The Truth You Never Learned about Watergate

The Nixon Conspiracy:  Watergate and the Plot to Remove the President

by Geoff Shepard

373 pages, hardcover $30.00, Kindle $14.99
ISBN-13: 978-1-64293-715-2
Bombardier Books, Post Hill Press, New York, 2021

In 2019, I wrote here and here at American Thinker of the work of Geoff Shepard — certainly the reigning expert on the Watergate Affair because of his long history of scholarship and archive- and document-diving.  At the time, I interviewed Mr. Shepard.  I asked him to assess what he knew about Watergate and to compare the Watergate affair to what was happening in D.C. with the Trump coup attempt.  I also solicited his opinions on what is being called the Deep State and its role in the Russia/Trump collusion plot.  By that time, both Mr. Shepard and I were convinced that there were some lessons to be learned, but he withheld his opinions because he is a careful writer and attorney and had not investigated the Trump matters in depth.

Mr. Shepard grew up in Southern California, graduating from Whittier College (1966) and Harvard Law (1969).  He was a Nixon White House fellow, then a staffer, and then deputy director for John Ehrlichman's Domestic Policy Group.  When Watergate exploded, he became a member of the White House legal defense team.  After the Nixon resignation, Shepard remained on in the Gerald Ford White House and later entered private life as an attorney/executive in the insurance business, a specialty he pursued for the rest of his professional career. 

Now retired, Mr. Shepard has finished up his assiduous scholarship in the National Archives and other documentary and investigative resources obtained through FOIA requests and library searches such as the Harvard (Archibald Cox/James Vorenberg) and Baylor (Leon Jaworski) Law libraries that house the personal papers of the two special prosecutors.  Both special prosecutors took inappropriate liberties to remove official documents of import when they left Washington, and those vital documents were discovered only after diligent searching by Mr. Shepard.  Squirreled away in Waco and Cambridge, the Baylor and Harvard documents were a late arriving treasure trove of materials documenting prosecutorial misconduct.  Recently, Mr. Shepard was successful after five years in getting the D.C. district courts to unseal the Watergate Grand Jury session materials showing prosecutorial lies about a so-called "road map" that convinced the grand jury to name Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Watergate matter.

When the Trump opposition was warming up, I read Mr. Shepard's 2008 book, The Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President (Sentinel, 2008), then the second, The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down (Regnery, 2015).  I then went to his website to read his evidence and documentation.  I found stunning documentary evidence — memoranda that document the professional and judicial misconduct of the key players, sometimes in their own hand.  Examples abound:  

  • Multiple ex parte contacts between lawyers and Democrat players of the Watergate congressional investigative committee and Watergate prosecutor lawyers with John Sirica, the chief judge of the D.C. district courts, who appointed himself to be presiding judge of all the Watergate-related trials.
  • Ex parte meetings of prosecutors with federal D.C. Circuit (appellate supervising) court chief judge David Bazelon to protect any Sirica convictions and sentencing from reversal of what was planned by the prosecutors, judiciary, and political apparatchiks as a series of trials and convictions of all the Nixon administration persons indicted and brought to trial.  
  • A series of ex parte meetings of journalist Clark Mollenhoff, an anti-Nixon partisan before and after Nixon brought him on as White House ombudsman, with Judge Sirica.
  • Sirica's unprecedented and corrupt threat to convicted Watergate defendants that they would receive maximum sentences that could be reduced if they agreed to testify for the congressional investigative committee.    

The Shepard books go into great detail on the treacherous, deceitful, and dissembling John Dean.  Dean set up the criminal intelligence activities, starting with the plumbers.  He then ran a botched cover-up, and, when in trouble for his perfidy, he jumped ship and turned witness against the Nixon administration.  His treachery earned him praise from the Nixon-haters as some kind of virtuous hero.  Horrified by the prospect of imprisonment, Dean emerged as a liar and false accuser, never spending a day in jail.  Sirica was instrumental in the scam intended to make Dean a sympathetic figure while the judge himself was a malignant and mendacious miscreant.

