Seared into the memories of all Americans who lived
through the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is exactly where they
were on November 22, 1963. Yet private citizen Richard Nixon, who — believe it
or not — was in Dallas, could not recall this fact in a post-assassination
interview with the FBI.
The interview dealt with an apparently false claim by
Marina Oswald that her husband —alleged Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald — had
targeted Nixon for death during an earlier trip to Dallas. A Feb. 28, 1964 FBI
report on the interview said Nixon "advised that the only time he was in Dallas,
Texas, during 1963 was two days prior to the assassination of President John F.
While Nixon eventually came clean regarding his
whereabouts on that fateful day, he seemed touchy whenever the matter was
raised. For example, in a 1992 interview with CNN's Larry King, Nixon
interjected he was in Dallas "In the morning!" when King cited the presumed
geographical coincidence. Nixon left Dallas on a flight to New York several
hours before Kennedy's noontime arrival at Love Field.
Not only did Nixon misremember where he was on November 22nd,
he made at least two conflicting statements about how he first learned his
archrival had been shot. In a 1964 Reader's Digest article, he recalled
hailing a cab after his Dallas-New York flight: "We were waiting for a light to
change when a man ran over from the street corner and said that
the President had just been shot in Dallas." In November of 1973, however, Nixon
said in Esquire that his cabbie "missed a turn somewhere and we were off
the highway...a woman came out of her house screaming and crying.
I rolled down the cab window to ask what the matter was and when she saw my face
she turned even paler. She told me that John Kennedy had just been shot in
In yet another curious twist, a November 22nd
wire service photo of Nixon indicates he might even have learned of the shooting
before his cab ride. In the photo, a glum-looking Nixon, hat in lap, is
sitting in what appears to be an airline terminal. The caption on the United
Press International photo reads: "Shocked Richard Nixon, the former vice
president who lost the presidential election to President Kennedy in 1960, is
shown Friday after he arrived at Idlewild Airport in New York following a flight
from Dallas, Tex., where he had been on a business trip."
In the 1992 King interview, Nixon maintained he'd never
had any interest in digging into the JFK assassination: "I don't see a useful
purpose in getting into that and I don't think it's frankly useful for the
Kennedy family to constantly raise that up again."
Nixon's professed disinterest doesn't ring true, however,
for it came from one of our snoopiest chief executives — a politician who just
relished investigations, spying, secrets, and conspiracies. As Nixon aide John
Ehrlichman once observed: "He was a conspiracy buff. He liked intrigue, and he
liked secret maneuverings of the FBI, and he liked to hear about what the CIA
did, and so on. He just couldn't leave that stuff alone."
As for Nixon's stated compassion for the Kennedys, let's
not forget that he deeply despised them. So much so that, as president, he
ordered chief White House spy E. Howard Hunt to forge diplomatic cables to make
it look like President Kennedy ordered the murder of South Vietnamese leader Ngo
Dinh Diem. He sent another spy, Anthony Ulasewicz, to Chappaquiddick, Mass., to
investigate the 1969 crash of a car driven by Edward Kennedy that killed the
senator's female companion. He placed Sen. Kennedy under a 24-hour-a-day Secret
Service surveillance in an effort, in Nixon's phrase, "to catch him in the sack
with one of his babes." And Nixon pressed aides to plant a false story in the
press linking Sen. Kennedy to the 1972 assassination attempt against Alabama
Gov. George Wallace.
What did Nixon do in Dallas? He arrived on Nov. 20 to
attend a board meeting of the Pepsi Cola Company, one of his law clients. Dallas
reporter Jim Marrs says Nixon and actress Joan Crawford, a Pepsi heiress, "made
comments to the effect that they, unlike the president, didn't need Secret
Service protection, and they intimated the nation was upset with Kennedy's
policies. It has been suggested that this taunting may have been responsible for
Kennedy's critical decision not to order the Plexiglas top placed on his
limousine on Nov. 22."
When adviser Stephen Hess saw Nixon that same afternoon at
the former vice president's New York apartment, he said Nixon was "pretty shook
up." Hess later portrayed his boss to political reporter Jules Witcover as
unusually defensive about his pre-assassination comments in Dallas: "He had the
morning paper, which he made a great effort to show me, reporting he had held a
press conference in Dallas and made a statement that you can disagree with a
person without being discourteous to him or interfering with him. He tried to
make the point that he had tried to prevent it … It was his way of saying,
‘Look, I didn't fuel this thing.'"
What Nixon apparently failed to tell Hess was that the
major story from his meeting with reporters in Dallas was certain to fuel the
anger of some Texans toward Kennedy. The headline in the Dallas Morning News
on November 22 said: "Nixon Predicts JFK May Drop Johnson." Vice President
Lyndon Johnson was, of course, a Texan.
On the morning after the assassination, Nixon convened a
meeting of Republican leaders at his New York apartment. Those assembled were
"already assessing how this event would affect or recreate the possibilities of
Nixon running for president," according to Hess.
