William Weld Discusses the House Committee on the Judiciary Impeachent Inquiry

Uploaded by RichardNixonLibrary on 25.06.2012

bjbj R1*S Naftali: Hi I m Tim Naftali Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library
and Museum Yorba Linda, California it s September 28th, 2011. I have the honor and privilege
to be interviewing William Weld in New York City for the Richard Nixon Oral History Program.
Mr. Weld, thank you for joining us today. Please tell us how you came to be involved
with the inquiry. Weld: I got a call in the fall of 1973 I was an associate in a law firm
in Boston asking me if I d be interested in interviewing for a job on the impeachment
staff. At that point, it really hadn t gotten off the ground. I said, No, I have to stay
here until I make partner, and then I called the guy back fifteen seconds later, having
realized I made a dreadful mistake and said, Can I still interview for it? He said, Yes.
So I had a telephone interview with Sam Garrison, who at that point was running the Republican
side of the staff, who was not yet fully unified some thought it never was and I went down,
met with Sam, had a good interview with him and I was engaged to come in quite shortly
thereafter and reported for duty in December, 1973. Naftali: Tell us a little bit first
of all about Sam Garrison. Give us a word picture of him, please. Weld: He was a devoted
family man. I think from the south, from Richmond. He worked like a tiger. Slept in on Sunday
mornings, but that was about it. He and I had a good personal relationship. Naftali:
You were there before John Doar was named. Weld: m sure I was there before Bert Jenner.
Maybe it was before John Doar. I remember showing up for work and if I was the first
staffer, Hillary Rodham from Yale Law School was the second staffer, and I remember John
Doar calling us into his office, saying, Okay, Bill, Hillary. We have a research project
here. We have to find out what constitutes grounds for impeachment of a President and
there doesn t seem to be any case directly on point. So let s see. It s Friday afternoon.
I don t want to ruin your weekend. Why don t you have the memo on my desk Tuesday morning?
We said, Fine, Chief, and looked around and looked around. Six months later after 40 lawyers
had gone blind trying to figure out what the answer to that question was we decided that
the answer to the question really resided in the newspapers of the time not in decided
law cases. Naftali: Some of the literature that s been written about the Committee suggests
that you and John Davidson wrote a minority opinion on the constitutional grounds for
impeachment. Weld: I know we wrote a minority memo on the right of Jim St. Clair, my future
law partner, to cross-examine witnesses. I m not sure that we ever wrote a formal minority
memo. The big question in the early days was does the grounds for impeachment have to be
a crime? I can remember being of the view early on that really it should be required
that it be a crime or there s no stopping point and any President could be impeached
for anything and the only check would be political. Well, the ultimate memo that we all filed
said, Well, what if a president took up a life of pleasure in a foreign land? That might
not be a crime under US statutory law, but it certainly would be grounds for removal
from office and I found and find that rather persuasive and I guess the dirty little secret
is that the only check is political. I remember early on Congressman Gerald Ford, future President
Ford, had said, An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House and two-thirds
of the Senate say it is, and everyone said, Oh, poor Gerry Ford, played too much football
without a helmet. He really doesn t understand anything. After the 40 lawyers had spent months
on this, Gerald Woods, who was the head of the Watergate Taskforce, I remember stated
publicly, What Congressman Ford said was really a terse, but profound statement of the definition
of an impeachable offense. Naftali: Did you find your own view shifted? Weld: I think
my own view shifted a little bit. I was worried about the bright-line criminal crime requirement
early on and, ultimately, came to the view that impeachment was a remedy directed at
a defect usually between the branches of the government usurping the powers or functions
of another branch or perhaps dereliction, failing to discharge the duties incumbent
on you for your branch. We set a lot of store by the take care clause the President takes
an oath to take care that the laws be faithfully executed and there was a feeling, I think,
that in the whole mass with the Watergate Conspiracy and the misuse of the FBI and the
CIA, that the President had not taken care that the laws be faithfully executed and it
took a while to get there. There was a lot of floundering around. Naftali: How did you
in your own mind separate the actions of the lieutenants from the President or did you
come to the conclusion that the President is responsible for the action of his lieutenants?
