The Nation: Who's Who in the Watergate Mess

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SMOOTH, well-connected, brainy, successful in all that they had done, they reached enviable positions of power in American political life. By dint of hard work, some luck and fierce loyalty to Richard Nixon, they had earned the President's trust. Yet last week they were a forlorn group, implicated in willfully or naively subverting the political process. The men involved in the Watergate scandal include several who are household names and others who may soon yearn for the obscurity that they once had. Among them:

JOHN MITCHELL, 59, former director of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (C.R.P.) and a onetime law partner of Richard Nixon's in the Manhattan firm of Nixon Mudge Rose Guthrie and Mitchell. A dour, pipe-puffing municipal-bond lawyer, Mitchell was also Nixon's closest political confidant. As Attorney General from 1969 until early 1972, he was the exemplar of the tough law-and-order man, who claimed the authority to tap the telephone of anyone whom he considered a security risk.

Mitchell left the Justice Department in March 1972, to direct Nixon's re-election campaign. His tenure at C.R.P. was brief. In a well-publicized yet ultimately unconvincing marital spat shortly after the Watergate breakin, Mitchell's loquacious wife Martha threatened to leave him unless he got out of what she called the "dirty" business of politics. Mitchell left C.R.P. but remained close to the President.

JEB STUART MAGRUDER, 38, formerly deputy campaign director of C.R.P. A Californian who looks as if he could pose for old Arrow-shirt ads, Magruder was president of a small cosmetics firm before he entered politics. He was coordinator of Nixon's 1968 campaign in Los Angeles, went to Washington in 1969 as a special assistant to the President. He was a favorite of White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman.

Magruder joined C.R.P. early last year and hoped for a political career, aiming to run for Secretary of State of California next year and Governor or U.S. Senator in 1978. But he was forced to abandon his plans after his involvement in political espionage came out during the Watergate trial. His heart was set on a high Administration post after the election, but Haldeman told him that he would not be in line for a top position (which would require Senate confirmation) because he was too tainted by Watergate. Disappointed, he settled for a specially created but vague job as director of planning and evaluation at the Commerce Department.

JOHN WESLEY DEAN III, 34, Counsel to the President and the man who conducted the investigation of the Watergate case that cleared all White House staffers. A lawyer who has hardly practiced privately, clean-cut Dean worked as minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. He gained such a reputation as a Nixon loyalist that in 1969 he was hired by the Justice Department as its legislative liaison man. Highly recommended by almost every Administration official with whom he came into contact, Dean caught the eye of image-oriented people at the White House, and in 1970 moved over there to succeed John Ehrlichman as counsel. He has outlined the legal basis for Nixon's decisions to impound funds voted by Congress and to expand the doctrine of executive privilege.

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