Boasting that he was the mastermind of a Mob/CIA plot to
kill President Kennedy, Chicago godfather Sam Giancana told relatives he was in
Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 to supervise that plot. Giancana claimed that both
"Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson knew about the whole damn thing"— adding that
he had met with both future presidents in Dallas "immediately prior to the
Giancana's half-bother Chuck and nephew Sam claimed in
their 1992 book Double Cross that the Mafia don had a long, warm, and
mutually rewarding relationship with Nixon that dated back to the 1940s. In
those times, Giancana was helping Chicago Syndicate boss Anthony Accardo
consolidate the city's rackets and gambling operations, and Nixon was a freshman
congressman from California. In recounting for his relatives a big favor the
congressman did for Giancana back then, the gangster established a direct link
between Nixon and a Chicago hoodlum who later moved to Texas and went on to
shoot Lee Harvey Oswald: "Nixon's done me some favors, all right, got us some
highway contracts, worked with the unions and overseas. And we've helped him and
his CIA buddies out, too. Shit, he even helped my guy in Texas, (Jack) Ruby, get
out of testifying in front of Congress back in forty-seven … By sayin' Ruby
worked for him."
A 1947 memo, found in 1975 by a scholar going through a
pile of recently released FBI documents, supports Giancana's contention. In the
memo, addressed to a congressional committee investigating organized crime, an
FBI assistant states: "It is my sworn testimony that one Jack Rubenstein of
Chicago ... is performing information functions for the staff of Congressman
Richard Nixon, Republican of California. It is requested Rubenstein not be
called for open testimony in the aforementioned hearings." (Later in 1947,
Rubenstein moved to Dallas and shortened his last name.) The FBI subsequently
called the memo a fake, but the reference service Facts on File considers it
Undercover work for the young Congressman Nixon would have
been in keeping with Ruby's history as a police tipster and government
informant. In 1950, Ruby gave closed-door testimony to Estes Kefauver's special
Senate committee investigating organized crime. Committee staffer Luis Kutner
later described Ruby as "a syndicate lieutenant who had been sent to Dallas to
serve as a liaison for Chicago mobsters." In exchange for Ruby's testimony, the
FBI is said to have eased up on its probe of organized crime in Dallas. In 1959,
Ruby became an informant for the FBI.
Ruby's old Chicago boss, Giancana, was murdered in his
home in Oak Park, Ill., in 1975 — shortly before he was to have appeared before
a Senate committee investigating assassinations. Seven .22-caliber bullets were
blasted into his mouth and neck, Mob symbolism for "talks too much."
Giancana had never been adept at keeping secrets. When
Mob/CIA hit teams were planning to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1960
— an operation reportedly overseen by Vice President Richard Nixon—Giancana's
loose lips allowed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to discover the plans.
Lee Harvey Oswald was at his Dallas job as an order-filler
at the Texas School Book Depository on Nov. 22. Shortly after shots rang out in
Dealey Plaza, Oswald fled the crime scene. Later that afternoon, a policeman
trying to arrest Oswald was shot to death. After a struggle with the armed
Oswald in a movie theater, police apprehended him and charged him with the
murders of both President Kennedy and the policeman.
In 1964, a presidential commission headed by Chief Justice
Earl Warren concluded that Oswald — firing a rifle from a sniper's nest on the
sixth floor of the depository — was Kennedy's sole assassin. The commission
portrayed Oswald as a ''discontented'' loner whose "avowed commitment to Marxism
and Communism" might have contributed to his deed. But the Warren Commission had
not looked carefully at the alleged assassin's ties to the Syndicate. In New
Orleans — where Oswald spent significant portions of his life — Oswald's uncle
and substitute father was Charles "Dutz" Murret, an important bookie in
godfather Carlos Marcello's gambling apparatus. Oswald's mother, Marguerite,
dated members of Marcello's gang. Oswald friend David Ferrie worked for
Marcello; had alleged ties to the CIA; and, in 1967, was named by New Orleans
District Attorney Jim Garrison as a key JFK assassination plotter.
The exact route of the presidential motorcade was
announced far in advance of the event — a practice the Secret Service
halted in the wake of the JFK assassination.
Just two days before President Kennedy's murder,
suspicious activity caught the eyes of two Dallas policemen on routine
patrol in Dealey Plaza. The officers observed several men with rifles
standing behind the picket fence on the plaza's grassy knoll. The riflemen
were participating in mock target practice —aiming their guns over the fence
in the direction of the street. By the time the patrolmen reached the area,
however, the unidentified men had vanished.
Realizing the significance of this information in the
immediate aftermath of the assassination, Dallas police forwarded it to the FBI.
But an FBI report on the incident, dated Nov. 26 1963, apparently was not turned
over to the Warren Commission. This report — clearly pointing to a conspiracy — was
finally made public in 1978 in response to a Freedom of Information request.
In 1979, a House committee differed with the commission's
finding that Oswald acted alone. After a two-year study, the panel indicated
there were at least two shooters, declared that Kennedy "was probably
assassinated as a result of a conspiracy," and it fingered the Mafia as having
the "motive, means, and opportunity." Two top committee staffers — Robert Blakey
and Richard Billings — later wrote of their conviction that "Oswald was acting
in behalf of members of the Mob, who wanted relief from the pressure of the
Kennedy administration's war on crime led by Attorney General Robert F.
The two investigators flatly asserted that the president
of the Mob-dominated Teamsters union, Jimmy Hoffa — along with Mob bosses Carlos
Marcello, Santos Trafficante and Sam Giancana — planned and carried out the
president's slaying. They said both Oswald and Ruby were Mafia-connected, and
that Ruby silenced Oswald on orders from the Mob. In a recent book, former Mafia
consigliere Bill Bonanno — the son of legendary New York godfather Joe Bonanno —
also maintains that Hoffa, Marcello, Trafficante, and Giancana were involved in
the JFK assassination.
