Watergate Scandal May Have Sprung From '71 Nixon Memo to Haldeman

By Harry F. Rosenthal
Associated Press
Friday, May 29, 1987

Newly released White House papers of former president Richard M. Nixon showed yesterday that the seed of the Watergate scandal may have been a Jan. 14, 1971, memo from the president to his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman.

"It would seem that the time is approaching when {Democratic National Committee Chairman} Larry O'Brien is held accountable for his retainer with {Howard} Hughes," Nixon dictated in a note from Air Force One. "Perhaps {Charles} Colson should make a check on this."

O'Brien had been once been on public relations retainer for Hughes, a reclusive billionaire. Many think Nixon's thirst for information about O'Brien was behind the burglary of Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate office building on June 17, 1972.

Watergate records previously available showed that Haldeman sent a memo to then-White House counsel John W. Dean on Jan. 18, 1971, requesting an investigation of O'Brien's relationship with Hughes. This led to intensive White House efforts to examine O'Brien's life in detail. The memo released yesterday suggests that Haldeman was carrying out Nixon's Jan. 14 instruction.

Presidential assistant Colson, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a Watergate-related crime and served six months in prison, played a principal role in the Watergate affair.

The Jan. 14, 1971, memorandum was among 267,500 pages of Nixon documents released yesterday by the National Archives, which has had custody of them since Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974.

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