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Apr 13 2018

Alexander Butterfield

Alexander Butterfield was a student at UCLA where he was a friend of H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. He joined the Air Force in 1948 and was a gunnery instructor before transferring to the 86th Fighter Wing out of Germany where he became a member of their aerobatics team. He was an operations officer in Knoxville and a Squadron Commander in Okinawa.

During the Vietnam War he did low and medium level tactical air reconnaissance and flew 98 combat missions. He got a Distinguished Flying Cross for that.

In 1965 he was assigned as a military assistant to the special assistant to the Secretary of Defense and spent about half his time in the Pentagon and half his time at the White House. In 1967 he was promoted to Colonel and sent to Australia as an F-111 project officer.

Then his military career died.

In 1968 he discovered he’d have to spend another 2 years in Australia which meant he was never going to advance to General. He found out his college chum H.R Haldeman was going to be Nixon’s Chief of Staff and asked him for a job. Eventually he got one as Haldeman’s Deputy so he resigned from the Air Force and started working at the White House full time.

He didn’t like Nixon much.

Everything Haldeman and Butterfield did was designed to make Nixon feel comfortable and relaxed, never surprised or “spooked”. “If you don’t do things exactly as I do, it could upset [Nixon],” Haldeman told him.

Next to Haldeman, Butterfield was the most powerful aide in the White House. He met with Nixon and Haldeman every day at 2 P.M. to plan the following day’s activities. He “completely controlled” what paperwork Nixon saw, and logged memos. He accompanied Haldeman on all domestic trips, co-supervising traveling White House staff with Haldeman, and ran the White House when Haldeman and Nixon went on foreign trips. Every meeting the president attended required “talking points” for the president written by an appropriate staff person as well as an after-meeting summary by that person, and Butterfield oversaw the process by which both documents were completed and filed. Butterfield also oversaw all FBI investigations requested by the White House, which included routine background checks of potential employees as well as politically motivated investigations. Other than Haldeman, no one had a more intimate knowledge of Nixon’s working style, the daily operations of the White House, what Nixon may have read, or who Nixon may have met.

Butterfield was also the person who primarily managed people as they met with Nixon. This included ensuring people arrived on time, and that they were manipulated so they did not stay too long. Butterfield also oversaw Nixon’s often-distant relationship with his wife, Pat. Late in 1970, the president’s aides lost confidence in Constance C. Stuart, Pat Nixon’s staff director and press secretary, and Butterfield was assigned responsibility for overseeing the First Lady’s events and publicity. The day after the 1972 presidential election, Pat Nixon confronted her husband over what she perceived to be Oval Office interference with her staff. The deputy assistant to the president, Dwight Chapin, and later Butterfield, were appointed to act as liaison between the two staffs.

So, Intern stuff. “I’d like a Latte Grande, pick up my suit at the cleaners, I need a gift for my wife (something nice, you know what she likes, and sign it “Lovey Poo”), and god damn it that Latte better be hot when you get back- the last one was lukewarm!”

But… he also oversaw the installation of the secret White House taping system.

Yes, that one.

In March of 1973 Butterfield was finally able to ditch the White House for the FAA but by that time Watergate was already raging.

About June 20 or 21, Special White House Counsel for Watergate J. Fred Buzhardt provided the committee’s Chief Minority (Republican) Counsel, Fred “Law and Order” Thompson, with a document intended to impugn (John “Cancer on the Presidency”) Dean’s testimony. Buzhardt’s document included almost verbatim quotations from meetings Nixon had with Dean. Thompson initially violated an agreement under which the majority and minority staff would share all information. When committee Majority Investigator Scott Armstrong obtained the document, he realized the document indicated the existence of a taping system.

You know a funny thing about Lawyers? Many of them hate being Lawyers and move on to something else.

Butterfield was questioned by Senate Watergate Committee staff Scott Armstrong, G. Eugene Boyce, Marianne Brazer, and Donald Sanders (deputy minority counsel) on Friday, July 13, 1973, in a background interview prior to his public testimony before the full committee. Butterfield was brought before the committee because he was White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman’s top deputy and was the only person other than Haldeman who knew as much about the president’s day-to-day behavior.

