POLITICS: The Bugs at the Watergate

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Suspicion. At his press conference, President Nixon himself reiterated that "the White House has had no involvement whatever in this particular incident." Inevitably the FBI's investigation was being watched closely to make sure there was no White House effort to whitewash the case. The first suspicion arose when Mitchell and Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray were both at the Newporter Inn in California's Newport Beach the day after the arrests. But both denied seeing the other man there. "The hotel is a big place," says Gray. "I was in Room 331, the Mitchells were in a villa. One of my agents told me the Mitchells were there." The FBI checks telephone records routinely—was it looking into Colson's recent telephone calls from his home? No, Gray says, but the FBI had talked with Colson about the case. His agents had, however, inquired at the White House about Howard Hunt's telephone calls while working there. "We were told that no records are kept of any calls made by the people with the White House."

To keep the heat on the investigation and gain all the political mileage possible from what Washington wiseacres were calling "the Second Bay of Pigs," O'Brien and the Democrats filed a $1 million damage suit in the U.S. District of Columbia Court, charging Mitchell's committee, the five snoops and assorted John Does with conspiracy to violate civil rights. Hard-driving Criminal Lawyer Edward Bennett Williams was signed on as the Democrats' lawyer and began efforts to speed the case into court. "It is likely," said Williams pointedly, "that we can at least have all the facts developed by November."

Meanwhile, at the beleaguered offices of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, someone with his sense of humor intact put up a sign proclaiming FREE THE WATERGATE FIVE.

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