I had which fell to me, I think, as Mr. etc., was I wrote the portion of the appendix to
the report the committee report, I guess it is, the August afterwards was basically over,
August of 74, I wrote that little appendix on the 18 1/2 minute gap. And so that was
of great interest to me and I remember that. But other than that, the tapes were not Naftali:
Why did that fall to you? Sack: Somebody had to write it. Much of what I worked on ultimately
came down, and as I say eight or nine people at least working on it with me, came down
to a part of Article 2, nothing to do with Article 1, two of the articles of impeachment.
One part of Article 3 and part of something about they re not delivering tapes m sorry
there s another one that I worked on which was voted down and that was the article on
the Presidential papers. The President s personal IRS statement backdating of the papers of
the San Clemente improvements. That s how I found out what a gazebo was. As I think
was built by the government and now I know what it is. But all of the effort at that
point and after all the smoking gun tape, the tape that required the President to leave
office within the matter of two weeks, or something like that, it was all about Watergate
and cover-up and maybe with a sprinkling of Plumbers in it which arguably was more one
could argue with the Plumbers was the worst constitutional sin than Watergate itself,
which was the cover-up, not the going in there. So the real effort was towards what has become
known as Watergate and therefore I did what I had to do, it got done, and then I had a
little spare time so they asked me if I d do it. Naftali: Tell us a little bit about
how your team worked. As I see from the list you divided them up by agency. By department.
What was their deliverable to you? What was the product you were asking them to? Sack:
They would deliver to me as best as I can recall, a memo evaluating what was there.
Sometimes you go in with certain evidence, intuitions intuitions is an unfair word to
use. A judgment as to there isn t going to be anything here, frankly. Judges have been
known to go into cases with that sort of intuition. It doesn t mean that you don t have to do
it carefully. You do. But you know this is a relatively small amount of time that s likely
to be involved. As you can see from the one thing I gave you when we started, which was
the list, it doesn t have, by then, it doesn t have 28 or 35 items. They d all been winnowed
out and we were down to whatever were there, about 10 or 12, I guess. But I would be surprised
if I didn t have although I ve never seen them since, didn t have at least a memo on
what should we do with this? How should we go forward with this? Let s drop it because
there was an awful lot that was written there. As I said earlier, when I talked to John Doar
from my province, it was almost always a short memo in writing and he d get it back a copy
from him. Naftali: So what role did you play in deciding how this evidence would be presented
to the committee? Sack: That was John. As far as I know. I can t swear it didn t do
with anybody else but I prepared some of those books, worked with others in preparing some
of those books I worked on. Six or seven of them and they were big but I did the work.
I did what I was asked to do. I did not participate in the decision to do it that way. Naftali:
Was there an editing process for the books? Sack: There was. And I can t swear to you
sure there was. Sure I remember the fact that John Doar read it all and I seem to recall
his coming and sending back some very detailed edits of his own. Who else was involved in
the editing process? I m not sure. One thing that is clear and it was the way John worked
is that I reported I and five or six people well, it s hardly a boast but you would see
it on the memos, reported to John. At least that was our understanding. We didn t report
through anybody. My people reported through me to John. So I have no recollection of there
being anybody else unless they have to be familiar with the subject who edited that
for a living but if you told me John Labovitz, anybody, name a staff person, was in fact
editing my material for John I would be neither surprised nor upset. Naftali: Well, of historical
importance wouldn t be changing a predicate so I m interested in whether someone was substantially
in a sensitive way in editing or having you look say well, maybe you re not looking in
the right area or the right Sack: The answer is my best recollection is absolutely not.
My best recollection is no, not absolutely not. My best recollection is no, no one was
pushing it one way or pushing the other. So long as it seemed to be neutral. Sometimes
I m sure to readers, I ve seen them very recently because I knew we were going to talk today
and I can t say I combed them over, I ve seen them and they were neutral to the point of
absolute boredom, the way we did it. And it was meant to be that way. It was meant to
be flat statements that could not be said to be argumentative one way or the other.
