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MURDER FROM WITHINLyndon Johnson's Plot Against President Kennedy
By Fred T. Newcomb Perry Adams
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Fred T. Newcomb and Perry Adams
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePlanning for November Maneuvering President Kennedy to Dallas
This book explains the 1963 murder that changed America. Who did it? How was it done? Why did the official investigation fail?
An ex-marine and Russian defector named Lee Harvey Oswald was implicated. He ordered a gun that fired a bullet found on a stretcher near the mortally wounded President. Did he fire that rifle? Where were the eye witnesses? The evidence was lacking. If not Oswald, then who? The new leadership tried to calm fears by claiming the murder was solved. The public remained skeptical. Was Oswald set up? To imagine a plot to kill a President and to plant evidence leads only to those at the highest level of government.
Did a rogue group in one of the intelligence agencies or in the military carry this out? Who could they turn to for protection to escape prosecution? After all, the murdered President's brother Robert was Attorney General.
Was it a group outside the government such as Cuban terrorists, fascist oil barons, or organized crime? They lacked the necessary access.
A successful plot had to completely control the route, speed, order and timing of the motorcade; the scapegoat; communications; and the key evidence of the body, the autopsy, and the limousine. Only the White House Secret Service detail had that capability. Only the new President had the power to take over the government, to manage information, and to control the investigation.
Our examination of the huge record of Warren Commission documents, with our extensive photographic and film collection, and dozens of interviews of those ignored by the official probe focused on the key political question:
How did Oswald benefit? Where did he show his animosity? When the same question is asked of Lyndon Johnson, a record emerges of threats, hatred, and an abiding lust for power.
If politics is about dreams, then this is the story of a political nightmare. The target of this plot was the Presidency. A popular leader was killed to make room for his killer.
Lyndon B. Johnson was to have been dropped as Vice-President in 1964, ending his political career. That career would also have ended in disgrace because of the scandal involving his close associate, Robert G. "Bobby" Baker. The sure way out was to become President. Johnson received assistance from John B. Connally, Jr., his close political ally, and from Dean Rusk, Secretary of State.
There were rumors, going back to 1962, that Johnson would not be on the 1964 Democratic party ticket as Vice President. Connally, in late 1963, noted this: "The Democrats want to win the 1964 elections and they might insure a loss if they drop the Vice President." With the "dump LBJ" rumor, both Johnson and his friend Connally tried to maneuver
President Kennedy into a position where he would find it politically embarrassing. Such a rumor would put pressure on the President to go to Texas and reaffirm his faith in the Vice-President.
Officially, the decision for the President's Texas trip was made on June 5, 1963, during a meeting at the El Cortez Hotel in El Paso, Texas, with Kennedy, Johnson and Connally. A summer date of Aug. 27, Johnson's birthday, was mentioned, but was rejected as impractical.
Yet, 43 days before the official decision, Johnson publicly announced the trip on his own. On April 23, 1963, he told a Dallas audience the President might visit the city and four other Texas cities in the summer. The itinerary he gave for the summer trip was the one that followed in November.
Johnson's premature April announcement committed the President to go to Texas. Johnson made the curious statement: "... the President of the United States is like a pilot and the election is when the nation picks an airplane and a pilot for the next four years.
Once you pick him, and you're flying across the water in bad weather, don't go up and open the door and try to knock him in the head. He's the only pilot you have and if the plane goes down, you go with it. At least wait until next November before you shoot him down." Johnson knew that 1963 was not a Presidential election year.
One month before the assassination, in October 1963, Johnson told his friend, Sen. Thomas Dodd, he felt the Kennedy people were out to ruin him completely by making him look like a "crook" and force him from office.
The key to this alleged conspiracy, as Johnson saw it, was the scandal about his political protege, Robert G. "Bobby" Baker. Baker, secretary to the Democratic majority leader of the Senate, was described as a "... close personal friend ..." of Lyndon Johnson. Furthermore, Baker obtained his position when Johnson was Senate majority leader. The New York Times assessed the significance of the scandal in an editorial of Nov. 20, 1963: "More than the good name of the Senate is involved in the machinations of Senate Aide Robert Baker; at stake is public confidence in all who pass and execute the laws in Washington."
Though Johnson as President tried to say that Baker was "... no protégé of anyone ... the Congressional Record indicated" ... there was a close personal relationship between the two men. One Senator, in a tribute to Johnson in 1958, said, "I like to refer to Bobby Baker as 'Lyndon, Junior,' an accolade he well deserves."
