Donald Segretti

Donald Segretti

Donald Segretti was born in San Marino, California on 17th September, 1941. He studied law at the University of Southern California. Fellow students included Dwight L. Chapin, Ron Ziegler, Herbert Porter and Gordon Strachan. They became members of a group called "Trojans for Representative Government".

After leaving university Segretti became a lawyer in California. His friend Dwight L. Chapin found employment at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in Los Angeles. A senior figure at the agency was was H. R. Haldeman. In 1968 Haldeman went to work for Richard Nixon as the president's chief of staff.

Dwight L. Chapin was appointed as Special Assistant to the President. Chapin had special responsibility for acts of political sabotage and espionage against the Democratic Party. Chapin recruited Segretti as part of this "dirty tricks" campaign.

On 18th December, 1971, J. Timothy Gratz received a phone call from a man calling himself Don Simmons. In fact, his real name was Donald Segretti. Apparently, Dwight Chaplin had hired Segretti to disrupt the Democratic campaign. Gratz later recalled: "Simmons said he was interested in running a "negative campaign" in Wisconsin. He explained that the purpose of the campaign was to create as much bitterness and disunity within the Democrat primary as possible.... He also said he was interested in planting spies in the Democrat candidate's offices."

Donald Segretti offered J. Timothy Gratz $100.00 per month, plus expenses, to co-ordinate these projects. Gratz agreed to work on the project and he was given an advance payment of $50.00. Gratz later told Anthony Ulasewicz that "although the whole incident seemed strange" he agreed to help "as most of the ideas he suggested seemed like they were worth doing anyway". However, Gratz claimed he told Karl Rove, Chairman of the College Republican National Committee, about this dirty tricks campaign. We now know that Rove himself was part of Segretti's campaign. In fact, he probably played a leading role in this dirty tricks operation. Rove had become friends with CIA asset, Robert F. Bennett in 1968. According to one report, Bennett became a "mentor of Rove's".

In 1970, Karl Rove used a false identity to enter the campaign office of Democrat Alan J. Dixon, who was running for Illinois State Treasurer, and stole 1000 sheets of paper with campaign letterhead. Rove then printed fake campaign rally fliers promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing," and distributed them at rock concerts and homeless shelters, with the effect of disrupting Dixon's rally.

It is also significant that Rove put J. Timothy Gratz in touch with Anthony Ulasewicz. We now know that Ulasewicz, was in charge of Operation Sandwedge. This was a highly secret operation that has never been fully revealed. In fact, as Ulasewicz points out in his autobiography, The President's Private Eye, the Senate Committee looking into the Watergate Scandal, avoided all questions on Sandwedge.

Donald Segretti later told the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (3rd October, 1973) the main objective was to discredit Edmund Muskie as he was the candidate that Richard Nixon feared the most. As one political commentator pointed out: "he seemed unstoppable; he had had ample financial backing, name recognition, experience, image, endorsement, and top standing in the polls."

Other targets included Edward Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson. It was decided that George McGovern was the candidate that Nixon wanted to face in the presidential election. J. Timothy Gratz was one of 28 people hired by Segretti to carry out this smear campaign.

During the New Hampshire primary, the Manchester Union Leader, published a letter that claimed Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French-Canadians. The newspaper also attacked the character of Muskie's wife Jane, reporting that she drank heavily and used bad language during the campaign. Muskie made an emotional speech defending his wife. The press reported he had broken down in tears and this damaged his image as a calm and rational politician. Although Muskie won the New Hampshire primary, this incident had raised doubts about his ability to be a strong president.

As Keith W. Olson (Watergate: The Presidential Scandal That Shook America) has pointed out: "Segretti carried out his tricks to the fullest extent in Florida". Patrick J. Buchanan told John N. Mitchell and H. R. Haldeman on 2nd January, 1972, "clearly, the Florida primary is shaping up as the first good opportunity and perhaps the last good opportunity to derail the Muskie candidacy".

