John N. Mitchell
Overview
 
John Newton Mitchell was the Attorney General of the United States from 1969 to 1972 under President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

. Prior to that, he was a noted New York municipal bond lawyer, director of Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign
Richard Nixon presidential campaign, 1968
The Richard Nixon presidential campaign of 1968 began when the former Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon of New York launched his successful run for President of the United States following a year of preparation and five years of political reorganization after defeats in the 1960 Presidential...

, and one of Nixon's closest personal friends; after his tenure as Attorney General, he served as director of Nixon's 1972 presidential campaign
United States presidential election, 1972
The United States presidential election of 1972 was the 47th quadrennial United States presidential election. It was held on November 7, 1972. The Democratic Party's nomination was eventually won by Senator George McGovern, who ran an anti-war campaign against incumbent Republican President Richard...

. Due to his involvement in the Watergate affair, he was sentenced to prison in 1977, serving 19 months.
Quotations

The conservation movement is a breeding ground of Communists and other subversives. We intend to clean them out, even if it means rounding up every bird watcher in the country.

It's good to be back in Alabama.

Said on arriving in Alabama to begin serving a sentence in the federal prison for obstruction of justice.

Encyclopedia
John Newton Mitchell was the Attorney General of the United States from 1969 to 1972 under President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

. Prior to that, he was a noted New York municipal bond lawyer, director of Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign
Richard Nixon presidential campaign, 1968
The Richard Nixon presidential campaign of 1968 began when the former Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon of New York launched his successful run for President of the United States following a year of preparation and five years of political reorganization after defeats in the 1960 Presidential...

, and one of Nixon's closest personal friends; after his tenure as Attorney General, he served as director of Nixon's 1972 presidential campaign
United States presidential election, 1972
The United States presidential election of 1972 was the 47th quadrennial United States presidential election. It was held on November 7, 1972. The Democratic Party's nomination was eventually won by Senator George McGovern, who ran an anti-war campaign against incumbent Republican President Richard...

. Due to his involvement in the Watergate affair, he was sentenced to prison in 1977, serving 19 months. As Attorney General, Mitchell was noted for personifying the law and order positions of the Nixon administration, amid several high-profile anti-war demonstrations.

Early life

Mitchell was born in Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people. As the seat of Wayne County, the city of Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and serves as a major port on the Detroit River...

, and grew up on Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. He earned his law degree from Fordham University School of Law
Fordham University School of Law
Fordham University School of Law is a part of Fordham University in the United States. The School is located in the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, and is one of eight ABA-approved law schools in that city.-Overview:According to the U.S. News & World Report, 1,516 J.D. students attend...

 and was admitted to the New York bar in 1938. He served for three years as a naval officer (Lieutenant, Junior Grade
Lieutenant, Junior Grade
Lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, United States Merchant Marine USMM, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, with the pay grade...

) during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 where he was a PT boat
PT boat
PT Boats were a variety of motor torpedo boat , a small, fast vessel used by the United States Navy in World War II to attack larger surface ships. The PT boat squadrons were nicknamed "the mosquito fleet". The Japanese called them "Devil Boats".The original pre–World War I torpedo boats were...

 commander.

Except for his period of military service, Mitchell practiced law in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 from 1938 until 1968 and earned a reputation as a successful municipal bond
Municipal bond
A municipal bond is a bond issued by a city or other local government, or their agencies. Potential issuers of municipal bonds includes cities, counties, redevelopment agencies, special-purpose districts, school districts, public utility districts, publicly owned airports and seaports, and any...

 lawyer.

Mitchell's second wife, Martha
Martha Beall Mitchell
Martha Beall Mitchell was the wife of John N. Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon. Martha Mitchell gained notoriety in the press during the Nixon administration for her frequent phone calls to reporters and colorful comments on the state of the nation...

, became a controversial figure in her own right, gaining notoriety for her public pronouncements of her husband's innocence as the Watergate saga developed. Their marriage would eventually break down as a result of her alcoholism and erratic behavior.

New York government

Mitchell devised a type of revenue bond called a “moral obligation bond" while serving as bond counsel to New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was the 41st Vice President of the United States , serving under President Gerald Ford, and the 49th Governor of New York , as well as serving the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations in a variety of positions...

 in the 1960s. In an effort to get around the voter approval process for increasing state and municipal bond limits, Mitchell attached language to the offerings that indicated the state’s intent to meet bond payments even though it was not obligated to do so. He didn't deny it when asked in an interview if the intent was to create a “form of political elitism that bypasses the voter’s right to a referendum or an initiative”.