Would I swear there weren t something where they said, this really isn t part of this
story? I imagine that was done but the decision had been already made, of course, by that
time before we invested that kind of time in this. The decision had already been made
that these were things we were going to report on. I don t remember ever to use a Watergate
term, ever deep sixing one of those black books, statements of fact, because we didn
t like the way it came out. That decision had already been made. We re going to present
these, here are the ones I m responsible, you and your staff or you write them and as
far as I recall that s what I did and I don t remember, as I say, by that time at least,
I don t remember anybody telling me anything but that your grammar is lousy or that s too
strong a word. I don t remember it all but one thing John had picked up from somebody
was he hated the word endeavor and he would write me these long memos about it. Not long
memos. A very long memo was three sentences about, take out the word endeavor and you
d wonder what he s drawing at, depending on whether it s a verb, I guess. And it was kind
of that sort of thing which you would do if you were editing a brief that an associate
had written and you were a partner. But less so. It was putting stuff together as best
you could and coming up with these statements and the evidence to support. Naftali: Did
you help give Mr. Doar a sense of what you might want from a subpoena? Sack: m sure we
did. I m sure we did. I m sure we sent memos. He would say we have to make a report. But
subpoena specifically. I remember saying, what tapes? If you could subpoena any tapes
at some point, which tapes would you subpoena? Again, the focus of the inquiry from this
point of view with minor exceptions here and there were, after all, were cover-up. Because
the tapes were there. It s the tapes that would show the cover-up in the White House.
You didn t need a tape to find out what was being said to Johnny Walters. What he was
perfectly willing to tell you what was being said and for good reason because he was very
proud of what he said in return. So when we re talking about tapes, by and large, no.
I can t tell you that none of my thoughts about what tapes would be useful were used
or the thoughts were already there. One thing that was very important, a tape that I was
doing, told you about milk tapes, but was when the President was sitting there with
two people, either Haldeman or Ehrlichman and another person, and they were talking
to Kleindienst and he says, this IT&T thing, he says, I want you to drop it. The words
drop it I remember. And that was an abuse of an agency, if you will, and it was something
that was on tape and, for what it s worth, what I remember about it is, not just drop
it, but I kind of thought the President was showing off for the other two people in the
room to show how decisive he was. Usually, he wouldn t make these phone calls. Somebody
either Haldeman or Ehrlichman but he made this one and I thought the reason he made
it personally wasn t because he so much cared but I thought he was showing off a little
that he s decisive and he could do this himself. Naftali: What effect did seeing this information
or listening to it have on your understanding of government? Sack: s like being at a parade and seeing a couple
of horses go wild and running through the grandstand and knock people over and say much
closer the recent incident with this plane flying near Reno and hitting the ground and
killing people. It was a little bit like, ask me, what did that teach you about aviation,
right? It was not typical my access to it wasn t typical. With one enormous exception
and it may have mistaught me and that is what our role the fact that you could, to quote
Archibald, to paraphrase Archibald Cox, that there was a way that you could legitimately
have a person who was elected removed without another election and it be legitimate, that
legitimacy the way it worked. And John s ultimate point was to do it that way and a lot of people,
they say, I ve read since, were angry as hell at him because he wasn t fast enough and he
wasn t hard enough and he wasn t partisan enough, but I think that what it said about
the ability of the Constitution to work, one of the very few things I have, relatively
few things I ve looked at I got a cartoon from the day after, the articles of impeachment,
either first or second, from Tony Auth at the Philadelphia Inquirer which shows somebody,
obviously one of the framers of the Constitution running into the Constitutional Convention
with something that said Impeachment Articles and he comes running in and he yells, it works.
And the notion of the process the way Congress sometimes works while it sometimes doesn t,
if I can use that as a fairly good excuse to raise the question of secrecy because we
were people. We had been referred to by The New York Times as, everybody other than John
Doar at least as being ciphers . Fine, we went down there to be. I did. We did. I was
no better than anybody else. We went down there to do a job. But we weren t part of
Washington establishment and we had nothing really to gain and we were scared as hell
of what we had to lose if we talked to anybody about what we were doing. We just didn t.
