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Watergate Hearings: Senate Select Committee on Presidenti...

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Watergate Hearings: Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities June 28, 1973. Testimony of John Dean.

Watergate Hearings: Senate Select Committee on Presidenti...

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Senator Sam Ervin (D North Carolina). Senator Baker. Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Senator Sam Ervin (D North Carolina). First, I want to thank you for swapping places with me so I call fulfill an engagement later. Thank you very much. Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). Mr. Chairman, there is no way on earth I can swap places with you. But I thank you for that and I am happy to relinquish my place in the sequence of questioning so that you could complete your very, very thorough and very, very important line of questioning this morning.

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Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). I was about to say, Mr. Dean, that you have been a very patient witness and very thorough. You presented us with a great mass of information, almost 250 pages in your written statement of voluminous testimony in response to the interrogation of members of this committee and we are very grateful. Some of the specific allegations that you make in your testimony are, at least prima facie, extraordinarily important. The net sum of your testimony is fairly mind boggling. It isn t my purpose in these, questions that are about to follow to do what would ordinarily be the expected function of a committee member, to try to test your testimony. I think that you subjected to a rather rigid examination by my colleagues on the Committee thus far. And of course your testimony and its credibility its importance and relevance will fall into place, not only in terms of its own significance, but in terms of its relationship to the testimony of other witnesses.

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Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). You are a lawyer, Mr. Dean. I needn t go into a long preamble about what I am about to do. But so that you understand what am trying to do. I ll give you some brief explanation in advance. As I said just a moment ago, it is not my purpose now to try to test your testimony. It is not my purpose to try to impeach your testimony, to corroborate your testimony, to elaborate or extend particular aspects of it. But rather to try to structure your testimony so that we have a coherent presentation against which we can measure the testimony of other witnesses heretofore given and the testimony of other witnesses later to appear. And of course against whatever other information the committee can gather from circumstantial evidence, from whatever source.

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Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). It occurs to me that at this point, the central question, and in no way in derogation of the importance of the great volume of material and the implications that flow from it, but the central question at this point is simply put. What did the President know and when did he know it?

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Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). In trying to structure your testimony I would ask that you give attention to three categories of information. That information that you can impart to the committee that you know of your own personal knowledge. That type of information that we lawyers refer to as circumstantial evidence, which would include evidence given based on your opinion or on inferences you draw from circumstances in the situation. And third, that type of evidence that ordinarily would not be admitted in a court of law but is admitted here for whatever purpose it may serve, that is hearsay evidence or evidence about which you have only secondhand and information.

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Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). I would hope, though, that in this third category, that is in terms of hearsay evidence or secondhand information, we would try, you and I, to limit the scope of that to situations which may be further ventilated by the testimony of other witnesses on the roster of witnesses to appear before this committee because if we range too far, there is no way that we can compare and assess and evaluate the importance of that testimony. But I want it and I would like to divide the information then as we go along into three parts that is direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, and hearsay or secondhand information. I am in no way criticizing your testimony, I think you really have been a very remarkable witness.

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John Dean. Mr. Vice Chairman, I might say this. In preparing my testimony I made a very conscious effort to not write a brief against any man but merely to state facts sequentially as close. By sequentially I mean some things, it was necessary to follow forward to explain a given sequence of events to bring the matter of a time sequence. But I did not by design try to write a brief or a document that focused in on any individual or any set of circumstances surrounding any individual. Rather lay them out in the totality of their context. Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). I understand that, Mr. Dean, and I really do hope you understand that what I am saying to you is not a criticism of you nor an implication of criticism. Rather instead you have presented us with a sequential presentation and I am trying to convert it into an organized presentation according to categories and to the quality and scope of the information that you possess. So please believe me, I am not trying to attack your testimony but rather to organize it, for our own committee purposes.

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Senator Howard Baker (R Tennessee). Now, there is one other thing I would like to say and it may or may not, be possible to do this, and again I am not being critical of you as a witness. As I said just a moment ago, I think you have been a very remarkable witness. When I used to practice law, I used to call on the trial judge from time to time to instruct the witness to first answer the question and then to explain it. So I hope I can keep my questions brief and I hope you might preface your answers with a yes or no if that is possible, and then whatever explanation you wish. John Dean. Certainly.