One of Segretti's agents stole Muskie campaign stationery and mailed a fraudulent letter to 300 supporters of fellow contenders, Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson. This letter claimed that Jackson had fathered a child with an unmarried teenager and that the police had arrested him on homosexual charges. It went onto claim that Humphrey had been arrested while in the company of a prostitute, for driving under the influence of alcohol. It was assumed that Muskie was behind this smear campaign and his credibility as a honest politician was severely damaged.

Other dirty tricks in Florida included a naked girl running through Muskie's hotel claiming that she was in love with the Democratic contender. Segretti's agents, posing as Muskie supporters, telephoned voters in the middle of the night asking them to support their candidate.

George Wallace, won 42% of the vote in the Florida primary. Hubert Humphrey came in second, with 18.6%, then Henry Jackson with 13% and the the pre-election favourite, Edmund Muskie, finished fourth with 8.9%. This result added support to Segretti's claim that his dirty tricks campaign had the ability to remove people like Muskie from the race.

Segretti and his team of agents, including Gratz, now began to concentrate on the Wisconsin primary. Dirty tricks included distributing leaflets that appeared to have been produced by Muskie's campaign team. One of these invited Milwaukee's black residents to a free lunch and beer picnic at which they could meet Coretta Scott, the widow of Martin Luther King and famous television stars. When they arrived their excitement turned to anger when they found no celebrities, no lunch, and no beer.

Once again this dirty tricks campaign worked. On 4th April, 1972, George McGovern won the Wisconsin primary. George Wallace came second with Edmund Muskie in fourth position. A few days later, Patrick J. Buchanan reported to John N. Mitchell and H. R. Haldeman that "our primary objective, to prevent Senator Muskie from sweeping the early primaries.... and uniting the Democratic Party behind him for the fall has been achieved." Buchanan then recommended that they concentrate on assisting McGovern's bid to be the presidential candidate "in every way we can".

During their investigation of the Watergate Scandal the journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein discovered that Donald Segretti had attempted to smear leading politicians such as George McGovern, Edward Kennedy, Edmund Muskie and Henry Jackson. This included the letters sent during the Florida primary elections. The FBI had also revealed that the letter that had been sent to the Manchester Union Leader during the New Hampshire primary was also a forgery.

On 27th October, 1972, Time Magazine published an article claiming that it had obtained information from FBI files that Dwight Chaplin had hired Segretti to disrupt the Democratic campaign. The following month Carl Bernstein interviewed Segretti who admitted that E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy were behind the dirty tricks campaign against the Democratic Party.

In 1974 Segretti pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts of distributing illegal campaign literature and producing faked documents. He only served four months in prison but he lost his California license to work as a lawyer.

In his book, The Taking of America, Richard E. Sprague argued that Segretti, along with Dennis Cassini, supplied money to Arthur Bremer before he attempted to assassinate George Wallace.

Segretti eventually returned to work as a lawyer. In 1995 he became a candidate as Superior Court judge in Orange County, California. However, he was forced to withdraw when local newspapers pointed out his connections to the Watergate Scandal.

In 2000 Segretti served as co-chair of John McCain's campaign in Orange County.

Primary Sources

(1) Richard E. Sprague, The Taking of America (1985)

In 1972 the Power Control Group was faced with another set of problems. Again the objective was to insure Nixon's election at all costs and to continue the cover-ups. Nixon might have made it on his own. We'll never know because the Group guaranteed his election by eliminating two strong candidates and completely swamping another with tainted leftist images and a psychiatric case for the vice presidential nominee. The impression that Nixon had in early 1972 was that he stood a good chance of losing. He imagined enemies everywhere and a press he was sure was out to get him.

The Power Control Group realized this too. They began laying out a strategy that would encourage the real nuts in the Nixon administration like E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy and Donald Segretti to eliminate any serious opposition. The dirty tricks campaign worked perfectly against the strongest early Democratic candidate, Edmund Muskie. He withdrew in tears, later to discover he had been sabotaged by Nixon, Liddy and company.

