WASHINGTON -- As John D. Ehrlichman sees it, he is no Watergate crook but a man deceived by Richard M. Nixon, the president of the United States whom he had served loyally and well for years.
"As I look back now and add it all up, I knew pitifully little about this matter," he testified Wednesday. Ehrlichman's appearance defending himself at the cover-up trial is due to end today.
"Listening to the tapes, it became clear to me that in least four major instances, the impressions given me by the former President were false ... I feel there is an ample showing on this (trial) record that I was deceived," he said.
"I am perfectly willing, to stand on the record of those tapes. Those tapes show that time after time after time I advocated full disclosure of the facts."
Prosecutor James F. Neal, coiled over the lectern like a cougar, pounced on Ehrlichman's repeated assertions that he wanted to "get the truth out."
Did Ehrlichman tell the FBI he had learned the bugging was a Nixon campaign operation? That clandestine payments began to the burglars almost immediately? That he had cautioned Nixon within three weeks of the Watergate arrests that granting clemency would be risky?
"No" was the answer in each case.
"There was a whole constellation of 'things I didn't tell them," said Ehrlichman, explaining that he only answered questions the agents asked him and volunteered nothing.
"Did you tell- them you wanted to get the truth out?" Neal demanded.
"Of course not," came the reply.
"I want the jury to understand," Neal said. "Tell the jury who you told in an effort to get the story out."
A pause. "I'm not sure about that."
"Don't you know you didn't tell anyone?" asked Neal, his, voice rising.
"I had no reason to," Ehrlichman shrugged.