In 2001, a scientific study supported the conclusion first
propounded by the House committee in 1979: that sounds heard on police
recordings from Dealey Plaza are consistent with a shot being fired from the
famed grassy knoll — bolstering the panel's finding that Kennedy's murder
probably resulted from a plot.
Jack Ruby was a busy man in Dallas on Nov. 22. Only hours
before Kennedy's arrival, the debt-ridden striptease club operator met with
Mafia paymaster Paul Jones. Shortly after Kennedy was shot, Ruby showed up at
Parkland Hospital, where the president had been taken — though he later denied
being there at that critical time. Minutes after Kennedy was pronounced dead,
Ruby phoned Alex Gruber — an associate of one of Jimmy Hoffa's top officials,
and a man with known connections to hoodlums who worked for racketeer Mickey
Cohen. Ruby and Gruber had met 10 days earlier in Dallas. When he was arrested
for killing Oswald two days later, Ruby had $2,000 on his person and authorities
found $10,000 in his apartment.
On the evening of the 22nd, Ruby was hanging
around on the same floor of the police station where Oswald was being
questioned. He even attended the midnight police station press conference at
which Oswald was trotted out briefly for the world to see. Ruby corrected the
district attorney when he told reporters that Oswald belonged to the Free Cuba
Committee, an anti-Castro outfit. Ruby pointed out that the D.A. had meant Fair
Play for Cuba, a pro-Castro group.
Like Oswald, Ruby could well have been under the control
of the Mob, especially of Marcello — whose territory extended to Dallas, and
whose take from underworld activities in Louisiana alone at the time was put at
$1 billion-a-year. Ruby had lifelong connections to the Mafia and was involved
in slot machines and bookmaking operations under Marcello's command. In 1959,
Ruby reportedly visited Mob boss Santos Trafficante in a Cuban prison. After
Oswald's murder, Ruby's brother approached one of Jimmy Hoffa's lawyers to
More than a dozen people claim to have seen Ruby and
Oswald together during the four months prior to the Kennedy assassination. In
1994, Dallas reporters Ray and Mary La Fontaine claimed that, shortly after
Oswald's arrest on Nov. 22, he told a cellmate that he and Ruby attended a
meeting in a local hotel just days earlier.
CIA agent E. Howard Hunt — Richard Nixon's top confederate
in past and future undercover operations — may also have been in Dallas the day
President Kennedy was killed. During a 1985 trial in Miami, CIA operative Morita
Lorenz testified that, on Nov. 21, at a Dallas motel, she saw Hunt pay money to
another agency operative — Hunt pal and future Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis.
She maintained that, shortly after Hunt left, Jack Ruby showed up. Lorenz
returned to her home in Miami that same night, but said Sturgis later told her
what she had missed in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963: "We killed the president that
The testimony came in a suit brought by Hunt against the
right-wing newsletter Spotlight for printing a 1978 article titled, "CIA
to Admit Hunt Involvement in Kennedy Slaying." The jury ruled in favor of the
At one time, Lorenz was Fidel Castro's girlfriend. In
1959, Hunt and Sturgis had recruited her into the CIA with the goal of killing
the Cuban leader. At the trial, Lorenz identified Hunt as Sturgis's CIA
paymaster. She said that, on Nov. 21, Hunt gave Sturgis an envelope of cash at
the Dallas motel after she and Sturgis arrived there to take part in what she
was told was a "confidential" operation.
In a deposition for the Miami trial, a reporter testified
he had once seen an internal CIA memo, dated 1966, which said: "Some day we will
have to explain Hunt's presence in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963." That reporter —
Joseph Trento — had co-authored a 1978 article for the Wilmington News
Journal headlined: "Was Hunt in Dallas the Day JFK Died?" His piece
contained speculation by "some CIA sources" that "Hunt thought he was assigned
by higher-ups to arrange the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald."
In 1975, a JFK assassination researcher in Texas received
from an anonymous source a copy of a brief handwritten Nov. 8, 1963 note to a
"Mr. Hunt" purportedly from Oswald. The writer asked for "information concerding
[sic] my position. I am asking only for information. I am asking that we discuss
the matter fully before any steps are taken by me or anyone else." Three
handwriting experts found that the writing was that of Oswald. "Concerning" was
also misspelled in a letter Oswald was known to have written in 1961.
That the note was meant for E. Howard Hunt makes sense.
Oswald and Hunt once worked out of the same office building in New Orleans. On
behalf of the CIA, Hunt had set up a dummy organization called "The Cuban
Revolutionary Council" at 544 Camp Street — the same address Oswald put on
pro-Castro leaflets he handed out. The same building also housed the detective
agency of former FBI agent Guy Banister — who was associated with the CIA, the
Mafia, Cuban exile leaders, and suspected JFK assassination plotter David Ferrie.
Ex-CIA agent Victor Marchetti has linked Hunt and Sturgis
with Ferrie. Sturgis has claimed: that he knew Oswald; that documents existed at
the CIA detailing the role of Ruby in the Kennedy killing; and that Oswald and
Ruby once met in a hotel in New Orleans.
Though he was not in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, Jimmy Hoffa
played an important role in President Kennedy's murder, according to longtime
Hoffa and Mob lawyer Frank Ragano, who detailed Hoffa's alleged involvement in
1994. Ragano said he carried a message from the Teamster's boss to a July 24,
1963 meeting with Marcello and Trafficante in New Orleans. The message: Hoffa
"wants you to do a little favor for him. You won't believe this, but he wants
you to kill John Kennedy. He wants you to get rid of the president right away."
