Robert Shelton Discusses the House Committee on the Judiciary Impeachment Inquiry
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Robert Shelton Discusses the House Committee on the Judiciary Impeachment Inquiry

March 7, 2020


Hi, I’m Timothy Naftali. I’m a Clinical Associate
Professor of History and Public Service at NYU.
Today, August 30, 2018, we’re in New York and I
have been honored and privileged to be interviewing Bob Shelton
for the Richard Nixon Library’s Video Oral
History Program. Bob, it’s finally a pleasure
to be able to do this. Pleasure for me as well. Bob, tell us what
you were doing just before you joined
the Impeachment Inquiry Staff? I had clerked for a federal
judge in Baltimore, very eminent federal judge,
Judge Harvey, District Judge; I grew up in
the Washington area. But I wanted to be what I
thought to be a real lawyer, which I considered be involved
in solving problems and working for clients, not the usual
administrative work that maybe a Washington
lawyer does, it’s good work,
but it just wasn’t for me. So I clerked
for Judge Harvey. And then went into the military
briefly in the army reserves, did basic training
at Fort Leonard Wood. Not one of the most pleasant
experiences of my life. And I came back to work
for the Venable law firm, which is one of the premier
law firms in Baltimore. And I had started there
in October of 1967, and had fortunately fallen
under the tutelage and mentorship of a great lawyer
and human being Dick Emery. And in those days the way
law practice in big firms went is you had a mentor or a rabbi
you might say that you work for and normally
you would rotate it around, but I stayed with
Dick my entire period of time and became a partner
at January 1, 1973, which in the scale
of things in this firm was a rather rapid promotion. And I had been doing my best
to establish myself with various clients of the firm
for the prior year and that’s when I was
doing in January 1974. Did Mr. Doar call you to ask you
to join the staff? I got a call very early
in the morning, January 1, I believe 1974.
I believe it was New Year’s Day, I believe it could have been
7:00 in the morning. And my phone rang –
actually it wasn’t my residence, it was a companion of mine and the phone rang
about 7:00 or thereabouts. And it was my sister Dorothy, and I knew she had been asked
to work for John. I’d been very close to John
in the Civil Rights Division. And she simply said,
“Bob, Mr. Doar would like you to come to work for him
at the Impeachment Inquiry in effect as the Director
of Operations or the Administrative
part of it.” So I was somewhat annoyed
having been awakened that hour on New Year’s Day. So I said, “Dorothy,
I’ll think about it.” So I slammed the phone down
and the phone rang again in about three or four minutes,
maybe five, very soon she says, “Bob, this is Dorothy again,
Mr. Doar insists–.” So I thought for a moment, I wasn’t very happy about
leaving my position at Venable, because I had been working hard
to get myself established as a young partner.
But I said, “Fine, I’ll do it.” So and – by Dorothy were
pretty much [Indiscernible]? Correct. So you accept this and then you are among the very first
members of his team? I would say that’s correct.
I think David Haines was there and I don’t think much
of anybody else was there. Dick Katz was there,
but he’d come before John. Tell us what your duties
were in that first month or so? Well, let me set a little
background for you – as to my background
that equipped me for this job. I had actually began
in my college years had been working
for a non-profit called the Institute
for Defense Analyses, which had Defense Department
contracts, one of which was the Advanced
Research Project Agency in the Pentagon. And IDA it was –
it was called the division that I was working for it
was a summer job, I was having a summer study
in Newport, Rhode Island at the Naval War College. And although
it was a bit unusual, I was asked to be the
Administrative Officer on site for the summer study. And the study was basically
the participants were very highly regarded
academics, various institutions, who would collect
in a period of time for a month
to do a study for ARPA. And one of the appeals was that
they will bring their families. So the procedure was – is that a couple of dozen
of these academics and their families
would be together for a month, at the Naval War College. And I was selected to be
the administrator on site to run this study, and that involved very
stringent security procedures. I had a top secret clearance,
all the rest of them did. And we really adhered
to the protocols of an intelligence agency in terms of security
and operations. And I was also very familiar
with the structure of running a study or a project. I worked for a very interesting
man he was a Navy Mustang, which was he was came up
from the ranks, but he was commander,
a retired commander, a very talented administrator.
He had everything set up for me in terms of personnel
and processes, but I had in effect
a document control clerk, we had secretaries.