Weld: You mean Haldeman and Ehrlichman? Naftali: I mean Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Dean. Weld:
Yeah. I didn t listen to all the tapes, but I listened to a lot of them. Haldeman and
Ehrlichman and the President all seemed to be on the same page. I would say the President
was not going, Oh really? That s an interesting idea. He was right there with them. There
s no question of parasite and host here. Naftali: Since you mentioned him, could you give us
a word picture of Jim St. Clair James St. Clair since you were his partner later? Weld:
Later, Jim came in and even at that point he was a cooney old trial lawyer. My one abiding
memory of him is I was presenting a case for the Committee on an article based on impoundment
of funds failure to expend funds that had been appropriated. I think a lot of it was
Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act. So I said, Well, here s the case for impoundment, and
then I said, And here are the arguments the other way. Bob McClory from Illinois said,
Well, are there any other possible defenses that the President should raise? This was
right in the thick of all the fight over the documents in the Supreme Court and whether
the President could withhold documents. I said, Yes, based on Case A, B and C. I said
very proudly, The President could stand upon the ground and the defense on sovereign immunity,
and St. Clair was seated three feet to my right and he just collapsed laughing because
obviously that was such bad politics at the time. Naftali: Tell us a bit about the effect
that Bert Jenner had when he joined, on your work. Weld: Well, Bert was the original Class
A litigator. He had argued Witherspoon against Illinois in the US Supreme Court and made
the case turn by saying, Well, Your Honors need not reach this issue. You can decide
upon this narrow ground, and they went for it immediately. I mean, he s a highly, highly
distinguished lawyer. An interesting thing was that John Doar had this very strong view
that we wanted to have a unified staff. My playmates were mostly Hillary Rodham, John
Leibowitz, Dagmar Hamilton, to some extent Joe Woods, but I also worked closely with
John Davidson, John Whitman and Sam Garrison on the Republican side, but I was welcome
in both camps. I m not sure everybody was welcome in both camps and I think the hardcore
of the Watergate Taskforce m not aware that that had any Republicans on it. So the evidence
of the Watergate Conspiracy, I think, was mainly developed by the Democratic staff.
They were not quite so partisan as the Congressman from Texas who at a Democratic Caucus was
asked, Well, what s the theme of Jack Brooks? What s the theme of this Article Two about
agency abuse? FBI, CIA s all so confusing I don t understand it. He took his cigar out
of his mouth and said, The theme of this Article is we re going to get that son-of-a-bitch
out of there! Staff weren t permitted to speak or think in such ways, but there s no question
that some of them were not friendly to President Nixon. Naftali: Was there some that put pressure
on the Republicans and the staff when because there were a number of minority members of
the staff who were very disappointed with how things were going and how John Doar was
doing his job. Were there any pressures on you? Were they asking you questions? Weld:
Oh, the Republican members of the Committee had a perfect right to have their own legal
research done and I did that. I think that minority memo you referred to earlier might
have been about St. Clair s right of cross-examination because we did do a formal memo of the minority
members of the staff on that and there would be the occasional research request from Del
Latta or Chuck Wiggins or Robert McClory, somebody on the Dave Dennis, Wiley Mayne,
some of the Republican members and we would do that. I thought we had that obligation.
On the other hand, I spent a lot of time with the Democrats. Now it may have helped that
my job was on the legal constitutional side more than the factual development side. It
might have made that easier. Naftali: Once the Committee chose the broad interpretation
of impeachable offenses or high crimes and misdemeanors, what did you shift ? After February,
what were you focusing on? You continued to work on the legal case or the Weld: Yeah.
I did a lot of work on the legal case. I listened to the tapes. I, by myself, developed and
proposed and presented to the Committee the case on impoundment, which I think was Article
Six. It was not accepted. It did get some votes and that one did involve more courts
of law because there had been fifteen or twenty cases, mostly slapping down the President
s position, but some upholding it. So that was very law-heavy. Naftali: That never got
submitted to the Committee, the Sixth Article, to my knowledge. Weld: It was submitted because
I testified before the Committee. Naftali: I don t believe they voted on it. Weld: No.
