Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 30, 1974 · Page 114
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 114

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 30, 1974
Page 114
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Page 114 article text (OCR)

Butterfield, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, then proceeded td explain and expose in detail for me first time the President/ s taping system, which has since become so well-known to the nation. "My first reaction," says Sanders, "was that ButterfieWs explanation was- exculpatory insofar as the President was concerned. If the President had taped all or most of his conversations, I figured, he would surely have irrefutable evidence that he was not guilty of any involvement in Watergate or the coverup, if in fact that was the case. Keep tight security ' "Those of us who were there at the interrogation of Butterfield," Sanders goes on, "Scott Armstrong and Gene Boyce of the majority legal staff, we realized that the information I had elicited from Butterfield was important. We agreed to keep very tight security on it Armstrong and Boyce knew, of course, that I would tell Fred Thompson (the chief minority counsel), and I knew that they would tell Sam Dash (the chief majority counsel). "It was about 6:45 on a Friday eve nihg," Sanders continues, "and Fred Thompson had already left his office, But I found him across the street in the Carroll Arms Hotel. He was having a beer with two newspapermen, one from The Washington Star, and the other from The Chicago Tribune. "I joined their table. Naturally I couldn't tell Fred right then and there, that the . President of the -United States had "ieen recording his telephone and other- conversations, so I ordered a beer myself. After a few minutes I asked Fred if he could step away. 'Sure/ he said, 'lefs go outside.' /We went outside, and on the comer there, right icrbss from the Dirksen buiidirigV I told him the story about the President's elafcbrate .tape record. ing setup; p "Fred readily realized the importance of the information. But he's a very unemotional fellow. He asked me to fill him in on a few details. I can't remember whether he specifically told me or I just assumed thatlie was then going to phone Senator Baker [Sen. Howard Baker (R, Tenn;), chief minority member and vice chairman of the Watergate committee] . At any ra^e I know that he did that night or the next morning. And on Sunday, Jury 15th, Senator Baker called me and asked for a direct bnet- iog 6ri Butterfield's testimony. Butterfield had called Senator Baker that Inching and told him he wanted -to see him, so Senator-Baker felt he needed a direct briefing from me. I gave it to him." The next day, Monday, Jury 16th, the Senate Watergate committee subpoe- The Man Who Aiwmed: Alexander Porter Butterfteld, a career AH-Fora? officer who was brought into the Nixon Administration in 1969 by his old UCLA classmate, Harry R. (Bob) Haldeman. Butterr7eWs wife, the former Charlotte Mary Maguire, and Haldeman's wife the former fr^""TM' were sorority roommates at UCM (University of Ca/ ' fofn ' a ^ L ^f J* 'In World War //, Buiferfie/d flew P-38 fighter planes .m the Pacific. But- terfiefd is now the administrator ofthe Federal Aviation Administration. naed Alex Butterfield to testify in open session. That afternoon America, learned that the President had ordered his various offices equipped with hidden listening devices and that tapes existed of his conversations. Subsequently those tapes in part were declared to be missing, irrelevant, damaged, erased or inaudible: As of this writing the President cbntentiously refuses to hand them over to the House Judiciary Committee or to Leon Jaworski, his own special prosecutor.- What prompted Don Sanders to ask Alex Butterfield about Nixon's taping setup in the first place? "It was just one of those things," he explains. "I'd. been listening to x ~ Scott Armstrong interrogate Butterfield for three hours. And there was a void in Butterfield f s testimony. It seemed to me that they weren't coming to grips with the matter. Scott was questioning Butterfield about a summary of the President's meetings with John Dean which Fred Buzharflt, the President's counsel, had furnished to Fred Thompson. Something seemed .to be missing. Butterfield was detailed in his answers. And yet there was this void, this missing factor which bothered me. "Buzhardfs summary was so detailed that it occurred to me that Butterfield was quoting from some verbatim record, some verbatim report or diary. And yet something was missing. It was then that I decided I would ask him the question. "When Scott finished, I started questioning Butterfield. I asked a few preliminary questions first, but within five or 10 minutes, I got to the question which I principally had in mind- Were the conversations in the President's offices tape recorded?" No pubKc credit Ironically enough, Sanders, who earned a little under $35,000 for his year of legal work as a Watergate staffer, was never puWidy credited with being the lawyer who elicited the information concerning the Presidential tapes. Senator Baker wanted to announce his name and identify him at the hearings before Butterfield began to testify in public session. But Sanders told Fred Thompson that he would prefer that Baker didn't. And Baker consented. "I don't know," Sanders reflects. , "After you spend 10 years in the FBI, you get kind of used to anonymity. Life is a little easier when you don't have mail and phone calls and all that sort of thing to contend with. Just before the hearings I heard that Sam Dash was going to identify me, too, - so I made the same request to Sam. And he said okay, but the record shows he said, 'Mr. Chairman, at a staff interview with Mr Butterfield on Friday, some very significant information was elicited by the minority staff member.'" For the benefit of future historians: When you reach page 2073 of the Watergate hearings transcript, please read Don Sanders for "minority staff member," because Sanders is the lawyer who with one nagging question opened the can of peas labeled "President Nixon's Tapes." SAM DASH Chief counsel, Watergate committee -SCOTT ARMSTRONG FREDTHOMP5ON Questioned Butterfield three hours Minority counsel, Watergate comm.ttee

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