I had a lead secretary. So I was quite familiar
with the kind of structure that would be needed to run it
administratively, a project. And I think that’s
what Dorothy had told John that not many lawyers
had had that experience and I did three or four of those in my law school years
in Newport and a couple actually
in San Diego, California. So when I showed up,
my understanding was is that I would do whatever
was required to run a project. And so I immediately discovered that there was
some existing talent. First of all, there were about a
dozen clerks that were on hand, not clear what they were
meant to be doing. Jeff Banchero was one of them,
who you’ve talked to, who’d been hired
for various purposes, I think they were
all political patronage, but they were bright attractive,
young people, all college graduates. So there were about
a dozen of those on hand. But also there was
a very remarkable woman by the name of Janet Howard,
who I’d like to emphasize because she is somebody
who’s existed in complete anonymity,
and she’s very important in terms of how
this project worked. She was a friend of Lois
de Andrés, who was Rodino’s
kind of protégé and assistant. And I think it initially
been thought that Lois would be
the administrative head, but I think she saw
that I replaced her. So in any event,
Janet was on hand, and she was a woman
of great talent, knowledge of the Hill,
she had been around for a while. And also real administrative
abilities and she – later life became
Pamela Herrmann’s political – she devised the pack
the Pamela Herrmann ran and she ultimately ended up as a Senior Vice President
for International Relations of Coca-Cola Company. And she was a remarkable force
and undertake in terms of the processes
of running this project. But in any event, John started about the processes
of hiring lawyers and took him about two months to hire what turned out
to be approximately 40 of them, drove the committee
I think crazy in a way because they couldn’t see much
was happening and I said about
organizing the staff. And to a certain extent it
could have been and was chaotic when all of a sudden 40 lawyers
descend on a – in a project, essentially with nothing to do
for a period of time, need to get organized. And my responsibilities
was to set up an administrative apparatus, which included secretarial help,
clerical help and office details such as telephones,
desks, etcetera. So I set about doing that
with Janet’s able assistance. And then I basically replicated
the structure that I was familiar with it
running projects for IDA, and that meant first of all that I wanted somebody
in charge of security. Now that I use as a euphemism, because
what I really had in mind although would be a
somewhat grander title with somebody who would function as a document control clerk
in an intelligence setting. So I set about hiring, what I called
a Director of Security, and we put out an RFP, whatever you call it
in the government, and we ended up with roughly
a dozen applicants. All of whom were very qualified
for major sorts of jobs, because the title
was Security Officer and of course,
it was a job that had a lot of sex
appeal at that point in time. So there are about
a dozen of them and I interviewed all of them.
One of them whom turned out is – when I finished with him,
he flashed a badge; he was formerly with the CIA, and why he thought
I would hire somebody with that sort
of credential eludes me. But any event I made a real
10 strike in terms
of our Security Director, a fellow named Ben Marshall, who was a retired
Air Force Colonel, unmarried important
in terms of time and required for the job. Since he was retired military,
we had to get a sign off from the Speaker of the House
to let him be in effect, double dipping
in terms of a federal salary, but that was effectuated
rather promptly. And Ben joined us, and hired
somebody to work with him. And he understood exactly
what I was looking for in terms of document control. And of course fit in exactly
what John had in mind, because he was always – very almost, I mean,
obsessed with confidentiality and security, particularly working
in that type of arena. But Ben was somebody
who could work as I said with our youngsters most of whom were
in their late 20s, early 30s at most, some maybe
in their middle 20s, perhaps. And also he was able to be there
essentially night and day. When he was there in terms
of controlling documents and we established a procedure
of signing documents in and out with the library,
so that there would be a – they were numbered
and the normal chronology – the sort of thing that’s done
in terms of a intelligence operation, which I think comforted
John a lot. And we also decided that
the library where all of our documents were stored
needed some enhanced security. So we got somebody,
a contracting company to come in and reinforce the library,
put screening on it, so in effect
it was burglar proof. And after all this was over, John who’s always,
one, he’s always got a friend that’s an expert in something
that he can put a finger on. And he likes to put a finger
on somebody to make sure that his mind
somebody he trusts. So he got somebody
by the name of Arnold Sagner, who I had never heard of, apparently was somewhat
in the security business. So Sagner came in and looked
over all our processes, our procedures, the reinforcement
of the library. And he told me, he was there
for a day that he was satisfied with what we had set up
in terms of security. So in any event, we ultimately
ended up with a staff including the lawyers
of about 100. And it was my job to handle
everything that was required in terms of the administration
of a group of people. When John Doar was able to get
the materials from the Senate
Select Committee. Right, that was Tom Bill. Did that collection of materials, which I understand
was about 18 boxes or so, did that include
classified materials? I doubt it. It doesn’t make any difference,
we treated it all the same. Our protocols would have been
what you would use for classified materials. I don’t recall that I had
that conversation with Tom. Tom was the liaison,
as you may recall, who facilitated
the transportation of that material
over to the library. I should also say
in a part of this, because Jeff of course
had some piece of that. We established the procedure
of disposal of confidential waste once or twice a day,
Jeff with this – this is one of our clerical
people with Ben Marshall and his assistant
would take the waste that we consider
to be confidential over to wherever the incinerator is
and go through the guards and actually see the fires
consume our materials and then report
that had been duly destroyed. So an answer to your question
that’s a little bit of a digression,
but it led me to another point, I don’t recall any of that
was classified. And when in March of 1974, when you received
divulging briefings –. Right. With the tapes and the roadmap, you had already set up
this document control system. So, I guess that’s –? The document control system
had been totally set up and the processes
of that Maureen Barden, who was the Head
of our Research Library Group, extremely talented focused,
young woman. She had a group of, I guess,
ended up to be 10 or 12. And she would have catalogued
everything and numbered them and whatever. And so, documents
would be checked in and out from the library as needed by lawyers
as they wanted to work on it. So that material from Tom Bill got from the Senate Select
Committee would – had simply been integrated
into a lot of other documents that were already
in the library. Was there a need to know system? I think initially John was
very fussy about that in terms of
when the materials came over in the briefcase
from the judge, the records chambers, and I think I went with John
over to get those materials and we brought them back.
