May 14 2013

John N. Mitchell

John Newton Mitchell (September 15, 1913 – November 9, 1988) was the Attorney General of the United States from 1969 to 1972 under President Richard Nixon. Prior to that, he was a noted New York municipal bond lawyer, director of Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, and one of Nixon’s closest personal friends; after his tenure as Attorney General, he served as director of Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign. Due to his involvement in the Watergate affair, he was sentenced to prison in 1977, serving 19 months.

During his successful 1968 campaign, Nixon turned over the details of the day-to-day operations to Mitchell. Allegedly he also played a central role in covert attempts to sabotage the 1968 Paris Peace Accords which could have ended the Vietnam War. After he became president in January 1969, Nixon appointed Mitchell attorney general while making an unprecedented direct appeal to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that the usual background investigation not be conducted. Mitchell remained in office from 1969 until he resigned in 1972 to manage President Nixon’s successful reelection campaign

Mitchell believed that the government’s need for “law and order” justified restrictions on civil liberties. He advocated the use of wiretaps in national security cases without obtaining a court order (United States v. U.S. District Court) and the right of police to employ the preventive detention of criminal suspects. He brought conspiracy charges against critics of the Vietnam War, likening them to brown shirts of the Nazi era.

He expressed a reluctance to involve the Justice Department in some civil rights issues. “The Department of Justice is a law enforcement agency,” he told reporters. “It is not the place to carry on a program aimed at curing the ills of society.” However, he also warned activists, “watch what we do, not what we say.” According to biographer James Rosen, he “did more than any executive branch official of the twentieth century.” Near the beginning of his administration, Nixon ordered Mitchell to go slow on desegregation of schools in the South as part of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”. After being instructed by the Federal courts that segregation was unconstitutional and that the Executive Branch was supposed to enforce the rulings of the Courts, he somewhat reluctantly complied and threatened the withholding of Federal funds for schools that were still segregated as well as threatening legal action against them.

In 1972, when asked to comment about a forthcoming article that reported that he controlled a political slush fund used for gathering intelligence on the Democrats, he famously uttered an implied threat to reporter Carl Bernstein: “Katie Graham’s gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published.”

On February 21, 1975, Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up, which he dubbed the “White House horrors”. The sentence was later reduced to one year to four years by United States district court Judge John J. Sirica. Mitchell served only 19 months of his sentence, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, a minimum-security prison, before being released on parole for medical reasons. Tape recordings made by President Nixon and the testimony of others involved confirmed that Mitchell had participated in meetings to plan the break-in of the Democratic Party’s national headquarters in the Watergate Hotel.[citation needed] In addition, he had met, on at least three occasions, with the president in an effort to cover up White House involvement after the burglars were discovered and arrested.

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  1. ek hornbeck

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