We talked to each other. That s why we became so close because we couldn t talk to anybody
else. We talked to each other. But we found that worked very well when we were all by
ourselves. That is to say we were doing our work within our own quarters. As soon as we
started to send things across the street, my recollection is, as soon as we started
to do that it would be in the paper the next day. And I had an experience that I don t
think I ve shared with anybody recently and I ll be a little careful to protect the guilty,
but it was just given mind you, we re coming from this atmosphere of nothing gets out,
right? And a fellow named Tom Bell who died tragically young thereafter who had come from
John Doar s firm in Wisconsin and was very much, as far as I remember, mainly doing was
getting records from the Ervin Committee and bringing them back. And Tom and I went across
to this little ransacked theaters, the only way I can put it, where their offices were,
the office of the Ervin Committee staff had been put together inside of what had been
an auditorium. We were sitting with one of the lawyers or investigators and I think I
know who it was but better not to say. And this person got a telephone call while we
were there and he said m trying to think whether I should use the Senator s name. I think I
will. He said, excuse me, but I just got some information on the phone from somebody. He
didn t say who it was. He says a little added thing about the tape system and how the tape
system works. I better go up and speak to Senator Weicker s office about this. So he
disappears. He leaves for 15 or 20 minutes and he does whatever he does, wherever he
does, and he comes back and talking to us about the papers again. He isn t there for
five minutes when the telephone rings. I would like to remember it being Sy Hersh but it
was some reporter saying, gee, I hear there s a new development. That s the way it works.
And that wasn t the way it worked for us. We were very proud of ourselves that it worked
for us the way it worked. And that side of government, we were proud of what we did as
a government process and entity but in terms of the overall operation of the government
it was just too unusual for it to have been a civics lesson. Naftali: Why was the inquiry
criticized for being too slow? Sack: You know, it was, after all, it wasn t political and
my assumption is that people I remember referring to it as with John early on as being a Super
Bowl of journalism connected with this very thing. In the week before Super Bowl, probably
still, there was two weeks and then it was about Super Bowl time. Instead of the usual
week between games there s two weeks and the amount of ridiculous newspaper coverage during
those two weeks of absolutely nothing because they had nothing to write about that s new
drives some readers, like me, crazy. And it was a little of that. The more there was silence
the more it was, what on earth are you doing? And the people at home would say, what on
earth are you doing? How could it possibly we know everything. There are tapes. How could
it possibly take six months or seven months to get this done? I deduce that, again, we
were very cloistered and didn t hear any of that ourselves. I don t remember reading particular
criticism of other staff. Things I ve read about criticism I read in Stanley Cutler s
book; not by being there at the time. So my assumption is because it was a political animals
I don t mean that to sound the way it isn I didn t mean it was a political people, politically
answerable, having to constantly answer the question, what the hell are you doing? Naftali:
Were committee members permitted to actually talk to any of you? Sack: Yeah. Yeah. We had
briefing sessions with the congressmen at their request and I remember doing one oh,
gosh. You are right. There are some things I will remember that I had forgotten a long
time ago. I was doing something at IT&T. Not only the settling of the case because of their
providing $400,000.00, or something like that, for the San Diego Convention. It s close.
From memory that s close enough. And the drop it comment. And also the fact that Attorney
General later, Attorney General Kleindienst, during his confirmation hearings, after that
statement he was there, he was on the recipient, he was asked if there was such a conversation
just before the tapes were out and he said, absolutely not. And the question was whether
he was instructed to lie. He was lying. In fact, he may have been I don t know what happened
to those charges against him but I m quite sure it was I know it was the Kleindienst
hearings and I think it was his testimony. And so m getting a bit I was answering a question.
IT&T. I know where I am. I know where I am. So we had that story and we were talking to
members of the House. Three or four, there weren t a whole lot of people that would show
up but there were three or four of them and it was kind of interesting to me because it
was always the same. We were just sitting there talking we could ve talked to people
around here the same way. Maybe one staff person and one congressman and I always thought
it a little funny that automatically that congress people would sit right up front with
us the others would take seats in the back even though they could ve all been there particularly
in the House of Representatives is supposed to be so egalitarian. Anyhow, so they walk
up and we re talking about IT&T and at the end it was Paul Sarbanes from Maryland, later
a Senator, and he said, I think, my best recollection is that is asked me did I think, did I personally
think it was so, that there had been a quid pro quo. And reports to him, something that
somebody knowledgeable about these matters I think in an interview said to me and it
was I said I really kind of didn t think so. It didn t make a lot of sense to me and I
said that this person who reported to me that if the President and the administration were
selling it, they would ve sold it for more than $400,000.00. But that was the kind of
interaction that we had and we had two or three sessions like that and they were I don
t remember anybody sitting there and listening to what we were saying or saying you didn
t say that right or wrong. They had full access to us at that point. Naftali: But you felt
differently about the milk fund? Sack: In the sense of Naftali: That there was a deal.