He was very particular initially about
who could listen to the tapes. There were just
a few people permitted. I think that the need
to know became – the group became very bonded
and cohesive in a very short order, because it was like very intense
and together, and I don’t think there was
any need to have a need to know. I think there was
total confidence. Even –
and I hesitate to say this because you’ve gotten
from others about the integrated staff with
a minority and the majority. And the way it worked
is that they were, I really didn’t even know
who had picked, which members of the group
they worked and on particular projects. There were a couple of big ones
and then subsets and I didn’t even know
which minority had picked except for Garrison who of
course was the more partisan and became the counsel
in due course. So I don’t think there was ever
any hesitation about leaks after a relatively
short period of time, although we did follow
those processes very carefully. And then we did have
all of this received over time, letters from Jack Anderson
and various and wanted to know if
we wanted to talk to him. So I would say though
on a need to know basis except at the beginning,
I don’t think so. But I really don’t know totally because that was up to Maureen
and Ben Marshall. Tell us how the administration
of materials changed when you got tapes? What would you play
on equipment? Well, the tapes
are a long story. And I’ll start at the beginning. We initially got transcripts
over seven of the eight tapes. There were eight tapes
that were subpoenaed and we got transcripts for seven
of them early in March. Transcripts for all,
but the April the 16th tape and those were the same ones that the Senate Select Committee
had received also. So, we had transcripts
for a short period of time before I went over with John
to get the briefcase, which was March 27th. And John had told them, I think it’d been
my sister’s suggestion, John was with the view that he would kind of ruminate
with his thoughts with some people that he trusted
and knew well, and I had been – I believe he’d been
talking to Dorothy, about when we got the tapes, we’re going to need to know
how to play them. So somehow I got
that information from Doar, I very rarely spoke to him,
hadd much to do with him actually that we needed
to have the capacity to listen to these tapes
when we got them. So I am far from being a techie,
I know it and I knew it was going to be
a significant project. So I was able to hire somebody
who became very, very significant
by the name of John Halverson – Bob Halverson, who had been
the Tapes Consultant for many years
for the Library of Congress. He was a man in his 50s. So when I got the word that this
would be my responsibility, I checked around
and through a friend of mine, I went on to Bob. So I talked to him
and satisfied myself that he was eminently qualified
and interested. So I hired him as a consultant. And I said,
“Bob, what you need to do is when these tapes arrived
in this office, you need to have
machinery available that these eager beavers
can jump on instantly to start
listening to them.” So when the tapes came over,
he had, I don’t know, several machines, four or five, small machines
available for listening. So they immediately
started listening, again on with John’s direction,
limited number of people who were permitted to listen
to them initially. So, you’re beginning, you were
building this capability in anticipation that you would get from
the grand jury these tapes? I knew we would get the tapes, and I hadn’t been told to be
prepared to listen to them. So I had not just a tech, I had
somebody who had real capacity. You developed a system
not only for listening, but also for duplicating? Well this is a sequence. The tapes were of two types
and two different qualities. The tapes which had been taken
in the Oval Office, of which there were five. I think there’s a mistake
in the materials of the inquiry, but I’ll come back to that. Five of the tapes had been
recorded in the Oval Office. And these tapes were relatively
– and I stress relatively clear. The tapes that came from the EOB
was voice activated and the President
would go over there on occasion to talk to various people
and the tape recorder would run just when he spoke
were very, very unclear. Even so the transcripts
that came over, even of the Oval Office tapes
were very sketchy and didn’t really
tell a narrative. The EOB tapes were
totally unintelligible; the transcripts had wide
sections of unintelligible and blank spaces. So I was aware that the
transcripts were considered inadequate
by essentially everybody. And it wasn’t too long
that Bob came to me and he said, “Bob, the tapes
that we’ve received from the special prosecutor
were copied mike to mike.” He said, “You can’t make
much more out of them than a Special Counsel
has done or the White House.” Because the audio is so garbled,
he said, “What we need to do is
to get access to the originals. And if we do that,
we can make tapes such that we can make clear
transcripts of these meetings.” So I very rarely went in
to see Doar, but before – and so I
went to Bernie Nussbaum, who was the Head
of our Factual Investigation. And I described the situation
and I said, “Bernie, I’m told
that these tapes can be improved considerably, if we can get access
to the originals and make our own copies.” I said, “You need to go to John
and tell him we have to have access
to make adequate recordings.” And whenever I tell this story,
I always have to have a caveat because Bernie Nussbaum is a man
of more than adequate ego. But he said to me, he said, “Bob, you have more influence
over Doar than I have.” I said – he said, “You go.” So I made an appointment
to see him and I went in
and described the situation. I told him about the recording
was done mike to mike and we needed to get
recording wire to wire, this was a subject he knew
nothing about, nor had I. I don’t know if he had ever
listened to any of the tapes, I doubt it. So he thought about it,
always cautious. And so I emphasized
it was really critical in order to prepare adequate transcripts. Tapes without transcripts
that are accurate are not tapes. So he finally – he said,
“I’ll do it.” So in any event,
I went back to my business and several days elapsed
and Bernie came back to me and he said, “Bob, what happened
about the tapes?” He said,
“You need to go see John again.” So I went to see him again. And I said,
“We’ve really got to get access, if you want to have
good transcripts to deal with.” And I told him about
Bob Halverson and you know, he knew about
all the unintelligible and he also knew from his
own conversations with Ruth that there was lots
of unintelligible and that you meant to have
people with good hearing. So he knew that the tapes
were a mess. So in any event, I think
I went two times, maybe three. And the third time he said,
“I’ve talked to Mr. St. Clair. And he said,
“You can go over, call him to make copies
of the February 28 tape.” So I had no idea of where
the idea of the February 28 tape
came into view. First of all, it’s an early
on tape, it’s only John Dean. It’s not an important tape.
It’s an Oval Office tape, which means
it was relatively easy to get a transcript.
But I said, “Fine.” So Bob Halverson and I
got our stuff, as I call it, in those days
recording equipment was stuff. And I called St. Clair and we
went over and get into the EOB, and we were shown to a small,
little office, in the Executive Office Building.
