The Final Word on Deep Throat (So Far)

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Aug. 9 1999 5:41 PM

The Final Word on Deep Throat (So Far)

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On the stand, Nixon said that he thought the warrantless break-ins were perfectly legal. (Although he wasn't asked under oath whether he'd known of or approved them, he'd said earlier that he hadn't.) The president, Nixon said, had power to authorize such break-ins, and so did the FBI, which was an arm of the executive branch. Nixon said there had been "hard evidence" linking the Weather Underground to foreign governments. Nixon said he himself had approved similar break-ins under the 1970 "Houston Plan," which he said was also legal. Nixon gave an impromptu lecture about a president's heavy burden during wartime. "I hope that neither President Carter or Governor Reagan, if he should be president, has to do what I had to do, what Franklin Roosevelt had to do, [here the judge interrupted and told the prosecutor to ask his next question, but Nixon went on] what President Truman had to do, that is, write letters to people whose sons have been killed in war." Possibly in part because of the jury's distaste for Nixon, Felt, and Miller were found guilty and sentenced to pay $5,000 and $3,500, respectively. After Ronald Reagan, who was elected president a few days later, assumed the presidency, he pardoned the two men.

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It is almost too irresistible to wonder: Did Nixon serve up his sympathetic testimony because he knew it would alienate the jury and give Deep Throat what he, Nixon, deemed his just deserts? We know that Nixon was a revenge buff who was capable of extraordinarily Machiavellian behavior. We also know that Nixon sincerely believed that warrantless break-ins of the sort that Felt and Miller (and, under different circumstances, Nixon himself) had authorized were a necessary line of defense against radicals and troublemakers (many of whom did indeed prove to be violent).

Which Nixon testified at Felt's trial--the Nixon wanting to give Deep Throat a little payback or the Nixon who wanted to stand firm against The Punks? Perhaps both.