Well, yes, they did. I think it was voted down 27 to 11 or something like that. Naftali:
Did you play a role in shaping any of the other Articles? Weld: I remember a lot of
discussion about agency abuse. I don't think I ever had Article Two. I don t think I ever
had the blue pencil on that. I also had quite a lot of exposure to Article Three, which
I think dealt with the subpoenas and contempt of the subpoenas if memory serves. Naftali:
Yes. Weld: And I remember reading the different versions of the documents where the White
House would have erased the incriminating material on most copies, but one of them got
through and needless to say that infuriated everybody on the staff. Naftali: Did you participate
in the decision about re-transcribing the tapes? Because the concern was that the White
House transcripts were just not usable or not thorough enough. Weld: I was not a decision-maker,
but it was clear to me having listened to both the versions from the White House and
the perfected versions that that was absolutely true and later I became a federal prosecutor
and we would expend a lot of blood, sweat and tears on those transcriptions and have
the jury listen to the tape and have the transcript at the same time. The Defense would always
scream bloody murder and say, That s not what that word says. Then I became a civil litigator.
Same thing, you know. The transcript of a tape is a huge forensic development and whoever
made that decision - I think it was probably John Doar and Bert Jenner and Joe Woods they
were absolutely right. Naftali: How valuable were the materials that the Watergate Special
Prosecution Force handed over? Weld: On the development of the Watergate Conspiracy? I
assume they were very valuable, but that really wasn t my hunt. I was not an Article One man.
Naftali: Okay. What s the story with Bert Jenner? He sort of changes positions. Was
he forced out by the minority leaders? Weld: I don t know about forced out. I mean, he
was one of the prominent lawyers in the United States, the founder of Jenner & Block, the
great Chicago firm. So a person like myself, having gone to an Ivy League law school and
aspiring to be a kicker litigation partner, he was sky-high as far as I was concerned.
He formed the view pretty early on that the President was going to be impeached. I remember
him saying that to me and a couple of other people in a car in March or April and that
was not yet in the newspapers, I don t think. So he got there pretty quickly and he and
Doar spent a lot of time together, I think. He would come and make presentations to the
Republican members, but I don t think they ever felt at ease with him. I remember at
one point he was testifying and I think it was Del Latta from Ohio said, Well, you say
that Mr. Jenner, but I don t have to take your word for that. I saw that report you
just filed about how prostitution should be legalized and that s not binding on me anymore
than what you re saying right now. Then one of the Democratic members said, I hope the
gentleman from Ohio will reflect upon what he said. Well, Del Latta didn t need to reflect
on what he had said, but that s an example of the happy camaraderie on the Committee.
Naftali: Was there some tension between Garrison and Bert Jenner? Weld: Absolutely. I do think
so. I mean, Sam was considerably more conservative. You know, he approached this I won t say entirely
as a partisan, but his view at the beginning was if the President of the United State is
going to be impeached and removed from office, somebody s got to give me a pretty damned
good reason or we re going to be a Banana Republic and he had deep relationships with
some of the conservative members of the Republican wing on the Committee and I don't think Bert
Jenner did and both of them tried very very hard to be professional about it, but was
there tension? Yeah, there was tension. Naftali: Well, how did Garrison work for Spiro Agnew?
Weld: I forgot that if that was true. Naftali: Did you play any role in shaping the Statements
of Information, those big books that were handed to the Committee with all the Weld:
Yeah. Again, not the Article One Watergate Conspiracy, but yeah, I think I may have had
a role in some of the other stuff. Naftali: A question I have for you since you were working
on the legal side, did you come to the understanding that this procedure was like a grand jury?
There was some question as to whether Mr. St. Clair could be there and cross-examine
and then I guess the issue was in a grand jury the defendant s counsel is not there.
Weld: Most grand juries. Naftali: Most grand juries. Weld: Some states by statute permitted
defense counsel into the room. Naftali: Was this one of the sort of discussions that you
Weld: Yeah. I mean, there were a lot of arguments about whether the standard here was probable
cause. What s that a four out of nine? Was it preponderance, which was five out of nine?
Was it clear and convincing, which is seven out of nine? Was it beyond a reasonable doubt?