And after a while, I was summonsed
into Mr. St. Clair’s office. And as I previously
described it, it was baronial, the word I like to roam because our offices in the
Congressional Office Building were not baronial. Far from it, a couple of couches,
a couple of fireplaces. He is seated behind his desk,
short man and got up, came towards me. I’m not sure
that even shook my hand. I mean, there’s clearly
no small talk at all. And he said simply,
“Mr. Shelton, Mr. Shelton, I understand you’re here to copy
the February 28 tape.” And I said, “No, sir.
I’m here to copy all of them.” So in those moments,
of course time stands still. He looked at me, paused,
I could see him thinking. It wasn’t a long time,
but it wasn’t a short time. But he finally he nodded. He said,
“Very well, Mr. Shelton.” He went back to his desk. And I went back
to our little office. And the first day we got one
recording, there all day long. The issue in part is
I’m not sure that St. Clair
ever listened to the tapes. Later on in June, he hadn’t
listened to any of them. Buzhardt was in charge
of the tapes, they were in a safe.
He had sole dominion over them. So Buzhardt had to get the tape,
get the amount that we would have
and have it brought to us. So we had one tape
the first day. So I said to Bob
at the end of the day, I said, “We’re going to leave
our equipment here, so they’ll have to let us
back in when we come tomorrow.” So we were there
for an entire week, I think like Monday
through Friday in which we got eight
of the tapes recorded. For those who don’t know what
follows getting better copies of the tapes would
have dramatic consequences. Well, let me finish up
with one little anecdote. Because at the end of our time,
we got all of our, as I say stuff,
and we got out I think it’s the sort of corner
of Pennsylvania Avenue, it may be 17th Street
where the EOB is. And it was rush hour
like on a Friday afternoon. And I was hell bent that we were
going to get back to the offices that evening.
So at that point in time, they have what they call
the shared ride in the District of Columbia
with taxis. So I went out in the middle
of Pennsylvania Avenue and stopped a taxi,
taxi stopped. And in the seat is Dan Rather,
I recognized him. So I didn’t say, I said,
I didn’t address him by name, I just said, “If you would be kind enough
to move up into the front seat, my friend
and I can be in the backseat. And if you’ll hold on
for just a moment, we have some stuff that we’d like
to put in the trunk.” So he went into the front seat, he was just going
to the front door and I think to the White House
just a short way, and somebody asked me one time
was he rude? He wasn’t rude.
He was annoyed. But he had no idea
that we were traveling tapes back to the
Congressional Office Building. Did you have to report this
as an interaction with a journalist? I’m not sure they had
reporting requirements in ’74. So you’re bringing back
the tapes in a briefcase or what have you? We would bring them back
in a briefcase, right. We brought them back
every evening what we had. We had a chess set.
What would we do all day long, Halverson bought us
a little chess set. And I still have it,
a little box, a little portable
step chess set. And we would sit there
and wonder what was going to happen next
or play a game in chess and wait
for something to happen. It took this long, because
it was real time the tape to – Well, no, real time and also Buzhardt had
to personally get every tape. We probably would only
get one a day, sometimes maybe two,
there were eight of them. Did you interact personally
with Fred Buzhardt? Never saw him ever. Some secretary would bring
the recording back to us, when we were finished,
we give it up, wait again. And they gave you a small office
in the EOB –? Tiny little office. Tiny little office
and we would go there and take up our post
every morning 8:00 or 8:30 and wait
for something to happen. I know it’s been a long time,
but are we talking about the first couple
of weeks of April? I would say that probably we got
the tapes March 27. I think probably early April is when
Halverson would have said to me, “We need to get the originals.”
So it happened rather quickly. I’d say it probably took about 10 days or two weeks for John
to get in touch with. Now my own view, I don’t know
if you had seen the statement
of information that I wrote. If you haven’t I can, it was to be sent down
to the Nixon Library, I’m not sure it was. But in any event,
John said to me – sent me a note later on,
note of appreciation and he said, “When I think how you,”
he had these words “Urged me to get
the original tape and to get them transcribed,
I’ll be forever,” or “you urged me to get in touch
with Judge Sirica.” Now that I think is interesting
and material, because he didn’t tell me he’d
been in touch with Judge Sirica. He told me he’d been in touch
with Mr. St. Clair. In my own view knowing
the dynamics of it, I think the fact that St. Clair
agreed with a totality of it, meant that it’s been
on the order of the judge. And I think the fact
I’m going to come back and ramp and give my own kind
of impressionistic of how this has happened. My own view is that
it was a little unusual. It was an ex parte communication
with a judge, what a lawyer would say
that for John to be in touch with
or indirectly with a judge, it could have been
with his good friend Henry Ruth in the special office. But I do think
that his note to me was accurate that he had been in touch
with Judge Sirica and thereafter it had happened
with Mr. St. Clair. And as a result
of all these efforts, you had, I believe some transcripts available to compare against
the Nixon transcripts that came out on April 30. Well, let me, this is another
part of it is what did we do
with the tapes once we had them? We set about doing
our own transcripts. And I picked somebody
named David Haines, who was one of John’s
special assistants, good Republican, Haines Mills; his brother had been in
the Eisenhower administration, he had formerly been a clerk for
a Supreme Court Chief Justice. He’s a friend of mine,
also in my judgment very
anal personality. You wants somebody
to listen to tapes all day long, struggling for words,
it requires real perseverance and he was interested
in the job. So I asked David to do a whole
revision of the transcripts we’d gotten from
the White House from the Special Prosecutor. Special Prosecutors’ transcripts
weren’t any better than the White House
transcripts, essentially the same. So David spent an entire week,
8 or 10 hours a day listening to tapes
and revising the transcripts. And we had transcripts
that were materially different, I saw the narrative, there weren’t just little
sketches of this and that. John was aware of that. I think he’d seen them,
very happy about it. So I think he was going
to show off a little bit and it was decided we were
