Richard G. Kleindienst
File:Richard Kleindienst.jpg
68th United States Attorney General
In office
June 12, 1972 (March 1, 1972 acting) – April 30, 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by John N. Mitchell
Succeeded by Elliot L. Richardson
Personal details
Born (1923-08-05)August 5, 1923
Winslow, Arizona, U.S.
Died February 3, 2000(2000-02-03) (aged 76)
Prescott, Arizona, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession lawyer
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1943-1946

Richard Gordon Kleindienst (1923–2000) was an American lawyer and politician, and, in the Watergate political scandal one of the two U.S. Attorney Generals ever, as of September 2012, convicted of perjury committed in connection with that role or the presidency.

He was born August 5, 1923 in Winslow, Arizona. He served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946, and attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, graduating from the latter in 1950.

From 1953 to 1954 he served in the Arizona House of Representatives; he followed that with some 15 years of private legal practice. He concurrently was Arizona Republican Party chairman from 1956 to 1960 and 1961 to 1963, and in 1964, the Republican candidate for Governor of Arizona, losing the general election to Sam Goddard, 53%-47%.

Nixon administration[edit | edit source]

He suspended his private practice in 1969 to accept the post of Deputy Attorney General of the United States. This gave him responsibilities related to the government's suit against ITT, and Nixon and his aide John Ehrlichman told him to drop the case, which created a presumption that they were violating their obligations under legal ethics and that, as an attorney himself, Kleindienst was obligated to report these ethical lapses to the state bars in the jurisdictions involved. In his official role he also repeatedly told Congress no one had interfered with his department's handling of the case.

On June 12, 1972, US Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell resigned to work in the Nixon re-election campaign,[citation needed] and President Richard Nixon nominated Kleindienst to succeed Mitchell.

Unknown to Kleindienst, leaders of Committee to Re-elect the President had tasked Gordon Liddy with arranging various covert operations, one of which was to be a burglary of a Democratic headquarters in Washington, DC. Before dawn on a Saturday, five days after Kleindienst's nomination, James McCord and four other burglars operating on Liddy's instructions were arrested at Watergate complex, and later in the morning Kleindienst was officially notified of the arrests. Liddy, after a phone consultation about the arrests with CRP Deputy Director Jeb Magruder (who had managed the CRP up until March of that year, and had the most direct organizational authority over Liddy's activities), personally approached Kleindienst the same day at a private golf club in Bethesda, Maryland. Liddy told him that the break-in had originated within the CRP, and that Kleindienst should arrange the release of the burglars, to reduce the risk of exposure of CRP's involvement. Kleindienst is not known to have made any such attempts.

Kleindienst resigned in the midst of the Watergate scandal nearly a year later, on April 30, 1973, the same day that John Dean was fired and H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman quit.

He returned to private practice. He was convicted[when?] of a misdemeanor for perjury[clarification needed] during his testimony in the Senate confirmation hearings. He was fined $100 and given a suspended jail sentence by a judge who described him as a person of high ethical nature, and said his crime was that he was too loyal.

Later life[edit | edit source]

Eight years later,[when?] Kleindienst had a second brush with ethical charges. Said to have perjured himself to the Arizona Bar regarding how much he knew about a white-collar criminal he represented, he was cleared.[vague]

He died at the age of 76, of lung cancer, on February 3, 2000.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Kleindienst, Richard (1985). Justice: The Memoirs of Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books. ISBN 0-915463-15-6. 

New York Times digital archive, February 3, 2000, "Richard G. Kleindienst, Figure in Watergate Era, Dies at 76."

For Kleindienst's limited role in Watergate, see Leon Jaworski, The Right and the Power, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, All the President's Men. Had he taken more of a role, the break-in would probably never have led to much of a cover-up, except by lower level workers and John Mitchell.

External links[edit | edit source]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Warren Christopher
United States Deputy Attorney General
Served under: Richard Nixon

Succeeded by
Ralph E. Erickson
Preceded by
John N. Mitchell
United States Attorney General
Served under: Richard Nixon

Succeeded by
Elliot Richardson

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