Dramatic behind-the-scenes maneuvering preceded President Lyndon B. Johnson's naming of the Warren Commission to investigate the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy, according to transcripts of Johnson White House telephone conversations released yesterday.

The transcripts covered 275 phone calls recorded in November and December 1963 in the Johnson White House relating to the Kennedy assassination. They were released by the LBJ Library and National Archives.

Although many of the incidents referred to in the conversations have been known before, such as Johnson's concerns that a nuclear war could occur if the American people thought the Soviet Union or Cuba was behind the assassination in Dallas, the transcripts shed new light on the establishment and composition of the Warren Commission.

Johnson, the transcripts show, originally wanted the Texas attorney general to handle the matter and strongly opposed the idea of a presidential commission when it first was proposed to him on Nov. 24, the day that Kennedy's accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot.

In a conversation the next day with then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Johnson criticized the formation of an independent commission, saying, "The White House can't be checking up on every shooting scrape in the country." Behind that remark, other transcripts make clear, was Johnson's fear that he would be setting a precedent for federal investigators to look into local murders with possible civil rights implications.

Johnson told Hoover that "some lawyer in Justice {Department} is lobbying with The {Washington} Post because that's where the suggestion came from for this presidential commission. . . . "

The president asked Hoover to use "any influence you got with The Post" to try to explain why a commission "that's not trained hurts more than it helps."

Hoover replied that he did not "have much influence with The Post because, frankly, I don't read it. I view it like the Daily Worker," a reference to the Communist Party newspaper.

That same day, Johnson told columnist and friend Joseph Alsop that he was being lobbied for a commission but that "this is under Texas law. . . . We don't send in a bunch of carpetbaggers. . . . That's the worst thing we could do right now."

Alsop, however, argued that the FBI investigation into the assassination should be reviewed by Texas and "non-Texas jurists" so that "the country will have the story judicially reviewed, outside Texas."

Asked by Johnson why the FBI report could not be released without being reviewed by outsiders, Alsop replied: "Because no one . . . again . . . on the left they won't believe the FBI . . . and the FBI doesn't write very well."

In a later phone conversation with Katharine Graham, then president of The Washington Post Co., Johnson jokingly referred to the Warren panel as "the Kay Graham Commission."

The most dramatic conversation released yesterday occurred on Nov. 29, a week after the assassination, when Johnson asked then-Sen. Richard B. Russell (D-Ga.) to serve on the commission and initially was turned down. Russell said he could not work with Chief Justice Earl Warren, who was the target of southern opposition because of the civil rights decisions of the Supreme Court.

"I don't like that man," Russell said. "I don't have any confidence in him at all."

"You can serve with anybody for the good of America," Johnson responded. "This is a question that has a good many more ramifications than on the surface, and we've got to take this out of the arena where they're testifying that {Soviet leader Nikita} Khrushchev and {Cuban leader Fidel} Castro did this and did that and check us into a war that can kill 40 million Americans in an hour. . . . "

Johnson went on to say that he had to use the same argument with Warren, who had earlier turned down requests to head the commission from then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy as well as Deputy Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach and Solicitor General Archibald Cox.

"Bobby {Kennedy} and them went up to see {Warren} today, and he turned them down cold and said, 'No,' " Johnson told Russell. "Two hours later, I called him and ordered him down here and he didn't want to come. I insisted he come. . . . {He} came down here and told me 'no' twice. And I pulled out what Hoover told me about a little incident in Mexico City and I say now, 'I don't want Mr. Khrushchev to be told tomorrow and be testifying before a camera that he killed this fellow . . . and that Castro killed him and all I want you to do is look at the facts and bring in any other facts you want in here and determine who killed the president. . . .

" 'I'm surprised that you, the chief justice of the U.S., would turn me down,' " Johnson said in describing his conversation with Warren. "And he started crying and said, 'Well, I won't turn you down. . . . I'll just do whatever you say . . . ' but he turned the {attorney} general down."

Staff writer George Lardner Jr. contributed to this report.