Ragano said the facial expressions of the two Mob bosses
"were icy. Their reticence was a signal that this was an uncomfortable subject,
one they were unwilling to discuss." But Ragano said Trafficante, on his
deathbed in 1987, confessed that he and Marcello did, indeed, follow through on
Hoffa's "favor." Ragano quoted the ailing Mob chief as saying: "Who would have
thought that someday he would be president and he would name his goddam brother
attorney general? Goddam Bobby. I think Carlos fucked up in getting rid of
Giovanni (John in Italian) — maybe it should have been Bobby."
Jimmy Hoffa hated John and Robert Kennedy as much as
Richard Nixon did. Robert Kennedy had been trying to put Hoffa in jail since
1956, when he was staff counsel for a Senate probe into the Mob's influence on
the labor movement. In 1960, Robert Kennedy said, "No group better fits the
prototype of the old Al Capone syndicate than Jimmy Hoffa and some of his
In the 1960 presidential election, Hoffa and his two
million-member union backed Vice President Nixon against Sen. John Kennedy.
Edward Partin, a Louisiana Teamster official and later government informant,
eventually revealed that Hoffa met with Marcello to secretly fund the Nixon
campaign — saying, "I was right there, listening to the conversation. Marcello
had a suitcase filled with $500,000 cash which was going to Nixon ... (Another
half-million dollar contribution) was coming from Mob boys in New Jersey and
Florida." The Hoffa-Marcello meeting took place in New Orleans on Sept. 26,
1960, and has been verified by William Sullivan, a former top FBI official.
Nixon lost the 1960 election, and Hoffa — thanks to
Attorney General Robert Kennedy — soon wound up in prison for jury tampering and
looting the union's pension funds of almost $2 million. But the Nixon-Hoffa
connection was strong enough to last at least until Dec. 23, 1971—when, as
president, Nixon gave Hoffa an executive grant of clemency, allowing Hoffa to
serve just five years of a 13-year prison term.
Nixon apparently sprung Hoffa in exchange for a big
A recently released FBI memo backs up an earlier claim by
an FBI informant that James P. ("Junior") Hoffa — current head of the Teamsters
— and racketeer Allen Dorfman delivered $300,000 in a black valise to a Nixon
bagman at a Washington hotel to secure the elder Hoffa's release from the pen.
Breaking from clemency custom, Nixon did not consult the
judge who had sentenced Hoffa. Nor did he pay any mind to the U.S. Parole Board
— which had been warned by the Justice Department that Hoffa was Mob-connected.
At the time, The New York Times called the clemency a "pivotal element in
the strange love affair between the (Nixon) administration and the
two-million-member truck union…" Former Mafia bigwig Joe Bonanno recently
described Nixon's clemency for Hoffa as "a gesture — if ever there was one, of
the national power (the Mob) once enjoyed."
President Nixon did put one restriction on Hoffa's
freedom: He could never again, directly or indirectly, manage any union. The
restriction — a favor to Hoffa's successor, Frank Fitzsimmons — was reputedly
bought by a $500,000 contribution to the Nixon campaign by New Jersey Teamster
leader Anthony Provenzano.
In July 1975, Hoffa vanished in a Detroit suburb and his
body has never been found. Many federal and local investigators believe he was
shot to death after being lured to a meeting with Provenzano. They speculate
that Hoffa's body was taken away by truck, stuffed into a fifty-gallon drum —
then crushed and smelted.
Newly released FBI documents show that, in 1978, federal
investigators sought to force Nixon and Fitzsimmons to testify about events
surrounding Hoffa's disappearance. The investigators had concluded that such
testimony offered the last, best chance of solving the Hoffa mystery. But they
accused top Justice Department officials of derailing their efforts to call the
ex-president and the Teamster boss before a Detroit grand jury.
The records also reveal that FBI agents suspected the
Nixon White House of soliciting $1 million from the Teamsters to pay hush money
to the Watergate burglars. In fact, in early 1973 — when the Watergate cover-up was coming apart at the
seams — aide John Dean told the president that $1 million might be needed to
keep the burglary team silent. Nixon responded, "We could get that … you could
get a million dollars. You could get it in cash, I know where it could be
gotten." When Dean observed that money laundering "is the type of thing Mafia
people can do," Nixon calmly answered: "Maybe it takes a gang to do that."
In August 1974, Nixon became the first president forced to
quit the office. He did so as Congress prepared to impeach and expel him for a
wide range of illegal activities and abuses of constitutional power he directed
or concealed during the Watergate scandal. Forty Nixon administration officials
were indicted or jailed. The president was named by a grand jury as an
unindicted co-conspirator. In what smacked of a sweetheart deal, one month after
he stepped down, Nixon's handpicked successor — President Gerald Ford — granted
him a complete pardon for all the presidential crimes he might have committed.
After spending more than a year brooding in self-exile at
his walled estate in San Clemente, Calif., the very first post-resignation
invitation Nixon accepted was from his Teamsters buddies. On Oct. 9, 1975, he
played golf at a Mob-owned California resort with Fitzsimmons and other top
Teamsters. Among those who attended a post-golf game party for Nixon were
Anthony Provenzano, Allen Dorfman, and the union's executive secretary, Murray
A convicted Mafia killer, Provenzano went on to become a
prime suspect in Hoffa's disappearance. In the two months before President
Kennedy's assassination, Jack Ruby was in telephone contact with Murray Miller,
and with Barney Baker — who was once described by Robert Kennedy as "Hoffa's
ambassador of violence." Ruby was also in touch with key figures from the
Marcello, Trafficante, and Giancana crime families.
