Saturday, November 27, 2010

Watergate: Part Three

The burglars used the nearby Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge as a base. Lou Russell was eating in the motel’s restaurant from 8:30 to 10:30, but he told F.B.I. investigators he did not talk to McCord at that time. He said he left at 10:30 and drove to his daughter’s house in Bennett, Maryland. She said her father told her he had to return to Washington to do “some work for McCord” that night. What he did, we do not know. He told the F.B.I. that he was in his room in a rooming house during the break-in.

Writer Jim Hougan thought Russell was helping McCord sabotage the break-in. Soon after the break-in, Russell was contacted by his old friend Bellino, then working for Senator Ted Kennedy’s Senate Administrative Practices Committee. Russell went to stay with Bellino’s friend William Birley on the top floor of the Twin Towers Complex in Silver Spring, Maryland. Eventually, Birley put Lou in a safe house, and one of the prostitutes moved in with Russell. Republican staffers on the Erwin Committed learned of Russell’s involvement with the bordello and thought that investigasting him might help them clear Nixon. On May 9, 1973, the Committee subpoenaed Russell’s bank and telephone records. They learned Russell never had a bank account. The only long distance calls were made to his daughter, and he kept no job diaries. On May 18, Russell suffered a massive heart attack and remained in the hospital until June 20. He told his daughter that he thought someone “switched pills on me,” causing the heart attack. Russell suffered a fatal heart attack on July 2, 1973 and was buried the next day. Reporter Bob Woodward knew about Russell but concluded he was just an “old drunk.”

Bernard Fensterwald was Russell and Mc Cord’s lawyer. He also helped some of the minor figures in the Watergate scandal. This Harvard-educated lawyer defended some of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s victims. Fensterwald was a close student of the Kennedy assassination and later worked with New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. He served as a foreign policy advisor to Senator Estes Kefauver and worled for the State Department and Senator Thomas C. Hennings. At one point, he would represent James Earl Ray. In 1979, he represented the family of John Arthur Paisley, a former C.I.A. official .

There are still many questions about the role of John Dean. Some say he may have leaked information about the Townhouse Plan in 1970. It involved a secret campaign financing program operating out of the basement of a townhouse. It was intended to route money to some candidates without the knowledge of the Republican National Committee. Lawyer Jack Gleason was also to make small ( $,000) cash deliveries to candidates and say the money was from “Pat and Dick.” This appeared to be an effort to set these people up for blackmail, as it was unlikely they all would report the payments as campaign contributions. There is no evidence that Nixon had any part in that aspect of the operation. When Dean was given the files on Townhouse, leaks began about it. Critics of Dean also note that he was more interested in prosecuting the plumbers for the break-in at Dr. Lewis Fielding’s office. Dean was behind the Watergate break-in, master-minded the cover-up, and was the first to raise the subject of bribing Hunt and the Cubans. Dean believed that he would become a power in the White House by coordinating all political intelligence. After he had cemented a light prison sentence, he admitted that he had destroyed E. Howard Hunt’s diaries, which had contained detailed accounts of how Gemstone, the Watergate operation, had been planned and executed. With Magruder, he developed an inaccurate sequence of events, and he consistgently placed the blame on John Mitchell, often by saying he was acting in Mitchell’s name.

After he turned on Nixon, he was asked why he did not warn Nixon about the full extent of the cover-up. His answer was that he had been denied access to Nixon simply does not hold up when one reads the White House transcripts. Mitchell made a fatal error in not going early to Nixon with what he knew. He knew Nixon had a paranoic cast of mind and thought things could be resolved without the president. Later, Nixon had been convinced that his old friend and law partner was at the heart of the problems.

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