going to play the tapes with the new transcripts
to the committee. By the time that it happened,
I discovered because of Halverson
that even Haines’ tapes weren’t the final word. So Haines and Halverson and I
have prepared another set of transcripts, which I call the Haines’
revised transcripts. John being John
wasn’t confident in those, because he thought
that Halverson and I had been meddling
with it, whatever. He was confident
in the Haines’ tapes. So we had a hearing
with all the committee, each had a recorder,
each had transcripts and we played over
one of the tapes for them. It was interesting, because
right away various members were raising their hands saying
I can hear additional words. So I discovered what I call
the first of three principles for transcribing these things. Number one is the more
you listen to these things with a transcript
in front of you, is the more words
you’re going to hear. The second principle
that I discovered and I’ll recover that is people
with ordinary hearing that varies in terms
of their hearing acuity. Before I got into
the next section of it though, we hired somebody
that Halverson knew who had been a NSA consultant
for digging tape recordings from the Kremlin or whatever
or what they call the mud. This is – he was a consultant
for the NSA. He was a blind man
that you may have heard other people mention. And he showed up
and he was there for a day, spent the whole day, got a few more words
out of the EOB tapes, not many, very labor intensive. So he was the one
that suggested we buy all this high powered equipment
to listen to these things, it wasn’t much better
than just an ordinary recorder. So in any event,
once I discovered that people have difference
in their hearing, I don’t have particularly
good hearing, I’m normal hearing
but not ultra the way. Halverson did have
unusually good hearing. We decided to have somebody else
take a run at these transcripts. So we had an audition
which was run by Halverson and we took volunteers. And we tested
on a group of the – one of the segments of the tape, what words they got out of it,
testing their hearing, and we also made
a judgment decision about whether we thought
they would be interested in doing this type of work. So Halverson and I evaluated,
we had 15 or 20 people. I think Hillary might have taken
a crack at a listener or not, I’m not sure about that because I didn’t run
the 15 or 20, Bob did. And we picked up
one of the clerks whose name was Jeff Banchero, and Jeff had three
of the characteristics that David Haines had.
One he had very good ears. But two, he was clearly
very persistent, I mean, you could tell that
in terms of the test we gave, we had him write something up
with the semicolons were right, the comments right.
He was an anal personality. He was very interested
in doing the work, much better work
than taking the trash out to the incinerator once a day. So we picked him to try
another run at our transcripts, so we’re getting better
and better by the way if you’ve looked
at the comparison, there’s no difference,
I mean, huge difference. I discovered a third principle, the one is that
the more you listen and you get different words,
which is the more you listen, you start hearing words that other people
aren’t going to hear. So we established a basis
that before we would change anything
in our base transcripts, we would have to have
a panel of three people who could hear those words. And I think that the reliability and just spent hundreds of hours
by the way, I think he said that in his
interview and the rest of us. Halverson was full-time
at this point in time. The Members of Congress
came over up on the committee, a lot of them to listen, and there was never one person
to my knowledge that quibbled saying that our transcript
was inaccurate in any way at the end of all this process. And Bill Weld says
on his talk with you, grand jury transcripts, I mean,
you can get into big arguments of whether transcripts
are accurate or whatever. The members came in
and many of them listened to our tapes
and transcripts and there was never any question
about the reliability of what we had
in those transcripts. After this challenge,
what role did you play in helping the Library prepare
the Statements of Information? Well, let me make a comment here if I could in terms
of this whole process. I think in terms of history
and I think this is what is startling at least
in my course I’m so close to it. Nixon fought tooth and nail to keep the tapes away
from everybody. There is an episode called
the Stennis Compromise, his first proposal
when the tapes were subpoenaed by the Special Prosecutor, were to have summaries
of the tapes authenticated by the probably
someone senile and at least somewhat,
he was quite aged at the time, Stennis, not to send the tapes but to send transcripts
of the summaries of them. And Ervin bought off on this,
but Cox did not. And that’s what led to
the Saturday Night Massacre. So I think what history,
you know, historians that come after you
and me when they really – when they get up
into the sort of, how shall I put it,
a context of this whole process is Nixon actually
didn’t send the tapes. It appears what he sent
were defective tapes. And he sent them
to the Special Prosecutor, and the Special Prosecutor
sent them to us. So it’s not just the fact
that the transcripts were inadequate or inaccurate,
he sent defective tapes. And I think that’s a fact
that’s startling in terms of the way historians
have written up this episode. So I’ll leave that with you,
you’re a presidential historian, maybe Woodward and Bernstein
would like to have a crack at that some point in time. Well, the implication of course is this was a knowing
obstruction by lawyers? I think that it’s – when you put
the pieces all together, one how he fought tooth and nail
not to hand over the tapes, he fired Cox
rather than do that, that’s how much he cared about
not sending over the tapes. And we saw –
and what’s interesting also is with the April 30 transcripts
when he responded, the President responded to
the subpoena from the House, from the Judiciary Committee. His response was again
a transcript compromise? Exactly. Which you were able to show
the obstruction behind that because of the comparison issue? Well, let me comment. My sister – this was
Renata Adler’s suggestion as I understand it, who was
sort of a consultant to Doar. She thought that there clearly
had been some changes in the transcripts,
the way they were sent over. And Dorothy did a comparison
which I think you’ve seen and it’s not only they’re great
big unintelligible blanks that are put in;
there was clearly some intentional changes
in the wording. So I think that
it stands to reason that if he just sent
the transcripts and wasn’t had the tapes,
who would know. So I think this – I mean to me
and I’ve never – if it was a part of the routine and I don’t think