Documents that came to light in 2007 show that, shortly
after the president's murder, Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy's right-hand man Walter
Sheridan – dispatched by RFK on a secret investigative mission to Dallas –
quickly reported back that Jimmy Hoffa associate Allen Dorfman had paid off Jack
Ruby in Chicago. A witness to that payoff – reportedly of $7,000 in 100 dollar
bills stuffed into a manila envelope – says it occurred on the weekend of Oct.
James P. "Junior" Hoffa has said, "I think my dad knew
Jack Ruby, but from what I understand, he (Ruby) was the kind of guy everybody
knew. So what?" JFK assassination authority Anthony Summers reasons, however,
that — given Hoffa's record of threats against the lives of both John and Robert
Kennedy — "the potential significance of such a connection is immense."
Mob experts connect Richard Nixon to Carlos Marcello — and
to Jimmy Hoffa — through Nixon's earliest campaign manager and longest-serving
adviser, Murray Chotiner. And they tie Nixon to Santos Trafficante through
Nixon's best friend, Florida banker Bebe Rebozo. Mickey Cohen — one of the most
notorious mobsters in Los Angeles — admitted rounding up underworld money for
two early Nixon campaigns.
Charles Colson — Nixon's presidential emissary to the
Teamsters — once raised the theory that Mafia bosses "owned" Rebozo and had
gotten "their hooks into Nixon early." By the 1960s, FBI agents keeping tabs on
the Mob had identified Rebozo as a "non-member associate of organized crime
figures," it is now known. An off-the-books military probe conducted in the
waning days of the Nixon presidency found "strong indications of a history of
Nixon connections with money from organized crime," the chief investigator later
In an unpublicized presidential move, Nixon ordered the
Justice Department to stop using the words "Mafia" and "Cosa Nostra" to describe
the multi-billion dollar national crime syndicate. The president was roundly
applauded when he boasted about his order at a private 1971 Oval Office meeting
with some 40 members of the Supreme Council of the Sons of Italy. The group's
Supreme Venerable, Americo Cortese, thanked Nixon for his moral leadership —
declaring, "You are our terrestrial god."
The Nixon administration intervened on the side of Mafia
figures in at least 20 trials. And it denied an FBI request to continue an
electronic surveillance operation that was starting to penetrate Mob/Teamsters
During the Nixon years, pressure from Washington eased off
on Sam Giancana. And long-standing deportation proceedings against CIA-connected
mobster Johnny Roselli were dropped. Without going into specifics, government
lawyers explained in court that Roselli had performed "valuable services to the
national security." A Giancana henchman, Roselli was an important contact man in
the Mob/CIA assassination plots against Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Roselli and Jack Ruby are reported to have met in hotels
in Miami during the months before the JFK assassination. Years later, Roselli
told columnist Jack Anderson: "When Oswald was picked up, the underworld
conspirators feared he would crack and disclose information that might lead to
them. This almost certainly would have brought a massive U.S. crackdown on the
Mafia. So Jack Ruby was ordered to eliminate Oswald . . ."
In the mid-‘70s, as congressional committees probed the
Mob and the CIA, Roselli was dismembered, squeezed into an oil drum, and tossed
off the Florida coast; Giancana was gunned down in his kitchen; and Jimmy Hoffa
Back in the Eisenhower years, Vice President Richard Nixon
and CIA agent E. Howard Hunt were principal secret planners of the Bay of Pigs
invasion of Cuba that failed so miserably when it was later launched by
President Kennedy. Some historians are convinced Nixon was a prime mover in an
associated — and also ill-fated — plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. For example,
onetime Nixon aide Roger Morris says Nixon "had been an avid supporter of the
Eisenhower administration's covert operations to overthrow Castro, including the
alliance with organized crime to assassinate the Cuban leader." For his part,
Hunt has readily admitted his role in efforts to murder Castro.
For the "executive action" mission, potential assassins
were recruited from Mafia ranks, so that if any of their activities were
disclosed, organized crime could be blamed.
Nixon confidant Robert Maheu fronted for the CIA on the
Mob plots. A high-end private eye (and ex-FBI undercover operative) who
functioned in the shadowy realm between U.S. intelligence services and the
national criminal syndicate, Maheu had performed previous "dirty tricks" for
both Nixon and Giancana. Hoffa had also been a client of Maheu, who would
eventually become the top aide to Mob-and CIA-connected billionaire and Nixon
financial angel Howard Hughes.
The hit on Castro was to have been carried out at the same
time as the secret Nixon-Hunt plan for the invasion by CIA-trained exiles. The
invasion was a military debacle when later ordered by President Kennedy — who
publicly accepted full responsibility for the April 17, 1961 landing in which
1,500 exiles were quickly overwhelmed by some 20,000 Cuban troops. Convinced,
however, that the CIA set him up, Kennedy fired CIA chief Allen Dulles — an old
Nixon friend — and swore he'd dismantle the agency.
