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

November 24, 2019


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 so yes. hch [Content_Types].xml Iw}, $yi}
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