Naftali: Sorry, just to help the people watching and me, too, you mean five out of the nine
jurors, right? Weld: No, no, percentage likelihood. A grand jury, if it finds a four out of nine
chance that something has happened, that s probable cause and in different types of legal
proceedings there are all types of different standards of proof required. Another one would
be preponderance in a civil case, five out of nine or six out of ten, however you like.
There s another standard in fraud causes. The requirement is clear and convincing evidence
and that s loosely translated as seven out of nine. Then there s beyond a reasonable
doubt, which is sometimes translated as nine out of ten. So the people who wanted the President
to be impeached were saying, Well, this is just a probable cause. We don t have to prove
this damned thing. Then other people would say, Well, this is a rather important proceeding
and if we re going to send a guy who s President of the United States over to the Senate to
get removed from office it s a little bit more important than a speeding ticket and
maybe the standard should be a little bit different. Yeah, I can remember doing a good
bit of legal research on all those things and analogizing as to various different kinds
of proceedings, but the fact is there s almost no judicial proceeding which is analogous.
This is a quintessentially legislative proceeding and that s why I say, ultimately, the check
is political. It s not some statute. It s not some rule. Sure, there are high crimes
and misdemeanors, but you can put whatever water into that vessel you care to. Naftali:
How useful was the Johnson precedent? Weld: I thought Johnson was very useful and there
was a 1934 case involving a judge, I think called Willis Ritter, which was also useful
to me. Naftali: In the end, by the way, on Article Two, which was the one you said you
worked on or you thought about a little bit, did you reach a four, five, six or nine out
of ten in the end? Weld: On the agency abuse? Naftali: Yeah, in your own mind. Weld: Well,
it s pretty clear he d done it because I listened to those tapes. The question on that article
was has too much potpourri been jammed into the same glass jars? Is this a single cognizable
offense, but the evidence behind that was a lot of the same evidence that was in the
Watergate case and that was just there on tape. Naftali: I mean, how many times does
a President have to do it for it to be too many? Is one enough? If you have one instance
that you prove? Weld: Yeah. I mean, if a President said once, Well, maybe we could encourage
the CIA to get involved here because that would maybe dissuade the FBI or complicate
their efforts. Even once, if it was to dissuade the FBI in a case that was aimed at the President
s breastplate, that might be enough. Of course, it s like perjury. A perjury prosecution partakes
of the color of the underlying offense here. In that case the obstruction, I think, kind
of partakes of the color of the underlying offense and if you didn t have the underlying
evidence then maybe you d say this is too artificial. Naftali: Before the vote did you
sense that there was going to be bipartisan support for some of these Articles before
the votes on the Articles? Weld: Yeah. I m trying to remember the timing, but yeah, I
was pretty clear there was going to be some bipartisan support, some Republicans going
along and there was a very dramatic moment I remember involving Chuck Wiggins. I think
it was when the smoking gun tape was played, which was June of 1972. m not sure when this
meeting occurred, but there had been a diehard group of perhaps nine or ten Republicans who
were with the President all the way and their legal leader was Chuck Wiggins who later became
quite a distinguished appellant judge out in California, I think, a very learned scholarly
man. He would make arguments like, Well, you've made an election and therefore you cannot
argue this, and that s pretty legalistic. So someone brought in the smoking gun tape
to play for these diehards and they played it and the nine diehards sort of realized
they d been played for fools. I often heard the effort of defending the President referred
to as a draining effort and if anyone had been drained they had and Chuck Wiggins, the
ultimate strong, silent type, burst into tears. Naftali: ve got to situate this because the
Supreme Court doesn t rule that these have to be turned over until July 29th after the
votes. So the Committee listened to this tape after the Supreme because this would have
been after the votes that they had taken. So they listened to the June 23rd 72 tape
after the Supreme not before. It couldn t have been before the Supreme Court proceeding
because the President hadn t turned it over. Weld: I would have said that the Supreme Court
ordered the tapes had to go over sometime in May. Maybe there were a few tapes. No,
it was July 29th. Well, that s ten days before he resigns. Naftali: Yeah. Well, that s what
Weld: So maybe that meeting was in that interval. Naftali: Oh my goodness. That must have been
very powerful. Did you have an moment when you were going through the materials? As you
said, your view Weld: Well, listening to the tapes. Naftali: And do you remember was that
May/June? Do you remember when you listened to the tapes? Weld: No, but it was conversations
between the President and Haldeman and the President and Ehrlichman and John Dean had
a bit part in some of them and I remember thinking, Boy, everyone really keeps their
voice down in the Oval Office. No screaming and ranting and raving. On the other hand,
what s being said is pretty amazing! Naftali: Tell us about John Doar, working with him.