Mr. Shepard exposed in the first and second books a dark side of Washington, D.C. that implicates partisan politicians, judges, prosecutors, and media.  He supplements his exposition in the third book.  Nixon and his top aides, Ehrlichman and Haldeman, were victims of a sordid political coup.  Judge John Sirica, a hair-on-fire partisan, assigned the Watergate cases to himself.  Time Magazine selected him as man of the year — how apropos, since he was the hit man for the Nixon-haters. 

In 2019 Mr. Shepard and I talked Watergate details — the players and the misconduct — in a telephone interview, but he wouldn't comment on the question of the Trump coup since he had not done the research he requires on the matters in dispute.  Mr. Shepard is disinclined to use the term "Deep State," since he points out, correctly, I think, that the Deep State of today is just the imbedded partisan and corrupt government bureaucracy of the past.  

Shepard shows in his first two books that judges and prosecutors in the Watergate matter were culpably unethical and allowed partisanship to corrupt justice.  For example, they violated the law by withholding exculpatory evidence.  Shepard's books, articles and essays cite documentary evidence assiduously.  Shepard has a compelling series of twelve lectures at Temple University, Philadelphia on the Watergate coup d'état.  It is impressive what one man has done to take apart Watergate to reveal and expose the sins of many major figures in the matter.

This third book — the climactic third movement — closes the loop on his lifetime achievement and is written with a more complete record and conclusory analysis and commentary. 

Shepard is arguably the most knowledgeable expert on the Watergate affair extant.  He was an eyewitness and deeply engaged participant.  For example, he transcribed personally the "smoking gun" tape.  His conclusion is that Watergate was a bloodless coup accomplished by Democrat partisans from D.C. and Massachusetts, the two electoral entities that voted for McGovern in an otherwise landslide Nixon re-election victory in 1972.  Anti-Nixon D.C. bureaucrats, lawyers, judges, and politicians put together the coup to reverse an election — sound a little too familiar in 2021?  Another elemental parallel in the scenarios of 1972 and today is Republican Party establishment pooh-bahs who didn't raise a finger for Nixon — again a warning of what happened recently to Trump.

This third Shepard book displays important details that make it the best of the three, although the first two were excellent.  Those elements include the following:

  • Shepard gives the reader an excellent and vivid picture of the character and behavior of major and minor players.  He tells a compelling and fast-moving story with excellent descriptions of the actors and action in the drama.
  • The lawyering on both sides is described well and is understandable — not just for lawyers, but for the lay reader.  The result is a sort of spellbinding and fast-paced run through a year and more of action.
  • Evidence of the misconduct by the prosecutors and judges is described in horrifying detail.
  • Inappropriate deceit by the prosecutors in the grand jury is exposed because Shepard was able to get the "road map" deceit the prosecutors presented to the grand jury unsealed so they could get the jury to name Nixon as an unindicted conspirator — a pure lie, as Shepard shows — in detail and with great effect.
  • The counterproductive conduct of the Nixon defense team and the White House disarray is displayed and discussed with no holds barred.
  • Shepard's explains the mistake that was made about the significance of what he thought was the "smoking gun" tape — it wasn't about cover-up or hush money, but about avoiding revelations of donors to the campaign.  I think Shepard regrets that Nixon was condemned for something he didn't do, and he explains it in depth. 
  • Shepard makes a well supported argument that Nixon was not culpable and that the prosecution put together a case that was enabled to a great extent by the efforts of traitor John Dean, who was willing to lie to avoid incarceration.  His deceit was enabled by unethical prosecutors and partisan judicial decisions.

I couldn't help but think after reading this third of a trilogy that Mr. Shepard has been hard at work trying to distill and organize the research of the last 20 plus years so that the reader will benefit from a riveting and fast moving tale that just happens to be one of the most important political events of our lifetimes.

He also offers some analysis and comparisons of Watergate with present-day D.C. dynamics and the lessons to be learned about the power of the entrenched Democrats and their media allies, the danger of an establishment Deep State with an allied media that can cancel an elected president.  

When you read this book, you don't have to be reminded that Watergate looks like dress rehearsal or an opening act for the events of 2015 to 2021.

Image: David via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 (cropped).

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