Speaking of collusion (and treason)…

The Vietnam War, Episode 7: The Veneer of Civilization (June 1968 – May 1969) at 51:55-55:42, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2017):

NARRATOR: But on October 31st [1968], just five days before the election, the president himself made a surprise announcement.  He was stopping all bombing of North Vietnam.  There had been real progress in Paris, he said.  Hanoi had agreed for the first time to talk with Saigon, and the United States had agreed to include the Viet Cong.  It suddenly looked as if peace were possible.

Humphrey was jubilant.  His poll number rose overnight.  He was confident he would now be able to overtake Nixon.

But then, on November 2nd, with just three days to go until Americans went to the polls, President Thieu suddenly announced that the South Vietnamese government would not attend the proposed talks after all.  A representative of the Nixon campaign, at the candidate’s personal direction, had secretly contacted the Saigon government, urging Thieu to stay away from the talks, promising that once Nixon was elected, he would drive a harder bargain with Hanoi than Humphrey would.

Thanks to a CIA bug planted in Thieu’s Saigon office and an FBI wiretap on the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington, [Lyndon] Johnson got wind of what had happened and called his friend Everett Dirksen, the Republican Senate minority leader, to warn him that the Nixon people were committing treason.

 

[via LBJ tape recordings]

LBJ: I’m reading their hand, Everett.  I don’t want to get this in the campaign.

DIRKSEN: That’s right.

LBJ: And they oughtn’t to be doing this.  This is treason.

DIRKSEN: I know.

LBJ: And I think it would shock America if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter this important.

DIRKSEN: Yeah.

LBJ: I know this—that they’re contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war.

DIRKSEN: That’s a mistake.

LBJ: And its a damn bad mistake.

[end of phone conversation]

 

[via LBJ tape recordings]

NIXON: Uh, Mr. President?

LBJ: Yes.

NIXON: This is Dick Nixon.

LBJ: Yes Dick.

NIXON: I, uh, just went on Meet the Press and said that, uh, I had given you my personal assurance that, uh, I would do everything possible to cooperate both before the election and if elected, after the election.  I just wanted you to know that, uh, I feel very, very strongly about this and, uh, any, uh, rumblings around about, uh, somebody, uh, trying to, uh, sabotage the Saigon government’s attitude certainly has no, absolutely no credibility as far as I’m concerned.

LBJ: That’s, that’s—I’m very happy to hear that Dick because that is taking place.

NIXON: My God, I would never do anything to encourage Saigon not to come to the table because basically, that was what you got.

LBJ: Well that’s good Dick.

NIXON: We’ve got to get this goddamned war off the plate, the quicker the better, and the hell with the political credit.  Believe me.

LBJ: Thank you Dick.

[end of phone conversation]

 

NARRATOR: Nixon was lying and Johnson knew it.  But to go public with the information, the president would have to reveal the methods by which he had learned of the Republican candidate’s duplicity.  He was unwilling to do so.  Nixon’s secret was safe.  The American public was never told that the regime for which 35,000 Americans had died, had been willing to boycott peace talks to help elect Richard Nixon or that he had been willing to delay an end to the bloodshed in order to get elected.

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