this has been something. When people talk about the tape
switching of – Alexander Butterfield said
the tapes and everything, the sun shone the fact of the matter is, is that I think there is one,
as the lawyers would say, one chain missing
in the sequence, is did we get the originals that
came from the Special Prosecutor or did he make bad copies. And my own view is that
we either got the originals that the White House sent over
or he made copies of bad copies. When – on the 29th of April, word came to the inquiry staff
to John Doar that that night the President
would be announcing that he was not
turning over the tapes but he’s turning
over transcripts – Right. But he would be permitting
Rodino and Hutchinson, Hutchinson was the ranking
member of the minority, to come over
and listen to the originals. Same idea. As same as the Stennis –
Same idea. Same idea. Do you recall being brought it
in all on, because the subpoena
doesn’t go out, the rejection doesn’t go out
until May 1. If were you – had you talk
to either Rodino or – No. No. No. But well known among everybody
and the staff by April 29, that the transcripts that
the White House sent over were not only inadequate,
but inaccurate. Just to clarify this
for those watching. You have received
White House transcripts already, is the famous Blue Book that doesn’t come out
until 30th of April? That’s correct. But we got
transcripts early in March. Now there’s one footnote that I want
to put in here which is – I should clarify
before we get into it, those transcripts that came over
with the bulging briefcase – Correct. Had been made by whom? Those transcripts were made
by the White House. There were two sets of
transcripts that came over, one were the White House
transcripts, but then the Special Prosecutor
had tried to do their own, which I’ve said were not
materially any better. Did those came over
with the bulging briefcase? That’s correct.
That’s the fact. So, you had already
the White House’s first crack at transcripts for these tapes,
which were already bad? Right. So you already knew
that whatever they gave you on April 30,
it’s not likely much better? We had already done
by mid-April. I’m thinking in terms
of chronology, we had already gotten the tapes
and done our first crack at showing that
they were inaccurate by that point in time.
One little footnote here is not going to interest
your audience at all, the first group that came over
were not eight, they were seven. And the April the 16th tape
was not included in that first batch that we got, but it was included
in the April 30 batch. There’s one other point
that I want to mention just in terms of a footnote. We got more of the March
22 tape than we were entitled to. If you look at the comparison
of the transcripts, there is a whole section
where there’s no comparison. And one piece of that
is very material because it’s that one part
where the President says, “Don’t let it hang out, do what’s required
to bury this thing” in effect. That part was never
in the transcript, and that we obtained
actually by accident. And it was really part of the – it was a very important piece
of the material that we got. So I’m only making that point
in terms of historians, is when they see the comparison
of the transcripts, you’re going to see this part
sticking out on March 22, and that’s the part
that we got that was inadvertently
given to us by Buzhardt and turned out
to be quite material. And they did not include that
in the Blue Book? Correct, correct. One other final footnote,
I think that – not only for your viewers
but also historians and I happen to have a unique.
I think there’s an error in the material
that came over, this – in the work that the
Impeachment Inquiry Staff did. They labeled the April the 16th
as being an Oval Office tape. I think it was an EOB tape,
one is totally unintelligible, two was done in the afternoon,
and three, I’d always heard that there were
five and three. And so that matches up
the numbers of five and three, but I do think that April
the 16th tape is an EOB tape
for those reasons. Here again just for some historian
that comes after you and – Did you ever interact
with Chairman Rodino? Never, never. Did you had the chance
to interact with Mr. Jenner? Actually, I interacted with
Mr. Jenner a fair amount. I think this is
an interesting point. Mr. Jenner was never an employee
of the Inquiry Staff. He always was a consultant.
He didn’t give up his partnership
at Jenner & Block. And he would come to town
periodically, and very convivial gentleman. I had lunch with him
a couple of times in the Metropolitan Club.
Good lawyer. Not deeply involved in the work
of the Inquiry Staff. And not a partisan.
He bought into the part that it was
a fact finding expedition, and not a –
up to him to be a partisan. Garrison did of course
of later on, but he supported John
which was crucial. Mr. Jenner – Hutchinson later
described him to his group as somewhat of a dilettante and I think that’s not
totally inaccurate with respect
to the work that he did. But his job
was to be supportive, which he was 100%,
not of John but of the process, the process of looking
at the material, analyzing and presenting it. So I have the utmost respect
for Mr. Jenner and I think the part
that he did was invaluable. Did you interact with any of the
elected members of the Congress? I know a Congressman named
Sarbanes somewhat, but I never said anything to him
at that period – during that period of time. Do you remember concerns
—segue way— do you remember concerns
about leaks because they’re – the press was writing
[unintelligible]. I don’t believe there were
any leaks that came from the Inquiry Staff for the reasons
I stated in detail. Let me also make
another point here in terms of the process
as a document control. We got piles of resumes
of people that wanted to work
for the Inquiry Staff, pile of them made on to my desk which I paid
absolutely no attention to, because
if you look at the staff, there is a one lawyer
who is a Congressional staffer or involved
in the political world. They were all selected
by good friends of Doar like Judge Johnson
or Burke Marshall, as people who would be reliable,
conscientious, performers. So I think a part of it –
I think the processes and the emphasis
on confidentiality is important, but the real key to it
is the sort of people that were involved
in the undertaking. What role did you play
in piecing together the Statements of Information? Well, let me back up
a little bit. I told Doar that I would sign on
for four months and I started essentially
January 3, and so my four months
were up in end of April. And I meant it because I was,
you might say a reluctant warrior as I’ve described. But I stayed on
until I was satisfied that everything was in order, that the transcripts
were completed, that the administrative
apparatus was functioning smoothly.
