Richard Kleindienst

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Richard Kleindienst
Attorney General Richard Kleindienst.jpg
68th United States Attorney General
In office
June 12, 1972 – April 30, 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by John Mitchell
Succeeded by Elliot Richardson
10th United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
January 20, 1969 – June 12, 1972
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Warren Christopher
Succeeded by Ralph Erickson
Personal details
Born Richard Gordon Kleindienst
(1923-08-05)August 5, 1923
Winslow, Arizona, U.S.
Died February 3, 2000(2000-02-03) (aged 76)
Prescott, Arizona, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Margaret Dunbar
Education Harvard University (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1943–1946
Unit United States Army Air Corps

Richard Gordon Kleindienst /kline-DEENST/ (August 5, 1923 – February 3, 2000) was an American lawyer, politician, and a U.S. Attorney General during the Watergate political scandal.

Early life and career[edit]

Kleindienst was born August 5, 1923, in Winslow, Arizona, the son of Gladys (Love) and Alfred R. Kleindienst.[1] He served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946, and attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, graduating from the latter in 1950.[2]

From 1953 to 1954, he served in the Arizona House of Representatives; he followed that with some 15 years of private legal practice.[3] He concurrently was Arizona Republican Party chairman from 1956 to 1960 and 1961 to 1963, and in 1964, the Republican candidate for Governor of Arizona, losing the general election to Sam Goddard, 53%-47%.

Nixon administration[edit]

Kleindienst suspended his private practice in 1969 to accept the post of Deputy Attorney General of the United States offered him by President Richard Nixon. This gave him responsibilities relating to the government's suit against ITT. Nixon and his aide John Ehrlichman told him to drop the case, which created an impression that they were violating their ethical obligations in favor of ITT, and that, as an attorney himself, Kleindienst was now obligated to report these ethical lapses to the state bars in the jurisdictions involved. But in his official role as Deputy Attorney General, he also repeatedly told Congress no one had interfered with his department's handling of the case, not mentioning Nixon and Ehrlichman.[4][5]

On February 15, 1972, US Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell (R) resigned to work in the Nixon re-election campaign and President Richard Nixon nominated Kleindienst to succeed Mitchell.[6] After having served as Acting Attorney General for four months, his appointment was approved by the Senate on June 12 after an attempt to block the nomination by Ted Kennedy on the grounds of his involvement with ITT, failed.[7]

Unknown to Kleindienst, leaders of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) had tasked Gordon Liddy with arranging various covert operations, one of which was to be a burglary of the Democratic Party National Headquarters in Washington, DC. Before dawn on a Saturday, five days after Kleindienst's nomination, James McCord and four other burglars operating on Liddy's instructions were arrested at Watergate complex. Later in the morning Kleindienst was officially notified of the arrests. Liddy, after a phone consultation about the arrests with CREEP Deputy Director Jeb Magruder (who had managed CREEP up until March of that year, and had the most direct organizational authority over Liddy's activities), personally approached Kleindienst the same day at a private golf club in Bethesda, Maryland. Liddy told him that the break-in had originated within CREEP, and that Kleindienst should arrange the release of the burglars, to reduce the risk of exposure of CREEP's involvement. But Kleindienst refused and ordered that the Watergate burglary investigation proceed like any other case.

He resigned in the midst of the Watergate scandal nearly a year later, on April 30, 1973. This was the same day that John Dean was fired and H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman quit.

Kleindienst then returned to private practice. In 1974, he pleaded guilty to failing to testify fully to the Senate in a pre-Watergate investigation, involving alleged favoritism shown to International Telephone & Telegraph Corp, during his testimony in his Senate confirmation hearings.[8]

Later life[edit]

In 1982, Kleindienst was accused of having perjured himself to the Arizona Bar regarding how much he knew about a white-collar criminal he represented. He was cleared of all criminal charges brought against him.[9]

He died at the age of 76, of lung cancer, on February 3, 2000.


  • Kleindienst, Richard (1985). Justice: The Memoirs of Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books. ISBN 0-915463-15-6.
  • For Kleindienst's limited role in Watergate, see Leon Jaworski, The Right and the Power, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, All the President's Men.


  1. ^ Keene, Ann T. (January 2001). "Kleindienst, Richard G." Oxford University Press – via American Council of Learned Societies.
  2. ^ "Richard G. Kleindienst (1972–1973)". Miller Center. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  3. ^ "Attorney General: Richard Gordon Kleindienst | AG | Department of Justice". Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  4. ^ "Context of '1969: ITT Negotiates with Nixon Aides to Avoid Antitrust Lawsuit'". Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  5. ^ [1] | MAY 17, 1974 | Kleindienst Admits Misdemeanor Guilt | ANTHONY RIPLEY | [2]
  6. ^ "Richard Gordon Kleindienst - Arizona Obituary Directory". Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  7. ^ New York Times (9 June 1972). "Senate Backs Kleindienst In Attorney General Post". Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  8. ^ JACKSON, ROBERT L. (4 February 2000). "Richard Kleindienst, Attorney General in Nixon Cabinet, Dies". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "American National Biography Online: Kleindienst, Richard G." Retrieved 2017-08-29.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Paul Fannin
Republican nominee for
Governor of Arizona

Succeeded by
Jack Williams
Legal offices
Preceded by
Warren Christopher
United States Deputy Attorney General
Succeeded by
Ralph Erickson
Preceded by
John Mitchell
United States Attorney General
Succeeded by
Elliot Richardson