Weld: Oh, he was a dreamboat a dreamboat. He was just so sort of apple pie good and
I knew that he d made a real effort to not socialize with any of his Democratic friends
in Washington. He was quite a good friend of Ethel Kennedy and at the time I spent a
little bit of time out at Hickory Hill and Ethel was always saying, That John Doar, he
won t even return my telephone calls. It s really awful. One time John took exception
to the fact that I think it was I had written a memo for Mr. Hutchinson of Michigan, who
was their ranking member, at the request of Sam Garrison and I think Sam asked me to deliver
it to Mr. Hutchinson and John said I didn t know about this so I got caught in the middle
on that and I was kind of in the middle since I was friendly with both sides and I often
say I ve had a lot of different jobs in law and politics. ve been House liberal in a conservative
administration, witness to the Ed Meese Justice Department in the 80 s and I ve been a House
conservative in a liberal administration, witness the Nixon impeachment and I don t
like either one. I d rather be right in the middle in a middle-of-the-road administration.
So I had to go get my own administration. Naftali: Tell us a bit about working with
Hillary Rodham. Weld: Very close relationship. Very decent, she s just a very decent person
and if I recall correctly, on the occasion when I got in the middle and John Doar himself
got frowny faced with me, which he should not have, by the way. I was doing my duty.
I think Hillary intervened and defended me on that and I ve never forgotten that. Naftali:
Frowny faced? He got frowny faced? Weld: Yeah, he did. He was saying I should have known
about this. How did this happen? Naftali: Tell us about what happens because you were
going to tell us a story about what happens after this experience, years later. Weld:
Well, this was the beginning of a lifelong career in litigation and politics for me.
I went back to my law firm, transferred from the corporate department into litigation,
ran for State Attorney General in 1978 because I was so obsessed with the investigative possibilities
of grand juries and thought that the AG s office was not doing as much as it could have.
I was absolutely creamed in that one. Then when Reagan was elected I was a Republican
who maybe knew how to try a case. So I was appointed US Attorney and then had a lot of
public corruption cases there. Went to Washington as head of the criminal division, then went
back to Massachusetts and ran for Governor and won, but before that happened I was practicing
law as a litigator, minding my own business in a Philadelphia hotel room, preparing a
witness for something and 25 years after the m sorry. After that happened, 1999 25 years
after the Watergate case, after the impeachment I get a call from John Podesta, who was then
President Clinton s Chief of Staff and I d known him through the Clinton White House
because President Clinton and I have been friendly as Governors and then he had nominated
me to be Ambassador to Mexico. So during a couple of months I spent a lot of time in
the White House with John Podesta and Rahm Emanuel and other senior members of the staff.
So he calls me up in January of 99. He says, It looks like they re going to impeach my
guy and they re going to hold hearings in the House and near as we can tell there s
a couple of people in this country who know a lot about the constitutional law of impeachment
of a President and the other one is them is very much disqualified by interest. So you
have to testify as an expert witness for the Defense on the law, which I was happy to do
and did. Naftali: Tell us about that experience just doing it. Weld: Well, I think I went
in with a bunch of other former U.S. Attorneys who were also Republicans. It was a pretty
impressive panel and I had the additional background of knowing the law of impeachment
and I said, Sex is not an impeachable offense. It just isn t. It has to be something that
touches and concerns the office or use or patient of power. This is a non-starter as
a matter of constitutional law, and they said, Well, what about perjury? You brought a lot
of perjury cases when you were a prosecutor in Boston. I said, Yes, but, as I was saying
earlier a perjury prosecution partakes of the color of the underlying offense. I once
prosecuted a guy for perjury for denying that he d been in Boston on November, 28th, 1981.
