Richard Nixon wanted files he believed were at the Brookings Institution in order to pressure his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, to support Nixon’s policy in Vietnam, according to a recently released tape of Nixon’s White House Oval office conversations.
Nixon and his aides, H.R. Haldeman and Henry Kissinger, in 1971 were seeking files regarding Johnson’s halting of bombings in North Vietnam a few days before the 1968 election, according to the tapes, excerpts of which were published today in The Washington Post.
Republicans considered the suspension of the bombing in 1968 to be a political ploy which boosted the candidacy of Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Nevertheless, Nixon won the presidential election that year.
In his memoirs, Nixon conceded he wanted the Brookings files for leverage against Johnson administration officials at odds with his war policy. In a recently released Oval Office tape, Nixon discussed an illegal break-in to seize the files from the think tank.
The new recording reviewed by the Post - a tape of a June 17, 1971, conversation in the midst of the Pentagon Papers controversy - sheds light on why Nixon and his aides wanted the files.
“You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff,” Haldeman says.
“How?” asks Nixon.
“The bombing halt file is all in the same file,” Haldeman says.
“Do we have it?” Nixon asked. “… I asked for it. I said I needed it.”
Officials working at Brookings at the time said no such files were kept there, and that no break-in took place.