The critical line of questioning was conducted by Donald Sanders. Armstrong had given a copy of Buzhardt’s report to Butterfield; now Sanders asked if the quotations in it might have come from notes. Butterfield said no, that the quotations were too detailed. In addition, Butterfield said that neither staff nor the president kept notes of one-on-one private meetings with Nixon. When asked where the quotations might have come from, Butterfield said he did not know. Then Sanders asked if there was any validity to John Dean’s hypothesis that the White House had taped conversations in the Oval Office. Butterfield replied, “I was wondering if someone would ask that. There is tape in the Oval Office.” Butterfield then told the investigators that, while he had hoped that no one would ask about the taping system, he had previously decided he would disclose its existence if asked a direct question. Butterfield then testified extensively about when the taping system was installed and how it worked, and told the staff members, “Everything was taped … as long as the President was in attendance. There was not so much as a hint that something should not be taped.” Butterfield later said that he assumed the committee knew about the taping system, since they had already interviewed Haldeman and Higby.

All present recognized the significance of this disclosure, and, as former political adviser to President Gerald Ford, James M. Cannon put it, “Watergate was transformed”.

Hmm…

Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney
By Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger, Washington Post
April 12 at 7:29 PM

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.

“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?”

It is unknown whether Cohen taped conversations between himself and Trump. But two people familiar with Cohen’s practices said he recorded both business and political conversations. One associate said Trump knew of Cohen’s practice because the attorney would often play him recordings Cohen had made of his conversations with other top Trump advisers.

“It was his standard practice to do it,” this person said.

Legal experts said Cohen’s taped conversations would be viewed by prosecutors as highly valuable.

“If you are looking for evidence, you can’t do any better than people talking on tape,” said Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor.

Such recordings “would be considered a gold mine,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who specializes in legal ethics.

“The significance is 9.5 to 10 on a 10-point scale,” he added, noting that investigators know “that when people speak on the phone, they are not guarded. They don’t imagine that the conversation will surface.”

Cohen wanted his business calls on tape so he could use them later as leverage, one person said. Cohen frequently noted that under New York law, only one party had to consent to the taping of a conversation, this person added.

During the 2016 race, Cohen — who did not have a formal role on the campaign — had a reputation among campaign staff as someone to avoid, in part because he was believed to be secretly taping conversations.

In one instance, Cohen played a recording of a conversation he had with someone else to a Trump campaign official to demonstrate that he was in a position to challenge that person’s veracity if necessary, an associate recalled.

Cohen indicated that he had something to use against the person he had taped, the associate said.

One outside Trump adviser said Cohen may have begun recording his conversations in an attempt to emulate his boss, who has long boasted — often with no evidence — about secretly taping private conversations.

In May, for instance, a report appeared in the New York Times detailing fired FBI director James B. Comey’s account of a one-on-one dinner he had with the president, during which he said Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty to the president and he declined. Shortly after, Trump took to Twitter to cast doubt on Comey’s version of events, seeming to imply that he had secretly recorded their encounter.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump wrote.

At the time, it was unclear whether Trump truly possessed tapes of his conversation with Comey or was simply trying to intimidate him. And ultimately, just over a month later, Trump cleared up the mystery by admitting in a duo of tweets that he had not, in fact, recorded Comey.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” he wrote.

Now these recordings, if they still exist, must pass the test of being non-privileged communications in order to be available to prosecutors. Trump insists that any threats of tapes he personally made (say… James Comey) are empty braggadocio.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump wrote.

At the time, it was unclear whether Trump truly possessed tapes of his conversation with Comey or was simply trying to intimidate him. And ultimately, just over a month later, Trump cleared up the mystery by admitting in a duo of tweets that he had not, in fact, recorded Comey.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” he wrote.

Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer and executive editor of Bloomberg View, wrote a column in the wake of Trump’s taping claim saying that Comey likely had little reason to worry. In the piece, O’Brien recounted that Trump frequently made a similar boast to him.

“Back in the early 2000s, Trump used to tell me all the time that he was recording me when I covered him as reporter for the New York Times,” O’Brien wrote. “He also said the same thing when I was writing a biography of him, ‘Trump Nation.’ I never thought he was, but who could be sure?”

But after Trump sued him for libel shortly after his biography came out, O’Brien’s lawyers deposed Trump in December 2007 — during which Trump admitted he had not, in fact, clandestinely taped O’Brien.

“I’m not equipped to tape-record,” Trump said in the deposition. “I may have said it once or twice to him just to — on the telephone, because everything I said to him he’d write incorrectly; so just to try and keep it honest.”

In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon Karl Marx writes-

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.