And once I was satisfied that that was the case,
I went in and I said to him that I thought
it was time for me to go. And he wasn’t happy about it,
but he agreed. He asked if I would come back
if I was needed, and I said of course,
and I did come back when we prepared
to make a presentation to the entire Congress. Bob Halverson – we produced
about a hundred listening machines that we had in a great
big auditorium somewhere, all ready for the Congressmen all
to come in and listen to them. They never did,
but we were ready for that. And I did come back
for a couple of days, and I might have had some fine tuning to the apparatus
that needed taking care of. Let me also – the presentation
went on for some time and I think it drove
the members crazy, but there you have it. The process of getting
those 47 volumes together with 38 copies
by the old fashioned Xeroxing that we had,
and putting them in volumes and to get them,
it was every night to do that so they would be available
the next morning. And here again it was Janet
Howard and Maureen Barten that did that really
herculean task and it’s barely administrative
but it was crucial. And I remember, I think
Maureen said that in her note that on the first day
went off without a hitch and there were 40 volumes and there wasn’t a page
out of place. Well, that was Maureen’s doing
and Janet’s doing, not mine. Okay. Let me go back
to something you just mentioned. You said you came back briefly
to set up the listening arrangements
for the entire House. I assume we’re talking about
that very brief period from the passage
of the three articles through the President’s resignation
when it appeared at that point that the three articles
of impeachment would go into the entire house. Probably, probably. And since we’ve been
enjoying time, but footnotes which matter to
historians and others perhaps. You received tapes
other than the eight, you also received
the tape of tapes, I believe,
there were other tapes that you received eventually? Right. Those came in – do you remember
when they came in? They didn’t come on March 27? I don’t know when that came in and I’m not sure I was
still there when it came in. And I assume we did
our own transcript of that. So that’s the tape from June
of –? Correct, June 4, right. It came in after
the court decision. Not sure, well it was I think
it was a tape offered – the White House did offer some
tapes that were not subpoenaed. Tapes that were helpful
for the President. Yeah and I’ve – well,
I guess we didn’t part – we didn’t pay as much attention to getting
every word correct on those. Are there any anecdotal stories that we have not touched
upon that you’d like to –? You know I kind of – I don’t know
this is an anecdote or a story, but it was material. Early on you noticed – you say
in terms of my work, I would say I did this or I did that, did it occur
to you whether I was – anybody was paying any attention
to what I was doing? In any event,
early on, John and I – John is a control guy
and I think that’s – I can’t tell you what he did
in terms of this process, was a tour de force,
he and Rodino. I think the fact of the matter is that they were
somehow able to set the table, so that
the people who were not partisan could come to a decision
of what the right thing to do. And to do that was
a combination of very subtle, some not so subtle factors,
and they were continuous. And I think his ability
and his – fact that he was able to do that
with Rodino was ultimately responsible
for the outcome. But he was a mother,
may I kind of control guy. And very early on and I don’t
want to over emphasize this, but I think I made it very clear that I would run
the administration and I did and he came to be
very happy with that. And he had plenty to do
in his part of the world. And I think that made for
a very harmonious relationship in terms of the outcome. When you left, what surprises
had you had in this process besides learning all
about tech things that you didn’t know about? Surprises that I, you know,
it’s my reactions, you’ve talked to dozen, may be dozen and a half people
who were involved, who I – Over 20. 20.
Over 20. Who were much more excited
about this than I was, I was – to me what I did, I was asked
to do a job and I did it. And it was tough work,
it was seven days a week, I didn’t do the – you know,
the wee hours in the morning but rarely,
but it was an undertaking. But to me it was something
that I needed to do, I was happy to do and I did it. I didn’t really have
the excitement that I think maybe some of the people
that you’ve talked to had – You did have a Eureka moment, weren’t you when you saw
the differences? Well, you know, to me
the Eureka moment was when I said
to Mr. St. Clair, I want to copy all of them and then I knew that
from then it was all downhill. Well, that’s –
we should quibble but that was also, that was –
that was a bit of self- posession because you
did was a good thing that you were doing –
you went beyond your briefing? Well, you know,
you haven’t asked something which I think is interesting,
is did I intend to do that? And maybe subliminally
I intended to do that because I was
very unhappy about it. And you see here again
it indicates the desire to keep control of the tapes
and not the transcripts. You see this was to be
a test case, and it’s not a good test case,
it’s an inconsequential tape and it’s an Oval Office tape. So I thought it was
kind of a set up and
it didn’t make any sense to me. And so, John said to me, “You can have
the February 28 tape,” I didn’t say that makes
no sense at all, I just said. “All right.” So, in any event
I was not happy about it. And I didn’t think it was
going to get us anywhere and I didn’t know, you know, I mean the President had
a history of diddling, and how long does that go. So I hadn’t decided
to do anything because I was not going
to be insubordinate. I didn’t plan to
be insubordinate, you might put that way. But when he came out here
and he said, “Mr. Shelton,
you have come here,” and I said it just popped
into my head, and I said firmly, “No, sir.” And that was really the only,
you know – to me the rest of it was,
you know, having – I mean the press is around
the whole time going over. When I went over to –
actually it was interesting that we haven’t
focused on that is, I went over
with John and Joe Woods to pick up the briefcase
from Sirica, which John was in with the judge
and I guess Joe Woods was too, and the clerk and I inventoried
everything, wasn’t that much really. And then as I say,
he in his inimitable style, put it in a old brown
government briefcase and slouched back
on to the taxi, but for me that was –
that was pretty exciting, there were hundreds of reporters and in front page of
The New York Times the next day. So the briefcase
came from John Doar? Oh, that was John’s briefcase,
it was an old probably an old civil rights briefcase.