You may say, Why bring that case? Because that was the day of the Great Lynn fire. It
almost burned down the city of Lynn. He was a known torch arsonist and he claimed to have
been in Florida, but an agent for ATF Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found his fingerprints
on a ticket at the Delta Warehouse in Atlanta and proved that he d come up and then flown
back to Tampa. So that s a perjury case. Maybe it s kind of like the Al Capone income tax
evasion case. You re really getting at something else and you would never prosecute somebody
for perjury for falsely denying that they d had a tryst with some lady of their acquaintance
to be beneath the dignity of the law. Naftali: Do you remember when you learned that President
Nixon was going to resign? Weld: Yes. I had had a longstanding commitment to go fishing
with my brother and some friends on August 9th. I d gone back to Boston. Sam called me
up and said he needed more help. So I went back for a few weeks, but I said, August 7th
or whatever it was, I ve got to be out of here. So I was on a small boat in a fjord
in Iceland and looked down at the bottom of the boat and there was a newspaper from a
couple of days ago with a photograph of, I guess, President Ford taking the oath of office.
So I was in a fjord near Reykjavik, Iceland. Naftali: What did you think of the pardon?
Weld: s a tough one. I don't think I would have done it, but I didn t have the stereoscopic
view of the harm to the country. I mean, this experience made me a real prosecutor and I
ve had prosecutive instincts for a long time. Maybe they weren t honed in 1974, but I think
even then I wouldn t have done it. Naftali: What did this experience teach you about our
system of government? Weld: Well, the wheels may grind slowly, but they grind pretty well.
I mean, there s a lot of force in the law and it made the President do a lot of things
he didn t want to do and the whole procedure involved a lot of things that a lot of people
didn t want to have done, but there are three countries in the world that I associate with
the capacity for self-examination. One is Israel. One is the United Kingdom and the
third, perhaps the greatest, in the United States. Naftali: Did you stay in touch - beside
the 1999 story with Hillary Rodham after? Weld: Oh yeah. I ve known her pretty continuously.
I mean, there were whispered conversations about Bill in 1974. They were married the
next year. Same year I was married and the Bill in question with the whispers was not
Bill Weld. It was Bill Clinton. I never did see him visiting there, but then he and I
went to the same college at Oxford a year apart and had some very good mutual friends.
So that by the time I became Governor, I just couldn t wait to meet this guy who I d heard
so much about. So I ve known Hillary Rodham now Hillary Rodham Clinton in lots of different
contexts. Naftali: You said that this launched your career. Weld: Well, in the sense that
I became interested in the criminal law and went back and ran for State Attorney General
and that led to everything else. That led to being appointed U.S. Attorney, which led
to being head of the criminal division in Washington, which led to being elected Governor
of Massachusetts. Naftali: Have I forgotten or been unable to elicit any stories that
you d like to Weld: No. That s a wrap, as we say in Hollywood. Naftali: Governor, Ambassador,
thank you, Bill Weld. It s been a pleasure. Weld: Thank you. PAGE PAGE William Weld Oral
History Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum PAGE Filename Speakers Names _____________________________________________________________________________________
www.gmrtranscription.com hc\h hZ\R &`#$ &`#$ rlrarl hc\h [Content_Types].xml Iw}, $yi} _rels/.rels
theme/theme/themeManager.xml sQ}# theme/theme/theme1.xml w toc'v )I`n 3Vq%'#q :\TZaG L+M2 e\O* $*c?
)6-r IqbJ#x ,AGm T[XF64 E)`# R>QD =(K& =al- 4vfa 0%M0 theme/theme/_rels/themeManager.xml.rels
6?$Q K(M&$R(.1 [Content_Types].xmlPK _rels/.relsPK theme/theme/themeManager.xmlPK theme/theme/theme1.xmlPK
accent2="accent2" accent3="accent3" accent4="accent4" accent5="accent5" accent6="accent6" hlink="hlink"
folHlink="folHlink"/> mfarmer Normal mfarmer Microsoft Office Word NARA Title 7c1*S Microsoft
Office Word 97-2003 Document MSWordDoc Word.Document.8