Political career

Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 met John Mitchell when Mitchell's municipal bond law firm merged with Nixon Mudge Rose Guthrie & Alexander
Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon
Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon was a prominent New York City law firm tracing its origin back to 1869. The firm is known best as the legal launching pad of Richard M. Nixon. For the period during which Nixon was a senior partner, the firm was renamed to Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie &...

 in 1967. The two men became friends, and in 1968, with considerable trepidation, Mitchell agreed to become Nixon's presidential campaign manager
Campaign manager
A campaign manager is a paid or volunteer individual, whose role is to coordinate the campaign's operations such as fundraising, advertising, polling, getting out the vote , and other activities supporting the effort, directly.Apart from the candidate, they are often a campaign's most visible leader...

.

During his successful 1968 campaign, Nixon turned over the details of the day-to-day operations to Mitchell. Allegedly he also played a central role in covert attempts to sabotage the 1968 Paris Peace Accords
Paris Peace Accords
The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 intended to establish peace in Vietnam and an end to the Vietnam War, ended direct U.S. military involvement, and temporarily stopped the fighting between North and South Vietnam...

 which could have ended the Vietnam War. After he became president in January 1969, Nixon appointed Mitchell attorney general
Attorney General
In most common law jurisdictions, the attorney general, or attorney-general, is the main legal advisor to the government, and in some jurisdictions he or she may also have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions.The term is used to refer to any person...

 while making an unprecedented direct appeal to FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 Director J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

 that the usual background investigation not be conducted. Mitchell remained in office from 1969 until he resigned in 1972 to manage President Nixon's successful reelection campaign.

Will Wilson
Will Wilson
Will Reid Wilson, Sr. was a prominent Democratic politician in his native Texas best known for his service as attorney general of Texas from 1957-1963. In 1968, he joined the Republican Party to support the election of Richard M. Nixon as U.S. President. Nixon thereafter named Wilson an assistant...

, a former conservative Democratic attorney general of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 who switched to the Republican Party to support Nixon, was named United States Assistant Attorney General
United States Assistant Attorney General
Many of the divisions and offices of the United States Department of Justice are headed by an Assistant Attorney General.The President of the United States appoints individuals to the position of Assistant Attorney General with the advice and consent of the Senate...

 in charge of the Criminal Division. He served from 1969–1971. Wilson wrote the book A Fool For a Client, a study of the fall of President Nixon. Mitchell believed that the government's need for "law and order
Law and order (politics)
In politics, law and order refers to demands for a strict criminal justice system, especially in relation to violent and property crime, through harsher criminal penalties...

" justified restrictions on civil liberties. He advocated the use of wiretaps in national security cases without obtaining a court order (United States v. U.S. District Court
United States v. U.S. District Court
United States v. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297 , also known as the Keith case, was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision that upheld, in a unanimous 8-0 ruling, the requirements of the Fourth Amendment in cases of domestic surveillance targeting a domestic threat.-The case:The United...

) and the right of police to employ the preventive detention of criminal suspects. He brought conspiracy
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

 charges against critics of the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, and demonstrated a reluctance to involve the Justice Department
United States Department of Justice
The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...

 in civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 issues. "The Department of Justice is a law enforcement agency," he told reporters. "It is not the place to carry on a program aimed at curing the ills of society."

In 1972, when asked to comment about a forthcoming article that reported that he controlled a so-called political slush fund
Slush fund
A slush fund, colloquially, is an auxiliary monetary account or a reserve fund. However, in the context of corrupt dealings, such as those by governments or large corporations, a slush fund can have particular connotations of illegality, illegitimacy, or secrecy in regard to the use of this money...

 used for gathering intelligence on the Democrats, he famously uttered an implied threat to reporter Carl Bernstein
Carl Bernstein
Carl Bernstein is an American investigative journalist who, at The Washington Post, teamed up with Bob Woodward; the two did the majority of the most important news reporting on the Watergate scandal. These scandals led to numerous government investigations, the indictment of a vast number of...

: "Katie Graham
Katharine Graham
Katharine Meyer Graham was an American publisher. She led her family's newspaper, The Washington Post, for more than two decades, overseeing its most famous period, the Watergate coverage that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon...

's gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's published."

