Nixon's ex-aide: Prostitution link to Watergate possible

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BALTIMORE - A top Nixon White House official said in videotaped testimony that G. Gordon Liddy's theory that the Watergate burglars were looking for photos of prostitutes "is one of the most plausible explanations" of the 1972 break-in that he has heard.

"I've never thought the received wisdom - that is, that people were breaking in for political intelligence - made any sense at all," Charles Colson said in the 1996 deposition played in court yesterday.

Colson, the special counsel to Nixon, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and served seven months in federal prison after the break-in at Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters. The born-again Christian now directs a ministry for inmates.

His deposition was in U.S. District Court, where Liddy is defending himself against a $5.1 million defamation lawsuit filed by former DNC secretary Ida "Maxie" Wells.

Liddy, 70, has said former White House counsel John Dean ordered the Watergate burglars into the DNC to retrieve photos linking Dean's future wife to a call-girl ring. Wells is suing Liddy for saying in public speeches that the photos were kept in her desk.

Rejects conventional belief

Colson, 69, who was once quoted as saying he would "walk over my grandmother, if necessary" to ensure Nixon's re-election, said he rejected the conventional belief that the Watergate burglars were seeking damaging information that could have hurt the Democrats in the 1972 campaign.

"To this day, I have never figured out why anybody would have broken into (DNC Chairman) Larry O'Brien's office," Colson said.

The Nixon White House already knew everything about O'Brien, Colson said.

Dean has dismissed allegations that he masterminded the break-in as "baloney" and said there is no evidence of a call-girl ring at the DNC.

A former federal prosecutor testified this week that Dean summoned him to his office days before the Watergate break-in and demanded to see evidence seized in the investigation of a prostitution ring.

Names were copied

Dean photocopied address books seized in the prostitution probe during the meeting and compared names in the book with those on a White House roster, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Rudy said.

Rudy said he was investigating allegations that a lawyer had used compromising photographs of women to force them into prostitution.

On June 9, 1972, Rudy said, he got a call from the White House. He said he was told to bring information about the claims to Dean's office.

Rudy also said he wanted to pursue reports that linked the DNC to a call-girl ring but maintained his superiors told him to squelch the investigation because it was a "political time bomb" in the wake of revelations of White House dirty tricks.