Never-before-seen personal documents and correspondence preserved for fifty years from my journal and collection of original Warren Commission documents. I have used these documents and my journal as a primary source in my book about the Warren Commission.

Response To Philip Shenon’s Politico Article Regarding Robert Kennedy And The Warren Commission

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During his year-long campaign to trash the Warren Commission, Philip Shenon has consistently ignored the facts. In his recent Politico article about the Warren Commission’s decision not to ask Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for sworn testimony, Shenon continued this practice by failing to acknowledge the pertinent facts set forth in my book (pp. 184-88) based on the documents and personal journal which I put online last year. As a result, he erroneously concluded that the Attorney General refused to provide sworn testimony to the Commission – either by affidavit or appearance before the Commission.

On May 22, 1964, the Commission’s general counsel, Lee Rankin, “instructed me to talk with the Attorney General about his proposed statement to be submitted to the Commission.” I do not know why he referred to a statement rather than sworn testimony. When I discussed this matter initially with Ed Guthman (the Department’s public information officer) on May 28, however, Ed and I considered “the appropriateness of an appearance of the Attorney General before the Commission or a statement in which he would express his confidence in the Commission and inform the Commission that he has no evidence in his possession of any domestic or foreign conspiracy.” Guthman thought that such a statement by the Attorney General might “reduce the need for the Attorney General to make a statement to the public after the report of the Commission is published.”

Meeting with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) and J. Edgar Hoover (JEH), Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 10:12AM

Meeting with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) and J. Edgar Hoover (JEH), Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 10:12AM

On June 2 Guthman told me that he had discussed the matter with the Attorney General and that I should draft a statement along the lines of our earlier discussion. The result was the draft “Statement of Robert F. Kennedy” attached to Shenon’s article. The first paragraph of the statement refers to the Attorney General “having been duly sworn,” but the final paragraph does not include the usual provision where the person swears or affirms that the facts set forth in the affidavit are truthful. I brought this statement/affidavit to my meeting with Guthman and Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach the next day, June 3, where it was promptly rejected as “sterile and unsatisfactory.”

At this meeting Katzenbach proposed “a third alternative” – this would consist of an exchange of letters between the Commission and the Attorney General. According to my journal, Katzenbach thought that an appropriate letter from the Attorney General “would meet the needs of the Commission and also justify a decision by the Commission not to call the Attorney General as a witness.” Neither Katzenbach nor Guthman perceived any other purpose for the Attorney General to appear before the Commission. He had not been in the motorcade (unlike Mrs. Kennedy, President Johnson, and his wife); the Department of Justice (unlike State and Treasury) was not defending actions taken by department officials (other than the FBI) relating to Oswald; and J. Edgar Hoover had already testified about the FBI’s relationship with Oswald and its investigation of the assassination, as would the heads of the CIA and Secret Service. We decided to pursue Katzenbach’s approach of an exchange of letters and to schedule a meeting with the Attorney General as soon as possible.

Autographed Picture from Robert Kennedy

Autographed Picture from Robert Kennedy

I brought a draft letter for the Attorney General to consider at our next meeting on June 4, 1964. Although he did not express a desire to testify before the Commission, Robert Kennedy said that he was “willing to do anything necessary for the country and thought that his making a statement about the non-existence of a conspiracy would be desirable.” He pointed our an error in my draft letter in that “he had never received any reports from the F.B.I. in regard to the assassination and that his only sources of information about the investigation were the Chief Justice, Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach and myself.”  He said he was otherwise satisfied with the draft and we concluded the meeting with the understanding that he and Warren would exchange letters and that this would fully meet the Commission’s needs. This is what was done.

Shenon’s accusation that the Attorney General refused to provide sworn testimony is not supported by the facts. He was never asked to do so. Furthermore, if he had testified or provided an affidavit, there is no doubt that he would have denied having any knowledge of a conspiracy as he did in his letter– because in fact he had no such information. Shenon should return to the National Archives and pursue his search for further documents – a more productive use of his time than regurgitating decades-old allegations of suspicions and non-existent conspiracies.

As for my archives, you can find them here.

 

 

 

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Howard Willens

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