Cox's Assistant Disputes Justice Department Claim
A Law School Professor who spent the summer assisting Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox '31, charges that the Justice Department's investigation of the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters was "inadequately staffed" and that "there weren't enough first class people working on it."
James Vorenberg '48, the director of the Justice Department's Division of Criminal Justice during the Johnson administration, served this summer as associate special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation.
He made his claim earlier this month during an interview in his Law School Office in response to charges by Assistant Attorney General Henry Petersen that Cox's appointment was not needed.
Vorenberg returned to Harvard earlier this month to resume his duties as director of the Law School's Center for Criminal Justice and to become the new Master of Dunster House.
Vorenberg was sworn in on May 30, two weeks after his colleague Cox, Williston Professor of Law, was selected by Elliot L. Richardson '41, now Attorney General. Vorenberg described himself as the "number two man" in Cox's investigation. He said he worked closely with Cox in planning the investigation, and that he was responsible for hiring virtually all of the Special Prosecutor's staff.
One of the main problems in the early Cox investigation, Vorenberg said, was making a smooth transition from the Justice Department's investigation under Petersen. Vorenberg said that though the Justice Department prosecutors showed no hostility to the Cox staff, "there was obvious disappointment" on their part when the investigation was taken out of their hands.
During the Senate Watergate hearings Petersen claimed that the appointment a special prosecutor was unnecessary and that the investigation was already 90 per cent complete when Cox was named.
Vorenberg disputed Petersen's charges
Three assistant U.S. attornies worked on the Watergate case prior to Cox's appointment. Under these circumstances, Vorenberg said, the Watergate investigation could not be properly carried out. He said that the "scope and problems of the investigation weren't understood" by the Justice Department prosecutors. He denied that the investigation was 90 per cent complete when Cox was appointed.
He also said that the appointing of a special prosecutor was politically necessary because the public lacked full confidence in the Justice Department.
Vorenberg said that he continued to respect Petersen and that Petersen and the regular staff fully cooperated with Cox during the transition between the two investigations.
Vorenberg also said that neither the White House nor Attorney General Richardson tried to interfere with the Special Prosecutor's work.
Although Vorenberg never formally resigned from Cox's staff, he said that from the investigation's beginning he planned to return to Harvard at the summer's end. He was hired, along with Phillip B. Heymann, professor of Law, to help Cox only during the initial stages.
One of Vorenberg's tasks as Associate Special Prosecutor was finding a Republican for a high-level position on Cox's staff. This task was difficult, Vorenberg said, because it "is hard to find experienced Republican prosecutors."
Vorenberg said that he actively recruited Republicans to give the investigation increased credibility. Vorenberg campaigned for George McGovern in 1972. He said that this might have become an issue if he had not announced in May that he was only a temporary member of Cox's staff.
Cox is also a Democrat and he too voted for McGovern last November.
Several conservative analysts accused the Special Prosecutor's Office of a Kennedy-Harvard orientation and an anti-Nixon bias, but Vorenberg said that no one in the Nixon administration ever charged him with this.
In remembering his work for the Johnson administration, Vorenberg said that he found a marked difference between the Johnson and Nixon Justice Departments.
"People with limited competence as lawyers and less respect for law as an instrument of justice rather than as an instrument of politics were brought into the [Justice] Department by [former Attorney General John] Mitchell," Vorenberg said.
Mitchell has been indicted for illegal campaign fund-raising activities.
Commenting on the White House tapes case, Vorenberg said that "Cox has much the better of the argument." He said he did not want to speculate on the case's outcome while it is still pending.
Vorenberg did not say anything substantative about the investigation's progress, explaining that to do so would violate grand jury secrecy.