George Wallace was another matter. At the time he was shot, he was drawing 18% of the vote according to the polls, and most of that was in Nixon territory. The conservative states such as Indiana were going for Wallace. He was eating into Nixon's southern strength. In April the polls showed McGovern pulling a 41%, Nixon 41% and Wallace 18%. It was going to be too close for comfort, and it might be thrown into the House - in which case Nixon would surely lose. There was the option available of eliminating George McGovern, but then the Democrats might come up with Hubert Humphrey or someone else even more dangerous than McGovern. Nixon's best chance was a head-on contest with McGovern. Wallace had to go. Once the group made that decision, the Liddy team seemed to be the obvious group to carry it out. But how could it be done this time and still fool the people? Another patsy this time? O.K., but how about having him actually kill the Governor? The answer to that was an even deeper programming job than that done on Sirhan. This time they selected a man with a lower I.Q. level who could be hypnotized to really shoot someone, realize it later, and not know that he had been programmed. He would have to be a little wacky, unlike Oswald, Ruby or Ray.

Arthur Bremer was selected. The first contacts were made by people who knew both Bremer and Segretti in Milwaukee. They were members of a leftist organization planted there as provocateurs by the intelligence forces within the Power Control Group. One of them was a man named Dennis Cossini.

Bremer was programmed over a period of months. He was first set to track Nixon and then Wallace. When his hand held the gun in Laurel, Maryland, it might just as well have been in the hand of Donald Segretti, E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, Richard Helms, or Richard Nixon.

With Wallace's elimination from the race and McGovern's increasing popularity in the primaries, the only question remaining for the Power Control Group was whether McGovern had any real chance of winning. The polls all showed Wallace's vote going to Nixon and a resultant landslide victory. That, of course, is exactly what happened. It was never close enough to worry the Group very much. McGovern, on the other hand, was worried. By the time of the California primary he and his staff had learned enough about the conspiracies in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King that they asked for increased Secret Service protection in Los Angeles.

If the Power Control Group had decided to kill Mr. McGovern the Secret Service would not have been able to stop it. However, they did not, because the election was a sure thing. They did try one more dirty trick. They revealed Thomas Eagleton's psychiatric problems, which reduced McGovern's odds considerably.

What evidence is there that Bremer's attempt on Wallace was a directed attempt by a conspiratorial group? Bremer himself has told his brother that others were involved and that he was paid by them. Researcher William Turner has turned up evidence in Milwaukee and surrounding towns in Wisconsin that Bremer received money from a group associated with Dennis Cossini, Donald Segretti and J. Timothy Gratz. Several other young "leftists" were seen with Bremer on several occasions in Milwaukee and on the ferry crossing at Lake Michigan.

The evidence shows that Bremer had a hidden source of income. He spent several times more than he earned or saved in the year before he shot at Wallace. Bremer's appearance on TV, in court and before witnesses resembled those of a man under hypnosis.

There is some evidence that more than one gun may have been fired with the second gun being located in the direction opposite to Bremer. Eleven wounds in the four victims that day exceeds the number that could have been caused by the five bullets Bremer fired. There is a problem in identifying all of the bullets found as having been fired from Bremer's gun. The trajectories of the wounds seem to be from two opposite directions. All of this - the hypnotic-like trance, the possibility of two guns being fired from in front and from behind, and the immediate conclusion that Bremer acted alone - sounds very much like the arrangement made for the Robert Kennedy assassination.

Another part of the evidence sounds like the King case. A lone blue Cadillac was seen speeding away from the scene of the shooting immediately afterward. It was reported on the police band radio and the police unsuccessfully chased it. The car had two men in it. The police and the FBI immediately shut off all accounts of that incident.

E. Howard Hunt testified before the Ervin Committee that Charles Colson had asked him to go to Bremer's apartment in Milwaukee as soon as the news about Bremer was available at the White House. Hunt never did say why he was supposed to go. Colson then said that he didn't tell Hunt to go, but that Hunt told him he was going. Colson's theory is that Hunt was part of a CIA conspiracy to get rid of Nixon and to do other dirty tricks.

