Nixon White House Attorney Speaks About Watergate

March 31, 2010  

By Amanda Mervine
amervine@smu.edu

Egil “Bud” Krogh, the former legal counsel to President Nixon, visited SMU on Tuesday to speak about the ethical and moral dilemmas he was forced to face as a young lawyer during the time of the Watergate scandal.

Krogh began his lecture by showing a clip from a 60 Minutes episode that aired in 1973, only a few days before his six-month incarceration for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

During the clip, Krogh was interviewed by Mike Wallace, who asked him several pressing questions about his knowledge of the events leading up to the Watergate break in and the historical cover-up scheme that would follow.

Only 29-years-old at the time he was first hired to work for the White House, Krogh admitted to the audience that he was anything but prepared for the many tasks that the Nixon Administration asked of him.

Krogh spoke of his involvement in the Special Investigative Unit known as the “Plumbers”, a group hired by the Nixon Administration to fix “leaks” in White House matters and undergo covert operations administered to them.

During his time as a “Plumber”, he recruited such men as G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt to help undergo covert operations. These men later became major figures in the plot to cover up Watergate.

Krogh told his stories of covert operations while working in the Nixon White House in order to show the lack of integrity he demonstrated in such matters and how he found himself in the sticky situation he ended up in.

“One must not check one’s personal integrity at the door in any group they join,” said Krogh of his lack of integrity during his time working for Nixon’s legal counsel.

He described the slippery slope he found himself sliding down once he entered into his position as legal counsel to Nixon. Had he done what he knew was right from the beginning, he explained, he would have never found himself in the situation in which he did.

Aside from explaining his past, Krogh also gave the audience several tips on how not to find themselves in similar situations.

Once he realized he had jeopardized his own personal integrity and had essentially become a hypocrite, he immediately turned himself in.

He was eventually reinstated to practice law and told the audience that he was allowed the opportunity to make amends with those he felt he wronged with his actions in the past—including President Nixon himself.

“Without personal and organizational integrity, an institution is vulnerable to attack and failure,” Krogh said.

Today, Krogh is the author of several articles on matters of integrity and moral dilemmas in the White House and in Washington. He also co-wrote a book with his son Matthew titled Integrity: Good People, Bad Choice, and Life Lessons from the White House.

The lecture, which was co-sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Responsibility Association for Law and Politics, was held in room 207 of SMU’s Florence Hall and attracted many aspiring lawyers and law students.

“One of the most interesting things to me about Krogh’s lecture was how easy it was for him to get caught up in what he did when obviously he’s such a stand-up professional person,” said SMU senior and soon-to-be University of Texas Law Student Megan Altman.

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