One source characterized Baker's involvement as "... amassing an estimated $2,000,000 operating as Lyndon's lieutenant from the U.S. Capitol itself, and brazenly selling influence and prestige and dealing in many things from dames to banks."
The scandal was substantial enough to make Johnson panic. He later indicated this in early 1964 when he met with House Speaker John W. McCormack. Johnson asserted if Baker talked, then he would "... make me the first President of the United States to spend the last days of his life behind bars." Johnson cried, "... my whole life is at stake!" Johnson was willing to pay a high price to ensure Baker kept quiet. He asked that Baker be told "... I will give him a million dollars if he takes this rap. Bobby must not talk."
According to one Congressman, prior to early October 1963, the Justice Department "... had conducted a limited investigation into some aspects of Baker's activities in the Government and in outside business fields." Its purpose was to determine if Baker "... was improperly using his position ... to pile up a fortune ..." since early October, however, "... the Attorney General [Robert F. Kennedy] has pressed forward in a vigorous effort to get to the bottom of the whole Bobby Baker story. Many FBI agents, Internal Revenue agents, and law-enforcement personnel in other agencies are reported co-operating on a coast-to-coast basis in tracing the many facets of Baker's relationship with influential persons in both the legislative and executive branches of Government as well as private business."
At a press conference on Nov. 14, 1963, a week before his Dallas trip, President Kennedy remarked on the Baker case. He said, "... Mr. Baker is now being investigated, and I think we will know a great deal more about Mr. Baker before we are through." He added, "Other people may be investigated as times goes on."
Part of the Baker investigation by the Senate involved a probe of the L.B.J. Co., which controlled some $4 million in Texas television and radio stations (acquired while Johnson was in public office). Johnson's wife and daughters held 83 percent of total stock while Johnson had neither stock nor office in the company.
Johnson's interest lies in another area as one congressman noted: "... the L.B.J. Co. was spending $7,000 to $12,000 a year for a 'key man' insurance policy for $200,000 on the life of Lyndon B. Johnson." Baker was a Vice President of L.B.J. Co., and arranged the life insurance through Don B. Reynolds. There were strings. According to Reynolds, he as well as other persons who "... rendered services to Mr. Johnson, or to the L.B.J. Co., were faced with the same situations of shakedowns as far as getting payment in taking out TV advertising themselves with the radio station" that is "... required to purchase television time at the L.B.J. Co." Later, because of Reynolds's willingness to present information to Congress, the Johnson Administration in 1964 made an attempt both to intimidate and to discredit him. Reynolds said he was "... told by Baker's law partner to be very careful. You might get hanged."
Reynolds also had information on John Connally. According to Reynolds, Connally went to Washington, D.C., in October 1963 "... for the purpose of impressing on Kennedy that he himself would have to travel to Texas and tell people of Texas he had no intention of dumping Johnson."
Furthermore, "... the President made the trip to Texas to reassure Texans that rumors floating around of Kennedy's intentions to dump Lyndon B. Johnson as a result of the Baker scandal were unfounded." Connally later stated he was in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4, 1963, to meet with President Kennedy. After Connally left the meeting, President Kennedy commented to his secretary, "He sure seemed anxious for me to go to Texas."
Reynolds understood that, while in Washington, D.C., Connally made a long-distance call to Oswald at the Dallas YMCA. Oswald checked into the YMCA in Dallas in the late afternoon of Oct. 3 and left in the afternoon of the next day. During October 4-15, Oswald was told to inquire about employment at Dallas firms located along the two likely motorcade routes. That was not the first alleged Connally-Oswald contact. Apparently, Oswald contacted Connally's office on Sept. 25, 1963. Oddly enough, the next day, the President's visit to Dallas was confirmed.
Only a Heart Beat Away
Johnson was seen as having taken the Vice-Presidency in 1960 as a way to become President eight years later when President Kennedy would have to retire. The Vice-Presidency would enable Johnson to become identified as a national leader, instead of a Senator from Texas. Some felt the Vice-Presidency was the one-way Johnson could free himself from the Texas image. Johnson indicated, through friends and aides, he would take the job. Shortly before the Democratic Convention for example, Bobby Baker mentioned to a close Kennedy aide Johnson might be willing to take the Vice-Presidency. Just after Johnson accepted the office, one of his aides commented: "This is what we've been waiting for all this time."
Neither Kennedy nor Johnson had any illusions about the office. Prior to the Democratic Convention in 1960, "Kennedy had let it be known that, if elected President, he would try to knock Johnson off his majority leader perch." Then Sen. Mike Mansfield could replace Johnson as the preferred Senate Majority Leader.