Could Hunt and the Power Control Group have had in mind placing something in Bremer's apartment rather than taking something out? The "something" could have been Bremer's diary, which was later found in his car parked near the Laurel, Maryland parking lot. Hunt did not go to Milwaukee, because the FBI already had agents at the apartment. Perhaps Hunt or someone else went instead to Maryland and planted the diary in Bremer's car. One thing seems certain after a careful analysis of Bremer's diary in comparison to his grammar, spelling, etc., in his high school performances in English. Bremer didn't write the diary. Someone forged it, trying to make it sound like they thought Bremer would sound given his low IQ.

One last item would clinch the conspiracy case if it were true. A rumor spread among researchers and the media that CBS-TV had discovered Bremer and G. Gordon Liddy together on two separate occasions in TV footage of Wallace rallies. In one TV sequence they were said to be walking together toward a camera in the background. CBS completely closed the lid on the subject.

The best source is obviously Bremer himself. However, no private citizen can get anywhere near him. Even if they could he might not talk if he had been programmed. Unless an expert deprogrammed him, his secret could be locked away in his brain, just like Sirhan's secret is locked within his mind.

(2) H. R. Haldeman, The Ends of Power (1978)

I have never met Donald Segretti, but my approval of his hiring was certainly one of my major mistakes. For one thing, it gave one of the power blocs, the press, an early start, if a false one, in their attack. Woodward and Bernstein stumbled on to Segretti's trail early in the game - and made a fundamental error. They wrote that Segretti was the kingpin of a "massive campaign of political spying and sabotage on behalf of President Nixon's re-election".

In fact, there was no "massive campaign". Segretti visited only a few primary states and never rounded up more than a few volunteers in any state.

Most of the tricks they did were sophomoric- sending 200 pizzas to a small Democratic dinner; dropping white mice at a Muskie press conference with ribbons on their tails reading 'Muskie is a rat fink'. But the exceptions made me angry when I heard about them. Preeminently the so-called "sex-letters".

Three days before the Florida primary, letters on "Citizens for Muskie" stationery accused Senator Henry Jackson of fathering an illegitimate child in 1929. And, conversely, of having been arrested on homosexual charges in 1955 and 1957. The two accusations seemed to cancel each other out, but no matter.

In the same letter, Senator Hubert Humphrey was alleged to have been arrested for drunken driving in Washington on December 3, 1967. None of these char was true. I publicly apologised for them at the Ervin hearings. But it is also true that none of the charges had an bearing on the Florida primary. Governor George Wallace easily swamped all of the contenders.

(3) Richard Nixon, Memoirs (1978)

On October 10 the Post had a new front-page allegation. Under the headline FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats, the story began: "FBI agents have established that the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of President Nixon's reelection and directed by officials of the White House and the Committee for the Reelection of the President."

The story charged that a young man named Donald Segretti had recruited fifty operatives for an undercover campaign that involved "following members of Democratic candidates' families; forging letters and distributing them under candidates' letterheads; leaking false and manufactured items to the press; throwing campaign schedules into disarray; seizing confidential campaign files and investigating the lives of dozens of Democratic campaign workers."

Donald Segretti had been a college friend of my Appointments Secretary Dwight Chapin and of Gordon Strachan, an aide to Haldeman.

Chapin and Strachan had hired Segretti to become what they called "a Republican Dick Tuck." Tuck was a Democrat whose name had become synonymous with ingenious gags aimed at Republican candidates; he was the master of what were then called "dirty tricks": planting embarrassing signs in campaign crowds, changing schedules in order to create confusion, and generally spreading disruption. Segretti, like Tuck, was supposed to use his imagination and his sense of humor to cause minor disarray among the opposition.

Chapin read the Post's story with incredulity. He had not kept tabs on Segretti's activity, but the sinister implications of the Post's account were nothing like what he had authorized. Segretti expressed outrage.

As I saw it then, by printing this story less than a month before the election, the Post was accusing Segretti of spying and sabotage for the same kind of thing that had been dubbed creative mischief when Tuck had done it. Furthermore, it was grossly untrue and unfair to link Segretti to the Watergate break-in.