I mean it’s a crummy old thing. I mean, you’ve seen pictures,
you know, on the – it was on the front page
of everything probably Time Magazine.
And there he is, sort of a John Wayne figure, you know,
always a little slouched and he’s got the briefcase. He had come in the
Congressional Office Building, then Joe was just
right behind him, and
then right behind him was me. And hundreds of reporters
snapping away and, you know, getting the briefcase was,
you know, that was a smoking gun in a way that the way
the world looked at it. And how long did it take for you
to realize that you might have received
more of the March 22 tape than you were supposed to? Well Joe –
actually I interacted, as I indicated, I very rarely
ever talked to Doar. You know, there was always a big
queue out there and what not. And I think that Joe
Woods kind of – I was friendly with Joe and I
was friendly with Nussbaum in terms
of the daily interaction. Joe was the head of the batch
of the legal group, and he had
a unique relationship with Doar because they’ve been schoolmates
together in law school. So he had really
a personal relationship and dealt with him
in a completely different way than maybe
some of the rest of us did. And Joe kept track of
what I was doing, and I think probably would tell
Doar about it. So when I came back with a March
22 tape, he said to me, “You’ve got more than you were
entitled to from the tapes.” And then he said something
I remember very clearly. He says it just shows with
all of these recordings, no matter where you dip into, you know,
we had certain little focus, but wherever you dip into that
you’re going to find something. I don’t think you’re going to
find something like you found the tail
end of the March 22 tape. But in any event, Joe said to me
and I didn’t – you know, I treated my job
kind of as a journeyman. My job was to get the tapes,
get the transcripts, and make sure they were right.
And I didn’t really get involved in the politics
or the policy there. One other question
about the tape. More famous tape is
the March 21, 1973 tape. In the morning. John Doar knew something about
that tape before you received. Did you know
when you were anticipating that the tapes will come and you were preparing
for the tapes to come, did you know that people
were anticipating hearing the March 21 “cancer
on the presidency” tape? Had you heard about it? I had not. We got
the transcripts, you know, there’s also a piece of it,
John was in touch, he had a good friend
in the Special Prosecutor’s office, Henry Ruth
who you’ve mentioned and know. And I think John and Ruth were
in contact from time-to-time. The interesting thing about
the March 21 tape, of course is after that the 75 – that afternoon the $75,000
is handed over to Hunt. So that ties things together
in a way that’s very material. I knew nothing about what was on
that tape or ahead of time, and then also John – he didn’t want a lot
of discussion in the hallways about those tapes initially. He was very circumspect
about what he knew and what was on
those recordings. What did you take away
from this process in terms of your understanding
of impeachment? You know, there’s of course – I think the commentators
and I listen to them who doesn’t in terms
of the current situation? I think many of them
and there are loads of them are somewhat informed.
First of all, you have the issue of whether it has anything to do
with a crime per se. And the issue is not so much
John’s view, I think the better view
is here’s why I again the Clinton situation
was totally different. It has impeachment
for high crimes and misdemeanors has to do
with something that’s – involves the state, you know,
it’s a crime against the state, is not something
that’s personal. I mean it’s not, you know,
a perjury sort of thing. So I think that the commentators
are getting it wrong in a way. Actually, the committee could
never get together in terms of – they had a memorandum
on what constitutes–. They never came up
with a real definition. They left it up
to the committee members to decide in their own minds,
give it context, and I think the reason for that
is it really is ultimately a political
decision in some way. It’s a hybrid. So what I find in terms
of what I see and then the current context is you don’t find
the commentators of course putting that context around. The other thing that I think
that they get completely wrong is they think that if the Republicans
in the House of Representatives, they’ll vote one way, and there’s a Democratic house
they’ll vote another way. What I learned in terms
of the way the process works, and here I think
it was part of the brilliance of John and Rodino and to some extent
Bert Jenner of course, is that they slow
the process down, and made the committee
and the country look at it for months and months. And so, the curve of change,
you know, the mathematicians have
what they call the curvature, the curve of change
goes like this and then
they start bending upwards. So when you have
a period of time where people are looking
at a problem and analyzing it, and thinking about it, it gets
a certain momentum to it. And what I found
that was very interesting that I thought that Doar
counted on and ultimately proved to be the case is when these lawyers
who are sworn to uphold the law and the constitution
is when it was put to them, such a large percentage
of what would have been the minority party, voted for three articles
of impeachment. And Dick Gill tells a story, which I think is a great story
about the minority, he said, he happened to be involved
with Mr. Fish, whose family goes back to—Representative
Fish, upper New York state, goes back to Abraham Lincoln in terms
of his Republican credentials. And he was being lectured by one of the minority members
of the house as to what he should do
as a Republican. And Dick says he rose
to his 6’4″ and he said, “Don’t presume to tell me what
it means to be a Republican.” And I do think that what you saw
at the end of the day by seven, six Republicans is over time there was some partisans
that remained, but at the end of it
the middle held. And I think that in terms
of our times, some of the commentators
really missed that point. Bob, thank you very much
for your time today. My pleasure. I’m very happy that
your recollections are now part of the collection. Well, I hope that’ll be helpful. I’m sure they will be. Thank you. Thank you.

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