Nixon, Hunt, and many CIA and Cuban exile leaders pinned
almost complete blame for the military catastrophe on Kennedy for not providing
adequate air cover. At the time, Nixon told a reporter it was "near criminal"
for Kennedy to have canceled the air cover. Privately, he must have
been just as upset that Castro had not been bumped off. In one of his many
books, Hunt later accused the president of "a failure of nerves."
Nixon's secret Mafia buddies, already enraged by Kennedy's
anti-crime crusade in this country, were furious that their lucrative gambling
casinos — shuttered by Castro — would not be returning to Cuba.
In the immediate aftermath of his brother's murder, Atty.
Gen. Robert Kennedy suspected the Mafia – as well as the CIA and the Cuban
exiles. And he soon became consumed by a desire to track down, expose and punish
the plotters during what he hoped would be his own time in the White House,
according to David Talbot in
Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,
published in 2007. Talbot says RFK's quest began on the very afternoon of the
assassination in Dallas:
(Bobby) frantically worked the phones at Hickory Hill – his Civil War-era
mansion in McLean, Va. – and summoned aides and government officials to his
home. Lit up with the clarity of shock, the electricity of adrenaline, Bobby
Kennedy constructed the outlines of the crime that day – a crime, he immediately
concluded, that went far beyond Lee Harvey Oswald, the 24-year-old ex-Marine
arrested shortly after the assassination. Robert Kennedy was America's first
assassination conspiracy theorist.
Through fresh interviews, newly released documents and gripping words, Talbot
makes a compelling case that Bobby's reluctance to publicly discuss his
brother's death was a ruse. To family members, however, Bobby confided, "JFK had
been killed by a powerful plot that grew out of one of the government's secret
anti-Castro operations. There was nothing they could do at that point, Bobby
added, since they were facing a formidable enemy and they no longer controlled
E. Howard Hunt, of course, went on to become President
Nixon's chief dirty trickster and secret intelligence operative. In 1972, five
Hunt-recruited former CIA men — all veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion
planning — were caught by police while burglarizing Democratic headquarters at
the Watergate office building in Washington. Fearing that Hunt's role would soon
be learned — and the burglary traced back to the White House —Nixon immediately
set out to blackmail g an FBI investigation of the break-in.
He had his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, tell CIA Director Richard Helms that
Hunt, if apprehended, might spill the beans about a major CIA secret. On one of
the original Watergate tapes, the president rehearsed Haldeman on exactly what
to tell the intelligence chief: "Hunt knows too damned much ... If this gets out
that this is all involved ... it would make the CIA look bad, it's going to make
Hunt look bad, and it's likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs thing ... which we
think would be very unfortunate for both the CIA and the country ... and for
American foreign policy."
In a generally overlooked revelation in a post-Watergate
book, Haldeman said: "It seems that in all those Nixon references to the Bay of
Pigs, he was actually referring to the Kennedy assassination. (Interestingly, an
investigation of the Kennedy assassination was a project I suggested when I
first entered the White House. Now I felt we would be in a position to get all
the facts. But Nixon turned me down.)" Haldeman added that the CIA pulled off a
"fantastic cover-up" that "literally erased any connection between the Kennedy
assassination and the CIA."
On a White House tape made public in the 1990s, Haldeman
fingered Nixon as the source of his information that the CIA had reason to fear
Hunt's possible disclosure of "Bay of Pigs" secrets. The newest Nixon tapes are
studded with deletions — segments deemed by government censors as too sensitive
for public scrutiny. "National Security" is cited. Not surprisingly, such
deletions often occur during discussions involving the Bay of Pigs, E. Howard
Hunt, and John F. Kennedy.
One of the most tantalizing nuggets about Nixon's possible
inside knowledge of JFK assassination secrets was buried on a White House tape
until 2002. On the tape, recorded in May of 1972, the president confided to two
top aides that the Warren Commission pulled off "the greatest hoax that has ever
been perpetuated." Unfortunately, he did not elaborate. But the context in which
Nixon raised the matter shows just how low he could stoop in efforts to
assassinate the character of his political adversaries.
The Republican president made the "hoax" observation in
the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt against White House hopeful
George Wallace, a longtime Democratic governor of Alabama. The attempt left
Wallace paralyzed below the waist. Nixon blurted out his comments about the
falsity of the Warren findings in the middle of a conversation in which he
repeatedly directed two of his most ruthless aides, Bob Haldeman and Chuck
Colson, to carry out a monumental dirty trick. He urged them to plant a false
news story linking the would-be Wallace assassin — Arthur Bremer — to two other
Democrats, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. George McGovern —possible Nixon
opponents in that year's fall elections. "Screw the record," the president
orders on at one point. "Just say he was a supporter of that nut (it isn't clear
which of the two senators he is referring to). And put it out. Just say we have
an authenticated report."
As well as helping to perpetuate the Kennedy assassination
"hoax" by turning down Haldeman's proposal for a new JFK probe, Nixon had a
major hand in perpetrating it. In November of 1964, on the eve of the official
release of the Warren Report, private citizen Nixon went public in support of
the panel's coming findings. In a piece for Reader's Digest, he portrayed
Oswald as the sole assassin. And Nixon implied that Castro — "a hero in the
warped mind" of Oswald — was the real culprit.