A few days later reporters from the Post phoned the White House to warn that they were about to run a new story that would charge that Chapin and Hunt were Segretti's contacts and directed his activities. This would tie Chapin by implication into the Watergate break-in stories. The reporters also said that they were going to charge that Chapin and Hunt had briefed Segretti on what the grand jury would ask about his activities. Both these charges were untrue, and Chapin issued a statement denying them.

The story that was actually published on the front page of the Post on October 15 had been subtly changed from the one the reporters had described to us over the phone. They did not, however, inform Chapin that any changes were going to be made or give him an opportunity to modify the wording of his denial accordingly. The story as run did not accuse Chapin of briefing Segretti on the grand jury, and weakened the alleged connection with Hunt. The story now began: "President Nixon's Appointments Secretary and an ex-White House aide indicted in the Watergate bugging case both served as contacts in a spying and sabotage operation against the Democrats."

Of course the problem was that there was no way of separating facts from fiction in this kind of story three weeks before a presidential election. The most damaging parts were completely false; but it was true that Chapin had hired Segretti to cause disarray in the Democrats' campaigns. And there were other political hazards involved in trying to set the story straight. Haldeman had given Chapin approval to have Segretti paid by my lawyer and campaign aide, Herb Kalmbach. Thus there was the danger of focusing the story more strongly on the White House.

(4) Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, All the President's Men (1974)

Bernstein reached Segretti by phone late that afternoon. "Hi, Carl," he answered. "I wondered when we'd meet up with each other." His tone was cheerful and chipper, but not flip. He agreed to let Bernstein and Meyers come over. "I won't discuss any specifics, and everything has to be off the record"

Segretti was dressed in corduroy jeans and Scandinavian sweater and had a grin on his face when they arrived. He shook hands with Bernstein warmly. "How've you been?" he asked. Bernstein was struck by the fact that he was only about five foot four This was the master spy? Secret agent with a White House badge? Segretti had a baby face, a slightly toothy smile and traces of a cowlick.

Segretti invited Bernstein and Meyers to sit down on the living-room couch and chatted about his hi-fi equipment.

"The fact is that I'm about broke," he said after a while, "out of a job and I still have payments on the car - and there will be legal fees."

Segretti was, by his own account, confused, scared, angry, and with friends. Bernstein found him likable, and his situation pathetic.

"I really want to tell the whole story and get this thing over with," Segretti said."I don't understand how I got in over my head. I didn't know what it was all about. They never told me anything except my own role. I had to read the papers to find out."


"The White House"

Segretti was agitated about the inquiries made to his family, friends and acquaintances by the press, and by the investigators from Senator Edward Kennedy's subcommittee.

"Kennedy is out for blood and I'm the one treading water and bleeding," Segretti said. "Kennedy will tear me to shreds. Some people even asked my friends if I knew Arthur Bremer." Segretti's eyes filled with tears. "How could anybody even ask something like that? It's terrible. It's horrible. I didn't do anything to deserve that. What do people think I am? If that's the kind of thing Kennedy gets into, that might just be the point where I say 'F*** the whole thing' and getup and walk out and let them put me in jail... I've been dragged through the mud, maligned you'd think I was making bombs or something. I haven't done anything illegal, or even that bad. My friends have been harassed, my parents, my girlfriends; my privacy has been invaded; my phone is tapped, it clicks all the time; people have been following me; everybody I ever telephoned has been bothered."

Segretti's naiveté was compelling. He traced most of his difficulties to the press. He was particularly angry with the New York Times and Newsweek for getting his phone records and badgering his family. So Meyers and Bernstein calculatedly dumped on the opposition.

The process was excruciatingly slow. Segretti wouldn't volunteer any information without prodding and refused to discuss his activities except in general terms.

"What I did was mostly nickel dime stuff," he said. "Maybe fifteen cents or a quarter every once in a while."

