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Did Nixon plot break-ins in 1971?

Richard Nixon asked his subordinates to set up burglaries and plunder secret records a year before the Watergate scandal that drove him from office in disgrace, according to White House tapes described in Newsweek magazine.

Nixon wanted dirt from secret archives to darken the reputations of past Democratic presidents, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, Newsweek said."We're gonna expose, God, Pearl Harbor," Nixon said, an apparent reference to finding documents showing Roosevelt at fault for the naval fiasco of World War II.

Newsweek said Nixon also was sure there was information damaging to Kennedy about the Bay of Pigs and Cuban missile crisis and he proposed breaking into the National Archives to get it.

According to a tape of June 30, 1971, Nixon ordered a break-in of the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank he believed was involved in Daniel Ellsberg's leaking the secret Pentagon Papers to the press.

"I want a break-in," Nixon says. "I want the Brookings safe cleaned out. And have it cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else look bad."

He also tells aide John Erlichman not to wait for Ellsberg to be tried in court. "Just get everything out," Nixon said, "Get it out, leak it out. I want to destroy him in the press; is that clear?"

Newsweek said it transcribed the comments from pre-Watergate Nixon tapes that the National Archives has been releasing gradually since 1993.