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Context of 'December 1968: Nixon Aide Receives Martial Law Proclamations'

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As President-elect Nixon’s staffers set up shop in the White House, one of Nixon’s aides, John Ehrlichman, is visited by an old college classmate, outgoing Deputy Attorney General Warren Christopher. Ehrlichman later recalls the visit: “He arrived in my office with a big package of documents and suggested we keep them at hand all the time. They were proclamations to be filled in. You could fill in the name of the city and the date and the president would sign it and declare martial law.” (Reeves 2001, pp. 14)

John Ehrlichman testifies before the Senate Watergate Committee.John Ehrlichman testifies before the Senate Watergate Committee. [Source: Associated Press]Former senior White House aide John Ehrlichman testifies before the Senate Watergate Committee. (CNN 2/15/1999) He disputes previous testimony by former White House counsel John Dean (see June 3, 1973), and defends both the Ellsberg break-in (see September 9, 1971) and President Nixon’s overall conduct. (Facts on File 8/28/2006)

Lesley Stahl.Lesley Stahl. [Source: John Neubauer / Getty Images]Judge John Sirica, presiding over the Watergate trial of former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, subpoenas former President Nixon to appear as a witness on behalf of Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman has heard the tapes the prosecution intends to use against him, and, already convicted of conspiracy and lying about his involvement in the Ellsberg break-in (see September 9, 1971), knows he needs a powerful defense to avoid more jail time. He demanded that Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski hand over the White House files on Ehrlichman for his defense. But Jaworski instead gave Ehrlichman an affidavit from Nixon’s former White House lawyer Fred Buzhardt, who affirmed that nothing in those ten million documents would help Ehrlichman in his defense. Days later, Buzhardt suffered a heart attack, rendering it impossible for Ehrlichman to challenge his affirmation. Ehrlichman hopes that the subpoena will muddy the legal waters by provoking a confrontation between Nixon’s lawyers and Jaworski’s. CBS reporter Lesley Stahl informs her viewers, incorrectly, that it seems Jaworski “has indicted Mr. Nixon.” (Werth 2006, pp. 84-88)


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