Mitchell's name was mentioned in a deposition concerning Robert L. Vesco
Robert Vesco
Robert Lee Vesco was a fugitive United States financier. After several years of high stakes investments and seedy credit dealings, Vesco was alleged guilty of securities fraud. He immediately fled the ensuing U.S...

, an international financier who was a fugitive from a federal indictment
Indictment
An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

. Mitchell and Nixon Finance Committee Chairman Maurice H. Stans
Maurice Stans
Maurice Hubert Stans was an American accountant, high-ranking civil servant, Cabinet member, and political organizer...

 were indicted in May 1973 on federal charges of obstructing an investigation of Vesco after he made a $200,000 contribution to the Nixon campaign. In April 1974 both men were acquitted in a New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 federal district court
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

.
On February 21, 1975, Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

, obstruction of justice
Obstruction of justice
The crime of obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdictions, refers to the crime of interfering with the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors, or other officials...

, and perjury
Perjury
Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. That is, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the...

 and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up, which he dubbed the White House horrors
White House horrors
The White House Horrors is a term attributed to Richard Nixon's former United States Attorney General, John N. Mitchell to describe the crimes and abuses committed by Nixon's staff during his presidency. The revelation of their existence and scope is among the many events of the Watergate scandal...

. The sentence was later reduced to one year by United States district court
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

 Judge John J. Sirica. Mitchell served only 19 months of his sentence, at Maxwell Air Force Base
Maxwell Air Force Base
Maxwell Air Force Base , officially known as Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, is a United States Air Force installation under the Air Education and Training Command . The installation is located in Montgomery, Alabama, US. It was named in honor of Second Lieutenant William C...

 in Montgomery
Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of the U.S. state of Alabama, and is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is located on the Alabama River southeast of the center of the state, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. As of the 2010 census, Montgomery had a population of 205,764 making it the second-largest city...

, Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, a minimum security prison
Prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

, before being released on parole
Parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

 for medical reasons. Tape recordings made by President Nixon and the testimony of others involved confirmed that Mitchell had participated in meetings to plan the break-in of the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

's national headquarters in the Watergate Hotel
Watergate complex
The Watergate complex is a group of five buildings next to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. in the United States. The site contains an office building, three apartment buildings, and a hotel-office building...

. In addition, he had met, on at least three occasions, with the president in an effort to cover up
Cover Up
Cover Up is an American action/adventure television series that aired for one season on CBS from September 22, 1984 to April 6, 1985. Created by Glen A. Larson, the series stars Jennifer O'Neill, Jon-Erik Hexum, Antony Hamilton, and Richard Anderson....

 White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 involvement after the burglars were discovered and arrested.

Death

Around 5:00 PM on November 9, 1988, he collapsed from a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 on the sidewalk in front of 2812 N St., N.W., Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Georgetown is a neighborhood located in northwest Washington, D.C., situated along the Potomac River. Founded in 1751, the port of Georgetown predated the establishment of the federal district and the City of Washington by 40 years...

. That evening he died at George Washington University Hospital
George Washington University Hospital
The George Washington University Hospital is a hospital in Washington, D.C. in the United States. It opened on On August 23, 2002, with 371 beds in a 400,000 sq. ft. building, housing than $45 million of medical equipment and cost more than $96 million to construct...

. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

 based both on his World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Naval service and his former cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 post of Attorney General
Attorney General
In most common law jurisdictions, the attorney general, or attorney-general, is the main legal advisor to the government, and in some jurisdictions he or she may also have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions.The term is used to refer to any person...

.

In a column on Mitchell's death William Safire
William Safire
William Lewis Safire was an American author, columnist, journalist and presidential speechwriter....

 wrote, "His friend Richard Moore, in a eulogy
Eulogy
A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently deceased or retired. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at services to maintain respect for traditions...

, noted that near Mitchell's grave in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

 was the headstone of Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, a Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 recipient, who used to call Mitchell yearly to thank him for saving his life."
Safire also said of Mitchell: "He never spoke of his war record; exploiting his medals would have been out of character."

In fact, Mitchell had no medals to exploit. In his book The Strong Man, investigative reporter James Rosen presented evidence which indicated not only did Mitchell fabricate most of his military "honors" (including fabricating that he served on the same PT boat crew commanded by John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

), he could not have saved the life of Boyington because Boyington was in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during Mitchell's entire wartime service.

External links


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