Why did Nixon declare his belief in Oswald's guilt just
before publication of the commission's report? Was he acting in league with his
old buddies at the CIA and the FBI — as well as in the best interests of the Mob
— to give advance support to what they knew would be the report's lone-killer
conclusion? And why did Nixon stress Castro's alleged hold over Oswald's
thinking? Was he trying to ramp up enthusiasm for further efforts to topple the
In an apparent slip of the lip that got little attention
at the time, a Watergate-stressed President Nixon himself suggested there was a
conspiracy behind the JFK assassination. In the summer of 1973, the president
publicly raised the assassination issue to divert attention from recent
disclosures of a widespread government wiretapping operation. He claimed that
Robert Kennedy, as attorney general, had authorized a larger number of wiretaps
than his own administration. "But I don't criticize it," he declared, adding,
"if he had ten more and — as a result of wiretaps — had been able to discover
the Oswald Plan, it would have been worth it."
Whoops! The president apparently didn't realize his
reference to "the Oswald Plan" didn't square with the government's official
lone-killer finding. For if Lee Harvey Oswald had been solely responsible for
the assassination, then there would not have been anyone for Oswald to conspire
with about his "plan" — on a bugged telephone, or otherwise. Was Nixon
inadvertently revealing his knowledge that Mob leaders (Robert Kennedy's main
wiretap targets) had a role in President Kennedy's slaying? Was such a belief
based on information acquired as a result of Nixon's own solid ties to organized
crime and the Mafia-infested Teamsters union?
In the late 1970s, the House assassinations committee
studied FBI electronic surveillance of the Mob over several months just before
and after the JFK assassination. It found what Mob expert Ron Goldfarb has
described as "expressions of outrage and betrayal and comments about ‘wacking
That's because the Syndicate's tentacles had briefly
entangled John F. Kennedy too. In crucial ways, the Mafia had helped the
Massachusetts senator gain the presidency in 1960 — in exchange for a go-easy
attitude toward the Mob by the future Kennedy administration. Instead of keeping
his end of the bargain, however, President Kennedy started waging war on the
Mafia — and the godfathers went crazy with rage.
Of all the illegal activities undertaken by President
Nixon's secret agents E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, one stands out as
particularly sordid — the planned assassination of newspaper columnist Jack
Anderson, Nixon's arch foe in the media. Nixon-era stories by Anderson about
mobster Johnny Roselli (the Mafia's liaison with the CIA) and various Mob/CIA
plots infuriated the president and led to White House discussions about the
The plot against Anderson came to light in 1975 when
The Washington Post reported that — "according to reliable sources" — Hunt
told associates after the Watergate break-in that he was ordered to kill the
columnist in December 1971 or January 1972. The plan allegedly involved the use
of poison obtained from a CIA physician. The Post reported that the
assassination order came from a "senior official in the Nixon White House," and
that it was "canceled at the last minute . . . "
In an affidavit about a key meeting on the matter with his
White House boss, Hunt said Charles Colson "seemed more than usually agitated,
and I formed the impression that he had just come from a meeting with President
Liddy admitted that he and Hunt had "examined all the
alternatives and very quickly came to the conclusion the only way you're going
to be able to stop (Anderson) is to kill him . . . And that was the
recommendation." Shortly after the Watergate break-in in 1972, Liddy offered to
be assassinated himself, if that would help the cover-up. He told White House
counsel John Dean: "This is my fault … And if somebody wants to shoot me on a
street corner, I'm prepared to have that done." In a 1980 legal case, Liddy
testified that there even came a time during the Nixon presidency "when I felt I
might well receive" instructions to kill E. Howard Hunt — adding, "I was
prepared, should I receive those orders, to carry them out immediately."
An ends-justify-the-means operator, Richard Nixon ran a
pro-Mafia administration that carried out an ambitious criminal agenda of its
own — one that even countenanced murder. Wouldn't his Mob connections have at
least provided Nixon with inside dope —if not advance knowledge — about the
murder of his archrival? Is that why Nixon — a major beneficiary of President
Kennedy's assassination — concealed his knowledge of what really happened in
Dallas on that tragic November day 40 years ago? Is that why, as president, he
turned down a new JFK assassination inquiry — even while secretly dismissing the
Warren Report as a fraud? After all, it was not in Nixon's best interests — nor
in those of his chief patrons, Jimmy Hoffa and the Mob — to have the public
learn the truth.
If President Nixon knew that the government's official
1964 conclusions about John F. Kennedy's murder were faked, didn't he at least
have the responsibility to set the record straight? Did his failure to do so
make him placidly complicit in that crime too?
Watergate may not have been Nixon's biggest cover-up after
A Timeline of Nixon's Ties to the Kennedy Assassination
Nov. 1946: Nixon wins a
House seat with financial help from Meyer Lansky and other Mob leaders. Nixon's
campaign manager, Murray Chotnier, has top Mafia figures as legal clients—as
well as ties to New Orleans Mafia chief Carlos Marcello and Mob-connected
Teamsters official James Hoffa.
1947: Congressman Nixon
intervenes to get Jack Ruby excused from testifying before a congressional
committee investigating the Mafia, according to an FBI memo discovered in the
1947: Nixon strongly backs
legislation establishing the Central Intelligence Agency. Around this time,
Nixon meets CIA agent E. Howard Hunt.
1950: The Senate Kefauver
committee staff learns that Ruby was "a syndicate lieutenant who had been sent
to Dallas to serve as a liaison for Chicago mobsters," a former committee
staffer later discloses.
Nov. 1950: Nixon is elected
to the Senate from California after suggesting his opponent was a communist
Nov. 1952: As Dwight
Eisenhower's running mate, Senator Nixon is elected vice president— despite a
scandal over a secret slush fund put together by wealthy California backers.