What did you feel? Did you feel differently about the milk fund? Sack: Not necessarily.
I don t remember. I don t remember feeling that s a good question. I should say about
IT&T, I knew that he had said to Kleindienst what he said to him. Drop it and indeed went
on to say something about, I don t like antitrust law, he said. And then he said, but against
the networks it s different, which is also interesting. But I knew that so I believed
that. The question was how important how important is it, how serious is it, but I believed that
it happened. And the milk fund, I don t remember it was very clear what was going on that he
was seeking money but it wasn he didn t say to all of you, you give it was not a conspiracy
there. There were too many people there and the head of the milk started to believe but
the head of the milk fund this is all from the last couple of days the name was Butterbrot.
Butter and bread. Naftali: So regarding IT&T, you ultimately concluded that there was no
deal? Sack: I think that s right. I think, we think, we thought, either we thought or
I thought that he was saying it he wasn t saying it in return for the payment. That
he was not saying this to Kleindienst in return for the payment. Naftali: I ask because, if
you read the Statement of Information you don t really, I can t tell what you were thinking.
I just see the intention. Sack: Yes, yes, yes. Oh, gosh. That s what my answer was,
no, and ultimately, as I said to Congressman Sarbanes because it s not a good business
deal. It just doesn t make sense as a deal. It isn t that he wouldn t do it, it isn t
that I think he would do it, I can t believe he didn t do it, there s not enough there
that you would really want to go after, the quid pro quo. Naftali: So, where were the
abuses that you found? Sack: My recollection was certainly the enemies list, I think was
the most serious of them. That is also in the tapes. I said there was nothing else.
That was in the tapes. That was sitting here. In recollection, that to me was the most serious
and genuinely what s the word for it to me, plainly an abuse of power of significance.
It s all in Article 2 and there were other things as well but I would have to go back
and look at Article 2 and there are three or four things, or look at the list of the
Naftali: Do you remember the Daniel Schorr case? Sack: I do. I do very well, having been
in the news business but I don t remember I remember in generalities. I don t remember
working on that myself personally. I may have. But the question was but it was such a whole
broad string of remarkable abuses that it was journalists there were enemy s lists.
The very fact that they were called enemies and the thought that there are enemies who
really are beyond the pale. They get no protection from the law or anything else because they
re enemies and they would do what they could, where they could to get it done. And the IRS,
I guess, was kind of looked like the easiest way to do it. They had Larry O Donnell Naftali:
Brien. Sack: Brien, I m sorry. That s probably some kind of bias, on my part. But he was
willing to use and the FBI, who exactly they were. Obviously, I have to go back and see
what the FBI was being used for. Naftali: Did you work on the wiretapping issue? Sack:
I don t think so. I don t remember working on the wiretapping, although it was part of
the abuse of power but I don t remember personally working on the wiretapping, no. Naftali: As
part of this, how did they give you responsibility for looking into San Clemente? Sack: I think
that was an add-on. Again, as things got close and Bernie Nussbaum worked on that with me.
In fact, I think he did the report to the committee itself. San Clemente I remember
because I remember gazebos. I remember we had a lot of conversations back and forth
with the people on the the tax committee people. It was a very famous, important staffer who
headed up their tax committee. I don t remember an exact name. We did a lot of talking about
that. I remember somebody saying about the papers which we had were indeed backdated,
although as usual it s hard to say what somebody knows about his or her tax returns. But somebody
saying that he had told the expression that I remember is, the train had left the station.
Meaning, once they had changed the law, the applicable rule, it was over and nobody should
ve gone back and it was everyone was advised not to do it because the train had left the
station. Naftali: This was the 1969 deed, deeding his vice-Presidential papers to the
U.S. government in the person of the National Archives. Sack: Correct. Exactly. I think
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