Fred Thompson accused of being a "mole" for Nixon White House

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fred Thompson

On Wednesday The Boston Globe reported that, during the Watergate scandal, presidential hopeful Fred Thompson telephoned President Nixon's lawyer informing the administration that the Senate Watergate Committee "knew about the taping system and would be making the information public." The Watergate tapes eventually led to Nixon's resignation, which staved off impeachment.

The Globe reported, "In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, At That Point in Time, Thompson said he acted with 'no authority' in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation." One of the former investigators for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong, remains upset at Thompson's actions, claiming "Thompson was a mole for the White House."

John Dean, Nixon's former White House counsel, said he believed that former Senate Majority Leader and White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker and Thompson "were anything but impartial players" in the Watergate investigation. "I knew that Thompson would be Baker's man, trying to protect Nixon," said Dean.

When asked by the Globe about the story, Thompson responded via e-mail stating: "I'm glad all of this has finally caused someone to read my Watergate book, even though it's taken them over thirty years."

In a related issue, Howard Baker insisted that Thompson be allowed to question presidential aide Alexander Butterfield about the taping system in a public session on July 16, 1973, which was three days after the committee had learned about the system. Samuel Dash expressed concern at the choice of Thompson, since the information was revealed in private sessions by another investigator prior to the public session.

Regarding the leak, the Globe wrote, "The view of Thompson as a Nixon mole is strikingly at odds with the former Tennessee senator's longtime image as an independent-minded prosecutor who helped bring down the president he admired."

Thompson has long been seen as a Washington "insider" who began his lobbying career in 1975. Lobbying accounts for approximately 80 percent of Thompson's total income and lobbying the federal government alone has earned him more than US$1 million. On behalf of one of his clients, the Tennessee Savings and Loan League, Thompson lobbied for the bill that deregulated the savings-and-loan industry. According to CNN, "Experts say the final version of that bill played a large role in the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s, opening the door to widespread fraud and mismanagement." Thompson most recently helped raise money for Lewis "Scooter" Libby's recent defense for perjury and obstruction of justice. Thompson held a fundraising party at his house for Libby.