Nov. 1956: Eisenhower is
re-elected president with Nixon as his vice president.
1959-1960: Vice President
Nixon and CIA agent E. Howard Hunt are key figures in secret CIA efforts to
overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Nixon reportedly is the chief mover behind
an associated CIA/Mob plan to murder Castro. Hunt later admitted his role in
Castro assassination plots.
Summer of 1960: The CIA asks
Nixon crony Robert Maheu—a former FBI agent with Mob contacts—to find mobsters
who might be able to pull off a hit on Castro.
Nov. 1960: Sen. John F.
Kennedy defeats Nixon in a 1960 presidential cliff-hanger; after his January
1961 inauguration, the new president goes ahead with secret Nixon-Hunt plans for
a CIA-backed invasion of Cuba.
April 1961: The amphibious
invasion at the Bay of Pigs is a monumental failure; Nixon, CIA, and Cuban exile
leaders blame Kennedy for withholding planned U-S air cover. Kennedy privately
blames the CIA and threatens to dismantle the agency.
Nov. 1961: Kennedy fires
Nixon buddy Allen Dulles as CIA chief.
Nov. 1962: Nixon is defeated
for governor of California after a secret $205,000 "loan" from Mob-linked
billionaire Howard Hughes to Nixon's brother becomes a major issue; Nixon soon
moves to New York and becomes a corporate lawyer.
1962-63: Angered by CIA
incompetence during the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy moves to limit the agency's power.
Summer of 1963: Lee Harvey
Oswald and the CIA- and Mob-linked David Ferrie are seen together in Clinton,
La., the House assassinations committee later learns in testimony from numerous
July 23, 1963: Teamsters
boss Jimmy Hoffa tells his lawyer, Frank Ragano, "Something has to be done. The
time has come for your friend (Santos Trafficante) and Carlos (Marcello) to get
rid of him, kill that son-of-a-bitch John Kennedy."
Nov. 8: Oswald allegedly
writes a note to a "Mr. Hunt" asking for "information."
Nov. 21: CIA agent Hunt is
spotted in Dallas at the same CIA "safe house" also visited that day by Jack
Ruby and Frank Sturgis, according to testimony in a 1985 court case.
Nov. 21: Ostensibly in
Dallas to attend a Pepsi Cola convention, Nixon asks the city to give President
Kennedy a respectful welcome.
Nov. 21: Chicago Mob boss
Sam Giancana meets with Nixon in Dallas to discuss the planned Kennedy
assassination, Giancana later tells relatives.
Nov. 22: Nixon leaves
Dallas, apparently before Kennedy's arrival.
Nov. 22: President Kennedy
is murdered in Dallas.
Nov. 24: Ruby kills Oswald
in the basement of the Dallas police jail.
1963: Nixon recommends
Congressman Gerald Ford for the Warren Commission.
1964: Nixon lies to the FBI
about being in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
1964: Ford convinces the
commission to alter a key finding—making its preposterous "single bullet"
assassination theory slightly more believable, documents released in 1997 show.
The theory held that one of the bullets struck Kennedy in the back, came out his
neck, and then somehow critically wounded Texas Governor John Connally. Ford's
change placed the back wound higher in Kennedy's body.
1964: Nixon and Ford write
articles in advance of Warren Commission Report endorsing its anticipated
conclusion that Oswald alone was responsible for Kennedy's assassination.
Sept. 1964: The Warren
Report finds that Oswald—firing from a sniper's nest on the sixth floor of the
Texas School Book Depository—was President Kennedy' sole assassin.
Nov. 1968: In a squeaker,
Nixon is elected president with big support from the Teamsters union and the
1971: After a Mob payoff of
at least $300,000, Nixon grants clemency to Hoffa—who had been jailed for jury
tampering in 1967.
June 1971: Former CIA agent
E. Howard Hunt secretly joins the Nixon White House as the president's chief
May 1972: Nixon confides to
two top aides that the Warren Report was "the greatest hoax that has ever been
perpetuated," a White House tape released in 2002 reveals.
June 17, 1972: A group of
burglars working for Nixon's re-election is caught by Washington, D.C. police
while breaking into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex. Hunt and
former FBI official G. Gordon Liddy are soon identified as the group's
June 23, 1972: To gain CIA
help in the Watergate cover-up, Nixon tries to blackmail CIA chief Richard Helms
over the secrets that Hunt might blab regarding CIA's links to "the Bay of
Pigs"—which top Nixon aide Bob Haldeman later reveals to be Nixon/CIA code for
the JFK assassination.
Nov. 1972: In a landslide,
Nixon is re-elected president with the help of a reported $1 million Teamsters'
May 1973: Haldeman reminds
Nixon that he—Nixon himself—had informed him that the CIA was hiding big "Bay of
Pigs" secrets—though this was not disclosed until 1996, when the National
Archives released a new batch of Watergate tapes. Sections of numerous Nixon
conversations dealing with "the Bay of Pigs," President Kennedy, and E. Howard
Hunt are deleted for "National Security" reasons.
1973: Nixon picks
Congressman Ford to succeed the disgraced Spiro Agnew as his new vice president.
August 1974: Nixon is forced
to resign the presidency over the Watergate scandal.
September 1974: President
Ford grants Nixon a pre-emptive pardon for all crimes he might have committed.