Finally, Segretti admitted he had been hired by Chapin. Strachan also had discussed the job with him. Kalmbach had paid him. The first approach had been from Dwight Chapin to Segretti, not vice versa.

"I didn't go looking for the job," Segretti said bitterly. "What would you do if you were just getting out of the Army, if you had been away from the real world for four years, you didn't know what kind of law you wanted to practice, and you got a call to go to work for the President of the United States? If the really sinister things actually happened, I don't think Dwight knew about them," Segretti said. "Dwight just did what he was told."

Told by whom?

"Well, I'd sure like to meet Haldeman," he suggested.

Did Segretti have any hard evidence that it was Haldeman? Had Chapin ever said so?

"No, but I understand that Dwight generally takes his orders on everything from Haldeman."

Segretti confirmed meeting Howard Hunt and a man he thought was Gordon Liddy in Miami; Hunt had asked him to organize an anti-Nixon demonstration to embarrass McGovern. He would not say what the plan was, "but it sounded illegal to me, and I didn't want anything to do with being violent or breaking the law."

After each visit from the FBI, Segretti acknowledged, he had called Chapin for advice, but he would not say who had counseled him just before his grand-jury appearance. He denied that his testimony had been prompted or rehearsed, or that he had been shown FBI reports. "That's an example of some of the lies and bullshit that have been written," he said. "That would be as bad as the Watergate bugging." He had "discussed" his upcoming testimony with someone from the White House; they had agreed that every question asked by the grand jury would be answered truthfully. Bernstein got the impression that the discussion had been with John Dean. Segretti said he had been interviewed for what he presumed was the "Dean investigation." " But he wouldn't say whether the interview had been conducted by Dean himself or a member of his staff, or whether it had occurred immediately prior to the grand-jury appearance. "I won't discuss John Dean," he said, and he would not say whether he had ever met him.

Segretti said he was through being a pawn of the White House. "They're going to have to break down my door and drag me to get me out of here again. All I want is to get my life back in order. I think the lowest point was when the mother of an old girlfriend told me she didn't want her daughter to see me any more. People can really be cruel."

Again Segretti's eyes glazed over and filled with tears. "Everyone is out to rip me apart and crucify me - Kennedy, the White House, the press."

(5) Richard Popkin, The San Diego Coup, Ramparts Magazine (October, 1973)

Godfrey's surfacing as an FBI agent rattled the remnants of the SAO. They were angry at having been set up by the FBI, and when reporters for the San Diego Door (local newspaper) began approaching their old adversaries for information earlier in 1973, they found that many were willing to cooperate; some were even friendly. And as the SAO began to open up, a pattern began to emerge which seemed to link the San Diego events to Watergate.

The breakthrough came in the spring when an editor of the Door made contact with a former SAO militant named Jerry Busch. From November 1969 to the summer of 1971, said Busch, Howard Barry Godfrey made frequent visits to the Gunsmoke Ranch in El Cajon. "It was also during June, July, and August of 1971 that Barry Godfrey and Donald Segretti (posing as "Don Simms" visited Gunsmoke and though supposedly not "knowing each other," they spoke together on at least one occasion," in a quiet conversation aside. The Segretti connection is important in itself; it is particularly interesting insofar as according to Busch's account - Segretti was in touch with SA while contacting his old college chums Dwight Chapin and Gordon Strachan in June 1971, but before commencing work as a dirty trickster in September 1971.

Busch did not say what Segretti discussed at the Gunsmoke Ranch, but he did report that following "these casual conversations" Godfrey came up with bizarre ideas to take care of what he called "those red punks" - in the event that the GOP held its convention in San Diego. Among Godfrey's plans in October 1971 were:

(1) the use of massive dosages of LSD, cyanide or strychnine introduced into the punch at antiwar group meetings;

(2) bombing of the VVAW headquarters, the Guild Theatre, and several porno shops;

(3) bombings of the homes or offices of antiwar leaders;

(4) kidnapping or assassination of antiwar leaders and activists;

(5) fire bombing of vehicles and other property belonging to antiwar activists.