168. Editorial Note
On April 24, 1972, as he waited for Kissinger to return from Moscow, President Nixon continued to assess the situation at Camp David with his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and with Deputy Assistant to the President Alexander Haig, who remained in Washington. Throughout the day Nixon received reports on Kissinger’s trip from Haig by wire and telephone. After breakfast Nixon called Haig, and before lunch Haig called Nixon back; the two men talked for a total of more than half an hour. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Although no [Page 640] substantive record of either conversation has been found, Haig probably briefed the President on two messages from Kissinger: see Documents 161 and 163.
At 10:30 a.m. Nixon and Haldeman met for several hours to review plans to notify both political allies and the press on Kissinger’s trip and the Paris plenary meeting. The President, for instance, issued instructions for the handling of Secretary of Defense Laird and Secretary of State Rogers: the former should be told of the plenary meeting only after the evening news; and the latter should be allowed to brief some key Congressmen on Vietnam. Nixon, however, rejected Kissinger’s suggestion (see Document 169) that the White House “strongly hint” that his trip to Moscow was tied to private talks in Paris. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, Haldeman Files, Box 45, Haldeman Notes, April–June 1972, Part I) He also expressed his continuing suspicion of Kissinger’s motives. As Haldeman noted in his diary: “He [Nixon] concluded that Henry did mean to claim the SALT deal now, rather than waiting till the Summit, although Haig had said earlier that that’s not what Henry had in mind. And the P feels we’ve got to drive K off at this point, that we shouldn’t claim anything, until we get to the Summit, and the breakthrough should be tied to the P’s meeting, not K’s.” (The Haldeman Diaries, page 446) Otherwise, Nixon told Haldeman, Rogers, and Gerard Smith, the chief of the U.S. SALT delegation, would “knock us out.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, Haldeman Files, Box 45, Haldeman Notes, April–June 1972, Part I)
When Kissinger arrived at Camp David that evening, Nixon was flanked by Haldeman and Haig; the meeting lasted 55 minutes. (Ibid. White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Haldeman wrote the following account in his diary:
“Henry finally arrived about 8:30, and he and Haig and I met with the P over at Birch. The P had us gather first and had me call and have him come over. He unfortunately had not zipped up his fly, so during the entire conversation it was noticeably open. We discussed the scenario for tomorrow, the plan for notification of the good guy Congressmen at 5:30. P backed down on the K briefing, agreed that Henry could do one to steer the direction on how the talks were arranged and how they went, so that no substance or content is disclosed. And also he backed down on the SALT thing and agreed that we would make the announcement. He’s ordering Smith back right away to set up for that. The meeting went pretty well, although it was pretty tense at the beginning. The P was all primed to really whack Henry, but backed off when he actually got there. Henry obviously was very tense. Haig had called me earlier to say that Henry had sent some extremely bad cables [Page 641] because he felt we had not backed him, and he was very distressed that he had been sabotaged and undercut, and he greeted me very frostily, but the P broke that pretty quickly as the meeting started. We all came out in good spirits. P and Henry walked together over to the helipad and talked in loud voices all the way down, while Ed Cox sat listening avidly.” (The Haldeman Diaries, pages 446–447)