Jamie Malanowski, managing editor of Playboy and author of The Coup, interviewed James Rosen, author of The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate.
Their opening exchange:
PLAYBOY: Let's start at the beginning: who was John Mitchell, and why should we care about him?Read the full interview.
ROSEN: First of all, thanks for having me on Playboy.com. John Mitchell was the closest thing to a friend Richard Nixon had in government, and, as a result, became the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to be convicted on criminal charges and to serve prison time. After a fabulously successful career on Wall Street, where his innovations in the financing of public works projects made him an indispensable figure to mayors and governors in all fifty states, Mitchell merged his law firm with Nixon's in 1967. The next year, Mitchell served as campaign manager for Nixon's amazing comeback presidential bid, and, after Nixon won, reluctantly agreed to serve as U.S. attorney general. As head of the Justice Department from 1969 to 1972, Mitchell served as the nation's chief law enforcement officer during a period of extraordinary turbulence in American life, one that witnessed the Kent State killings, the Mayday riots, the heyday of radical groups like the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground, and a number of controversies unprecedented in their nature and seriousness, e.g., the desegregation of Southern schools, the Pentagon Papers, and the episode where the Joint Chiefs of Staff were discovered to have been spying, during wartime, on the commander-in-chief. After resigning to run Nixon's '72 re-election campaign, Mitchell became embroiled in the Watergate scandal, and ultimately served nineteen months in prison for his role in the cover-up.