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
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byJohn Mitchell
Succeeded byElliot Richardson
10th United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
January 20, 1969 – June 12, 1972
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byWarren Christopher
Succeeded byRalph Erickson
Personal details
Richard Gordon Kleindienst

(1923-08-05)August 5, 1923
Winslow, Arizona, U.S.
DiedFebruary 3, 2000(2000-02-03) (aged 76)
Prescott, Arizona, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Margaret Dunbar
EducationHarvard University (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service U.S. Army Air Force
Years of service1943–1946

Richard Gordon Kleindienst (August 5, 1923 – February 3, 2000) was an American lawyer, politician, and U.S. Attorney General during the early stages of 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 Forces 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%.

Role in Goldwater Campaign[edit]

On January 3, 1964, Barry Goldwater asked his friend Kleindienst to serve as Director of Operations in his presidential campaign. Goldwater stipulated that he would only respond to the "draft Goldwater" movement if the campaign were led by three GOP Republicans close to him: Kleindienst, Denison Kitchel as Campaign Manager, and Dean Burch as Assistant Campaign Manager.[4]

Kleindienst had never worked on a national campaign. Political experts told Goldwater that F. Clifton White, an experienced GOP operative, would be a better choice. Goldwater rejected this change, but did agree to Kleindienst and White sharing the role.

Nixon administration[edit]

Kleindienst in a group photo of Nixon's cabinet on June 16, 1972, fourth from the right in the back row.

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.[5][6]

On February 15, 1972, US Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell (R) resigned effective March 1 to work in the Nixon re-election campaign and President Richard Nixon nominated Kleindienst to succeed Mitchell.[7] After having served as Acting Attorney General for a little under three and a half 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.[8]

Unknown to Kleindienst, leaders of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP) 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 was sworn in,[9] 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 CRP, and that Kleindienst should arrange the release of the burglars, to reduce the risk of exposure of CRP'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.[10]

Kleindienst then returned to private practice. He joined Johnson & Dowdall (later becoming Dowdall & Kleindienst), at the invitation of Richard. J. Dowdall, a long time friend, and for which he wrote in 1993, that he was "deeply appreciative" at such a "significant time." Kliendienst later moved to Prescott, Arizona, becoming an "of counsel" to Favour, Moore, Wilhelmsen and Schuyler, P.A.[11] Additionally, 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.[12]

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.[13]

On July 15, 1993, Richard Kleindienst wrote a letter to his dear friend and colleague Richard James Dowdall for adding his name to his law firm. Mr. Kleindienst wrote...”you did so at a very significant time in my life. I shall always be mindful of and deeply appreciative for you having done so.” Mr. Dowdall included Richard Kleindienst in his law firm, as a friend helping a friend. He later moved to Prescott, Arizona where he joined Favour Moore Wilhelmsen & Schuyler, P.A.

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. ^ Perlstein, Rick (2001). Before the storm : Barry Goldwater and the unmaking of the American consensus (1st ed.). New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 9780809028580.
  5. ^ "Context of '1969: ITT Negotiates with Nixon Aides to Avoid Antitrust Lawsuit'". Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  6. ^ [1] | MAY 17, 1974 | Kleindienst Admits Misdemeanor Guilt | ANTHONY RIPLEY | [2]
  7. ^ "Richard Gordon Kleindienst - Arizona Obituary Directory". Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  8. ^ New York Times (9 June 1972). "Senate Backs Kleindienst In Attorney General Post". Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  9. ^ Richard G. Kleindienst, Figure in Watergate Era, Dies at 76, New York Times, by David Stout, Feb. 4, 2000
  10. ^ Laurence Stern and Haynes Johnson, Washington Post Staff Writers (May 1, 1973). "3 Top Nixon Aides, Kleindienst Out; President Accepts Full Responsibility; Richardson Will Conduct New Probe".
  11. ^ Letter, "Dick K." to "Dick" Dowdall, July 15, 1993
  12. ^ JACKSON, ROBERT L. (4 February 2000). "Richard Kleindienst, Attorney General in Nixon Cabinet, Dies". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ "American National Biography Online: Kleindienst, Richard G." Retrieved 2017-08-29.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for
Governor of Arizona

Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by United States Deputy Attorney General
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Attorney General
Succeeded by