349. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and Attorney General Mitchell1

K: You didn’t stop in.

M: No, I didn’t have time. As a matter of fact, they cut the meeting down; he had to get away. I only had a chance to suggest that the Middle East situation is being screwed up and other avenues are being approached and work in the UN should be called off.2

K: Do you know what that maniac [Rogers] did now?

M: No.

K: The Egyptians are sending a secret emissary to New York and Sisco is to get the Israelis to do the same and Sisco will send messages back and forth like in 1948.3 Then they are going to come and ask us to squeeze the Israelis. The Russians will think we are screwing them. The Egyptians will think we are screwing them. There we are with this maniac with not one word to us. I, who knows the President’s views, have never sent a message to anyone without first clearing it with the President.

M: Can’t you take this up with him directly?

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K: I tell you this will kill the Administration. Everyone knows that State is not checking with us. The insolence, incompetence, and frivolity of this exercise is beyond belief. Leave aside the Russians, would you ask for a secret emissary to come and put your prestige on the line as an intermediary when there is nothing to believe that anything is going to happen?

M: It’s an exacerbation of the program he’s been on all along with no results.

K: One doesn’t move in such a situation without first knowing what the parties are willing to give.

M: We’re getting deeper and deeper without the ability to deliver.

K: George Bush said to keep these guys from going wild.

M: I wonder if he knew about this.

K: I doubt it.

M: Yes, he’d have been on the horn immediately.

K: No one knows. The insolence of treating the President this way is beyond belief. It would be like your appointing a Supreme Court Justice without consulting him.

M: Can you have Al prepare a memo for you and forward it in to the President?

K: I just don’t know how to handle Rogers.

M: The President has got to understand what is going on.

K: Okay. I’ll [do] a memo to him.4

M: I wish you would.

K: He wants me to tell Dobrynin to ignore State. I can’t do this.

M: I know you can’t. That’s my point. Not only Dobrynin but your other channels will be screwed up.

K: The Israelis will crack him in the teeth.

M: They have before. They know the limb he’s sitting out on.

K: Okay. When you get a chance to say a word it will help.

M: I will. I am going to have a word with him when I get back into town and he does.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 11, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. During a telephone conversation at 4:32 p.m. on October 7, Kissinger and Mitchell briefly discussed recent developments in the Middle East, including their impact on Soviet-American relations. The two men also agreed that Mitchell would stop by at 9:30 a.m. on October 8—before an appointment with the President—to read Kissinger’s memorandum of conversation with Gromyko. (Ibid.) According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met Mitchell and Ehrlichman at 10:04 a.m. to discuss school busing, Supreme Court nominations, and “FBI problems.” (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  3. In an October 7 memorandum to Kissinger, Saunders reported that Rogers—who was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly—was trying to establish “secret contacts” in the Middle East. As Saunders explained: “The Secretary’s thinking is this: That both Egypt and Israel be asked to designate a special individual to engage in secret negotiations with US assistance—specifically Joe Sisco—on an interim canal settlement. This is predicated on the assumption that Sadat—from signals we have had from Cairo—remains seriously interested in getting on with a substantive exchange on the components of a canal agreement and that neither Riad nor Eban is the right individual to move discussions forward.” Saunders also attached a copy of a telegram from Rogers (Secto 65, October 6), instructing Donald C. Bergus, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cairo, to explore this proposal with Sadat. The Department failed to clear this telegram with the White House. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Nodis/Cedar Plus, Vol. IV, October–December 1971) For his memoir account, see Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1289.
  4. No memorandum from Kissinger (or Haig) to Nixon on this subject has been found.
  5. After spending two days at Camp David, Nixon returned to Washington in the morning on October 10. The President called the Attorney General four times on October 11 to review possible nominations to the Supreme Court. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary; and ibid., White House Tapes, Tape Log) No evidence has been found that the two men discussed the Middle East at this time.