Nixon Sought IRS as Weapon

January 6, 1997

Nixon Sought IRS as Weapon

In May 1971, there was one appointment for which President Richard Nixon had very clear aims--his IRS commissioner was to be ruthless and obedient.

In the Washington Post, Oval Office tapes recently released by the National Archives and Records Administration quote Nixon telling top aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman that "I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he's told, that every income tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends."

Nixon was angry about IRS investigations of Republicans during the Kennedy administration, including an audit of Nixon's own returns in 1963, according to the newspaper. "Now they're not going to do it to us here," Nixon said on the tape. He also said, "When the Christ are they going to go after some Democrats?"

Eventually, Johnnie Walters was named to the position.

In an interview with the Washington Post this week, Walters said he did not know of Nixon's expectations until he was on the job. On Sept. 11, 1972, Nixon aide John Dean III handed Walters a list of hundreds of people to be audited, such as staff members and contributors to the McGovern campaign.

Walters refused and put the list in a safe where he kept it until he turned it over to congressional investigators the following year.

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