Johnson later said Kennedy tried to "... elevate the office any way he could. But it was not the most productive three years I ever had." Johnson complained the Vice-President "... has no troops, has no real power." But Johnson's Presidential hopes were dashed when he learned the Baker investigation was continuing and someone else would be on the 1964 ticket. Privately, the President told his secretary, Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln, in 1964 he needed a Vice-President who believed as he did. An announcement of another Vice-President would probably have to wait until the convention. Mrs. Lincoln asked about his choice. The President replied, "At this time I am thinking about Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. But it will not be Lyndon."
But the Vice-President was not altogether powerless. He was still "... but one heart beat away from the most powerful office in the free world ... while that heart still beats ..."
According to the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, "... no person who has held the office of President ... for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once." If the President leaves office after two years, then the vice-president can not only complete the remainder of the term, but also run for two more terms.
On January 20, 1963, President Kennedy completed the mid way point of his term. If he left office after that date, Johnson could run for President both in 1964 and 1968, and, if successful, hold office until January 19, 1972.
For the conspirators, January 20, 1963 meant that the plot could be set in motion. The relationship of this date to the activities of the scapegoat was immediate.
In January 1963, Oswald made the final payment to the U.S. State Dept. on his Russia-to-U.S. travel loan. Also in January 1963, he clipped a coupon for a rifle from one magazine and filled-in a coupon for another to order a revolver. Then, on March 9, the State department mailed him a receipt for his final loan payment. Three days later, Oswald mailed the coupons for the two guns.
From then on, Oswald's travel moves from and to Dallas coincided with media reports about President Kennedy's travel plans to Dallas. The day after Johnson made his speech on April 23 that Kennedy would visit Dallas, Oswald left Dallas for New Orleans. During the period in September when Kennedy's trip to Dallas was reported by the news media, Oswald left New Orleans to return to Dallas and look for work.
Connally Picks the Depository
Johnson's friend, John Connally, placed the scapegoat near the President. Connally determined the route of the motorcade by demanding control of the entire schedule and by demanding that the Trade mart be used for the luncheon in Dallas.
Near the end of October 1963, Presidential aide Kenneth O'Donnell sent a political advance man, Jerry Bruno, to Texas to arrange details of Kennedy's visit.
To Bruno, the Women's Building at the fair grounds-and not the Trade Mart-was ideal. It had a large auditorium with a capacity of 4,000. After lunch, it could be opened up "... so the people in Dallas could have come in and heard Kennedy." He felt the Trade Mart not only was enclosed, but also lent "... itself to more of a rich people's luncheon ..."
Bruno tried to have the Secret Service veto the Trade Mart because it presented security problems. He asked the head of the Secret Service at the White House, Jerry Behn, to request that Texas agents insist on the Women's Building. "But" said Bruno later, "somehow or other, that word never got through."
Connally had to have the Trade Mart. His excuse was that he wanted tiered seating, which was only possible at the Trade Mart because of its high ceiling.
To get his way, Connally made a deliberate and serious misrepresentation to Bruno. At a meeting, Connally told Bruno what the schedule would be for the President's Texas visit. Bruno replied that he was only interested in suggestions; the White House would decide. Connally ended the conversation by saying, "Fine, fine I'll get back to you." He then told Bruno, "This is what we want him to do," giving the impression that O'Donnell told Connally to make the decision. Much later, and after the assassination, Bruno learned that O'Donnell really told Connally "... the White House ... would make any final decision."
On Nov. 18, 1963, Bruno received a call from O'Donnell. According to O'Donnell, "The Governor felt very strongly about it [the Trade Mart]. And we finally acquiesced to his view."
Why was Connally so emphatic about the Trade Mart? It was crucial to the plot that the President's motorcade be maneuvered to pass in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building.
At this time, the scapegoat had a job there. Had the route been from Love Field to the Women's Building, the motorcade would have been a block away from the depository, forcing cancellation of the assassination.
The time of day was equally as crucial: the assassination had to occur in daylight and while the scapegoat was in the building. Originally, according to O'Donnell, "... Dallas ... was going to be an evening affair." Instead, "the governor (Connally) thought ... that we should hit Dallas around noontime."
Shortly after the assassination, Johnson indicated his high regard for Connally: In late December, 1963, a reporter saw President Johnson inscribe the text of a speech to Connally: "John and Nellie, who made all this possible."
Excerpted from MURDER FROM WITHIN by Fred T. Newcomb Perry Adams Copyright © 2011 by Fred T. Newcomb and Perry Adams. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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