Watergate conspirator Jeb Magruder dies

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 17 2014 08:39 AM | Updated as of May 18 2014 07:17 PM

WASHINGTON - Jeb Magruder, the Nixon White House aide imprisoned for his role in the Watergate scandal who later claimed he overheard the president order the break-in, has died. He was 79.

Magruder died May 11 due to complications from a stroke, according to Connecticut's Hull Funeral Service home, which posted an obituary Friday.

He left the business world to join president Richard Nixon's administration in 1969 as a White House deputy communications director, moving two years later to manage the Committee to Re-elect the President.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice in the cover-up that followed the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate building in Washington.

Magruder spent seven months in prison. He was one of two dozen people eventually jailed for their role in the planning, execution and cover-up of what became one of the largest political scandals in US history.

Magruder coordinated with White House counsel John Dean and G. Gordon Liddy, a member of Nixon's special investigations team known as "the Plumbers," on plans to gather intelligence for Nixon's re-election campaign.

Dean and Liddy went to prison for their roles in the scandal.

Years later, in a 2003 documentary by PBS Television, Magruder said that during a March 30, 1972 meeting with attorney general John Mitchell he heard Nixon order the infamous break-in.

"I could hear the president talking to (Mitchell), and it was simply, you know, 'John, we need to get the information on (DNC chairman) Larry O'Brien, the only way we can do that is through Lee's plan, and you need to do that,'" Magruder told PBS.

"Nixon was saying we want Liddy to break into the Watergate."

A taped conversation between Nixon and White House chief of state H.R. Haldeman in 1972 eventually surfaced in which Nixon was heard talking about how to foil the Watergate investigation.

It was quickly seen as the "smoking gun" in the scandal, and Nixon resigned in August 1974.

Magruder later turned his focus to religion, studying at Princeton Theological Seminary and becoming ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1984.

He was denied a pardon by president Ronald Reagan in 1983.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse