Don B. Reynolds was born on 20th January, 1915. A graduate of West Point. He joined the United States Army Airforce (USAAF) and after the Second World War he served as a U.S. consular official in Berlin. (1)
On his return to the United States he established a company called Don Reynolds Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland. Reynolds was a friend of Bobby Baker, who was at this time working for Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1957 Reynolds was asked to arrange Johnson's life insurance policy. "That was in 1957, only two years after Senate Majority Leader Johnson had suffered a heart attack. The Senator was having trouble finding an insurance company that would give him life insurance. Reynolds went looking on Johnson's behalf, talked to three companies, and finally found that the Manhattan Life Insurance Co. would write the policy. Manhattan issued a first policy of $50,000, and shortly afterward, when it had covered part of its risk through a reinsurance company, issued another policy of $50,000 for Johnson." (2)
Baker also introduced Reynolds to a large number of people that resulted in him signing insurance deals. This included Harry S. Truman, Jimmy Hoffa, Fred Black, Matthew H. McCloskey and Nancy Carole Tyler. "I had entered into an agreement with Reynolds, a fellow South Carolinian, to steer insurance customers to him in exchange for a small piece of the business and a commission on any policies he wrote as a result of my efforts." (3) Reynolds later claimed that over ten years he had "paid Baker some $15,000 for putting him in touch with the right people." (4)
By 1963 John F. Kennedy realised that Lyndon B. Johnson had become a problem as vice-president as he had been drawn into political scandals involving Fred Korth, Billie Sol Estes and Bobby Baker. According to James Wagenvoord, the editorial business manager of Life, the magazine was working on an article that would have revealed Johnson's corrupt activities. "Beginning in later summer 1963 the magazine, based upon information fed from Bobby Kennedy and the Justice Department, had been developing a major newsbreak piece concerning Johnson and Bobby Baker. On publication Johnson would have been finished and off the 1964 ticket (reason the material was fed to us) and would probably have been facing prison time. At the time LIFE magazine was arguably the most important general news source in the US. The top management of Time Inc. was closely allied with the USA's various intelligence agencies and we were used after by the Kennedy Justice Department as a conduit to the public." (5)
The fact that it was his brother Robert Kennedy who was giving this information to Life Magazine suggests that Kennedy intended to drop Johnson as his vice-president. This is supported by Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy's secretary. In her book, Kennedy and Johnson (1968) she claimed that in November, 1963, Kennedy decided that because of the emerging Bobby Baker scandal he was going to drop Johnson as his running mate in the 1964 election. Kennedy told Lincoln that he was going to replace Johnson with Terry Sanford, the Governor of North Carolina. (6)
Phil Brennan, a journalist working for The National Review, argued that the Washington press corps had buried the stories about the Bobby Baker scandal and the connections with Johnson. However, John J. Williams, the Republican Party senator for Delaware, called upon the Committee on Rules and Administration to conduct an investigation of the financial and business interests and possible improprieties of Baker. Brennan points out: "A few days later, the attorney general, Bobby Kennedy, called five of Washington's top reporters into his office and told them it was now open season on Lyndon Johnson. It's OK, he told them, to go after the story they were ignoring out of deference to the administration." (7)
John Williams was known as "Honest John" and "the conscience of the Senate" because of his investigations into the corrupt activities of officials in the Harry S. Truman and the Dwight D. Eisenhower administrations. This included the downfall of General Harry H. Vaughan (1951) and Sherman Adams (1958). In September 1963 Williams began to look into the business activities of Bobby Baker. On 7th October, Baker resigned from his post as Johnson's Senate's Secretary. Three days later, Williams introduced a resolution calling for an investigation by the Senate Rules Committee. (8)
"The Senate, which has never been reluctant to call to task officials of the Executive Branch when questions were raised concerning the propriety of their conduct, but an even greater responsibility to examine these charges that are being made against one of its own employees... The Senate employee against whom the charges were made was given ample opportunity to appear in person and answer these charges but he rejected this invitation and instead submitted his resignation." (9)
According to Senator Carl Curtis of Nebraska, a member of he Committee on Rules and Administration, Williams suggested that Reynolds should be interviewed about his relationship with Baker and Johnson. Curtis later recalled that when he testified in closed session Williams recommended the Committee investigate the FBI files of a deported East German woman, Ellen Rometsch, who had been identified as associating with lobbyists and members of Congress. Williams also urged the Committee to investigate the Serv-U Corporation, a company set up by Bobby Baker in partnership with Fred Black, Eugene Hancock, Grant Stockdale and George Smathers. He also raised questions about Johnson's close friends such as Cliff Carter and Walter Jenkins. (10)
Bobby Baker refused to testify before the Committee: "I knew, however, that if I testified to the total truth then Lyndon B. Johnson, among others, might suffer severely. Suppose they asked me whether Lyndon Johnson had, indeed, insisted on a kickback from Don Reynolds in the writing of his life insurance policy? A truthful answer would torpedo the vice-president. Suppose they asked me what I knew of campaign funds for Johnson, or for the matter President Kennedy? Although I sensed that a 'gentleman's agreement' had been reached with respect to avoiding the embarrassment of senators, I certainly suspected that John J. Williams would not honor it where the vice-president was concerned. I had been too recently a member of the club, and too keenly felt a kinship with LBJ and others, to turn rat. You may say that I was honoring the code of the underworld if you will, but I didn't want to hurt my friends." (11)
Seth Kantor of the Fort Worth Press, Clark R. Mollenhoff of the Des Moines Register and Erwin Knoll of the Washington Post began to examine Baker's business activities. They became especially interested in a house purchased by Baker in Washington. It was occupied by Nancy Carole Tyler, a former Tennessee beauty-contest winner, who was Baker's $8,300-a-year private secretary at the Senate. The house was purchased in Baker's name, and Tyler was listed as his "cousin" in the application. Tyler was Baker's mistress rather than his cousin. (12)
In his autobiography Baker admitted that he was guilty of this offence: "I had incorrectly and improperly listed Carole Tyler as my cousin when I applied for the loan, in order to satisfy the Federal Housing Authority's regulation that anyone buying an FHA-underwritten home must either live in it or have a relative living in it. At the time I gave the matter little more serious thought than would a groundhog; indeed, Carole and I had shared a laugh about it. Well, I said to my lover, at least you're my kissin' cousin. So it's only a little white lie." (13)
At a closed session on 22nd November, 1963, Reynolds told B. Everett Jordan and his Committee on Rules and Administration that Johnson had demanded that he provided kickbacks in return for him agreeing to this life insurance policy. This included a $585 Magnavox stereo. Reynolds was also told by Walter Jenkins that he had to pay for $1,200 worth of advertising on KTBC, Johnson's television station in Austin. Senator Robert Byrd asked Reynolds if he had evidence that the stereo was a gift from him. Reynolds replied "The invoice delivered to Johnson's home showed that the charges were to be Reynolds." (14)
In his autobiography, Wheeling and Dealing (1978), written many years later, Baker admitted that Reynolds was telling the truth about being forced to advertise on KTBC: "Johnson was supersensitive to criticism that he used his public offices to add to his personal wealth, which was founded on radio and television properties. He avidly promoted the fiction that Lady Bird Johnson was the business genius... It was no accident that Austin, Texas, was for years the only city of its size with only one television station. Johnson had friends in high places among those who controlled the broadcast industry. George Smathers was his man in the Senate. Bob Bartley, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, just happened to be a nephew to LBJ's patron, Speaker Sam Rayburn." (15)
Reynolds also told of seeing a suitcase full of money which Bobby Baker described as a "$100,000 payoff to Johnson for his role in securing the Fort Worth TFX contract". Reynolds also provided evidence against Matthew H. McCloskey. He suggested that he given $25,000 to Baker in order to get the contract to build the District of Columbia Stadium. According to the New York Times: "He (Reynolds) charged that Mr. Baker had received a $25,000 contribution for the 1960 Democratic Presidential campaign from Matthew H. McCloskey, builder of the $20 million D. C. Stadium in Washington, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser. The contribution, he said, was in the form of an overpayment by the McCloskey concern for a premium on a performance bond for the stadium that Mr. Reynolds's company had written. Mr. Reynolds said he had turned the money over to Mr. Baker on Mr. McCloskey's instructions." (16)
Reynolds' testimony came to an end when news arrived that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Abe Fortas, a lawyer who represented both Lyndon B. Johnson and Bobby Baker, worked behind the scenes in an effort to keep this information from the public. Johnson also arranged for a smear campaign to be organized against Reynolds. To help him do this J. Edgar Hoover passed to Johnson the FBI file on Reynolds. (17)
Reynolds began telling friends and associates that Johnson was involved in the assassination of Kennedy. According to a FBI memorandum Reynolds had told an insurance executive that, "J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI had collected sufficient data to prove that President Johnson was involved in the assassination of the late President Kennedy. Reynolds stated that Governor Connally of Texas had been an accomplice of President Johnson's in the assassination of the late President Kennedy. Reynolds also told Megill that Clint Murchison had kept Oswald in a hotel in Dallas for several days prior to the assassination." (18)
According to an interview that Reynolds gave to the Federal Bureau of Investigations: "Reynolds prefaced his comments with the statement that he had been a long-time friend and associate of Robert G. Baker, a former Secretary for the Majority, United States Senate. He said on January 20, 1961, on the occasion of the inauguration of President Kennedy, he, Reynolds, spent the majority of the day in Baker's offices or in the Capitol Rotunda. He stated there were many people present in Baker's office during the day, including his wife. Reynolds said that during a discussion with Baker on that date, Baker stated while referring to the swearing in of Kennedy, words to the effect that the s.o.b is being sworn in, but he will never live his term out. He will die a violent death." (19)
On 10th January, 1964, Johnson telephoned his friend George Smathers and asked him to do what he could to stop the Committee on Rules and Administration from releasing Reynolds' testimony: "They had this damned fool insurance man, in and they had him in a secret session and Bobby (Baker) gave me a record player and Bobby got the record player from the insurance man (Don Reynolds). I didn't know a damned thing about it. Never heard of it till this happened. But I paid $88,000 worth of premiums and, by God, they could afford to give me a Cadillac if they'd wanted to and there'd have been not a goddamned thing wrong with it.... There's nothing wrong with it. There's not a damned thing wrong. So Walter Jenkins explained it all in his statement." Smathers' replied that he would try to persuade B. Everett Jordan to suppress the testimony. (20)
However, on 17th January, 1964, the Committee on Rules and Administration voted to release to the public Reynolds' secret testimony. Johnson responded by leaking information from Reynolds' FBI file to Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. On 5th February, 1964, the Washington Post reported that Reynolds had lied about his academic success at West Point. The article also claimed that Reynolds had been a supporter of Joseph McCarthy and had accused business rivals of being secret members of the American Communist Party. It was also revealed that Reynolds had made anti-Semitic remarks while in Berlin in 1953. (21)
The New York Times reported that Lyndon B. Johnson had used information from secret government documents to smear Reynolds. It also reported that Johnson's officials had been applying pressure on the editors of newspapers not to print information that had been disclosed by Reynolds in front of the Senate Rules Committee. "Revelations that persons in or close to the White House had had a hand in making available such information to impugn Mr. Reynolds's testimony has caused sharp criticism from Republican members of Congress and from some segmments of the press." (22)
This leak created a great deal of concern in Congress. Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania wrote to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara about the release of Air Force secret files. "It is a matter of serious concern to me that such a leak could happen. I am doubly concerned that leaks of internal memoranda can apparently be used to destroy witnesses whose testimony becomes embarrassing. The situation is particularly serious when it's realized that this information was denied to proper officials of the United States Senate." (23)
Harold Gross of Iowa charged that the Johnson administration had engaged in an "outrageous" attempt to "intimidate" Reynolds and other witnesses who might give testimony that embarrassed the White House: "If this leak of information - if this attempt to intimidate a witness goes unpunished, then all those who took part in it and all who condone it are equally guilty of outrageous conduct... If the President disapproves of what has taken place in the peddling of this information, obtained from allegedly secret files, he should have taken immediate action to publicly denounce this despicable act." (24)
John McClellan, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee investigating the F-111 contract given to General Dynamics, said that he wanted to interview Don Reynolds. However, McClellan changed his mind and the report on the contract was never published. Phillip F. Nelson has argued the reason for this was that several figures close to Lyndon B. Johnson were involved in corruptly obtaining the contract. This included Fred Korth, Secretary of the Navy at the time the contract was signed and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Roswell Gilpatric, who before he took up the post, was chief counsel for General Dynamics. (25)
Reynolds appeared before the Committee on Rules and Administration on 1st December, 1964. Before the hearing Reynolds supplied a statement implicating Bobby Baker and Matthew H. McCloskey (Treasurer of the National Democratic Party at the time) in financial corruption. However, the Democrats had a 6-3 majority on the Committee and Reynolds was not allowed to fully express the role that Johnson had played in this deal. Reynolds appeared to be relieved as he told John Williams: "My God! There's a difference between testifying against a President of the United States and a Vice President. If I had known he was President, I might not have gone through with it." (26)
Reynolds later told the journalist Clark R. Mollenhoff that he regretted giving information against Lyndon B. Johnson. "I might as well be in Nazi Germany. They are out to get me, and they are using every government agency and every dirty trick in the book to wreck my business... I was no angel, and I expected to be investigated, but I didn't think I would be harassed to the point that my business would be wrecked and my wife would become ill." (27)
In December, 1966, Edward Jay Epstein wrote an article for the Esquire Magazine where he claimed that Reynolds had given the Warren Commission information on the death of John F. Kennedy. Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that Kennedy "would never live out his term and that he would die a violent death." Baker had also said that "the FBI knew that Johnson was behind the assassination". (28) This was later confirmed by the release of a declassified FBI file. (29)
Lyndon Johnson: Have you heard about this tape recording that's out?
George Smathers: No.
Lyndon Johnson: Well, it involves you and John Williams and a number of other people.
George Smathers: You mean, some woman?
Lyndon Johnson: Yep.
George Smathers: Yeah, I've heard about it. And it involves Hugh Scott.
Lyndon Johnson: But it's a pure made-up deal, isn't it?
George Smathers: I don't know what it is. I never heard of the woman in my life... But she mentions President Kennedy in there.
Lyndon Johnson: Oh yeah, and the Attorney General (Robert Kennedy) and me and you and everybody. And I never heard of her.
George Smathers: Thank God, they've got Hugh Scott in there. He's the guy that was asking for it. But she's also mentioned him, (laughs) which is sort of a lifesaver. So I don't think that'll get too far now. (Everett) Jordan's orders.
Lyndon Johnson: Can't you talk to him? Why in the living hell does he let Curtis run him? I thought you were going to talk to Dick Russell and go talk to Curtis and make Dirksen and them behave.
George Smathers: Jordan has assured me over and over again.
Lyndon Johnson: Well, he's not strong enough though, unless someone goes and tells him now.
George Smathers: That's right. Now Dick Russell is the man that ought to do it. And I've asked Dick to do it and Dick has told me that he would....
Lyndon Johnson: They had this damned fool insurance man, in and they had him in a secret session and Bobby (Baker) gave me a record player and Bobby got the record player from the insurance man (Don Reynolds). I didn't know a damned thing about it. Never heard of it till this happened. But I paid $88,000 worth of premiums and, by God, they could afford to give me a Cadillac if they'd wanted to and there'd have been not a goddamned thing wrong with it.... There's nothing wrong with it. There's not a damned thing wrong. So Walter Jenkins explained it all in his statement. This son of a bitch Curtis comes along and says, well, he wouldn't take any statements not sworn to. They had their counsel come down and Walter Jenkins handled it, told him exactly what was done.... A fellow said Manhattan is the only company that would write on a heart attack man.... Bobby said, "Hell now, wait, let my man handle it and he'll get a commission off of it." So we said all right... Now he said - Walter - "I'll swear to it." "No, I want a public hearing so I can put it on television." Now that oughtn't to be. Now George, I ought not to have to get into that personally.
George Smathers: Absolutely not.... And Dick Russell has got to exercise his influence. He must do this and I think you've got to talk to him about it and just say you've got to do it. I'll talk to Jordan. Jordan thinks I'm guilty of something. So he thinks I may be covering up trying to protect myself. Hubert has been really good in this and, believe it or not, Joe Clark' has finally gotten the picture and he's trying to stop it now. But Hugh Scott and Carl Curtis are going wild, and Jordan doesn't have enough experience or enough sense to gavel them down and shut them up. But if Dick will talk to him-really talk to him and say...
Lyndon Johnson: I think he needs to talk to Curtis too. Why don't you tell Dick to do that?
George Smathers: I will. I've already talked to him.
Lyndon Johnson: I hate to call him.... Get Dick to go see Curtis in the morning and just say, "Now quit being so goddamn rambunctious about this, Carl."
George Smathers: Can I tell Dick this is not right and you know about it? And naturally it makes you apprehensive and you've got all these damn problems and to have this little nitpicking thing. It's just not fair.
Lyndon Johnson: It's not.
George Smathers: So I'll do it.
Lyndon Johnson: Tell him he's the only one can do it. And he can do it. And if he was involved I'd damned sure walk across the country and do it.
George Smathers: Exactly. All right, that's a damned good thought and I'll do it. I've already talked to him about it, but I
Lyndon Johnson: The FBI has got that record.' Now you know I think you ought to leak it. I don't know who you can leak it to. But I've read the goddamn tax report and I've read the FBI report and there ain't a goddamn thing in it that they can even indict him on. The only thing that they can do is that he puffed up the financial statement, which everybody's done. If he pays that off, they couldn't convict him on that....
George Smathers: They won't print that 'cause I tried to leak that the day before yesterday to ... two different sources and it hasn't been printed. They just want to print this ... ugly stuff.... That Curtis is mean as a snake. (Everett) Dirksen sat in the room the night of the day after you became President with me and Humphrey and agreed that this thing ought to stop and that he would get Curtis to stop it. ... You know, there's some statement about Dirksen and Kuchel with this German girl.' So he said, "It is just ridiculous and it ought to stop.". . . . I think we can handle everybody on our side. Howard Cannon is the smartest fellow over there, but he's a little afraid to do anything because he himself figures he was involved out in Las Vegas. So he's a little afraid to be as brave as he ought to be. ... I'll tell Dick this. I've already told him once, but
Lyndon Johnson: Tell him he ought to talk to Dirksen and Curtis both. Please do it, and also Jordan. He's just got his work cut out Monday 'cause they're going to meet Tuesday and they're going to want a public hearing.' And then that's a television hearing, and then a television hearing about my buying some insurance. And what in the goddamn hell is wrong with my buying insurance? I paid cash for it, wrote them a check for it, made my company the beneficiary, and they didn't deduct it. No tax deduction. We'll do it after we pay our taxes. We pay the premium-only reason being if I died, my wife would have to pay estate tax on me on account of she'd have to sell her stock and they want the company to have some money to buy her stock so she doesn't have to lose control of her company.
Don Reynolds is the owner of an insurance company in Silver Spring is the owner of an insurance company in Silver Spring, Maryland. Walter Jenkins called me from the White House at approximately 5.30 p.m. today. He asked that I come over and see him immediately.
Upon seeing Jenkins, he told me that Pierre Salinger had just advised him and the President that an insurance executive by the name of Megill, who had offices at 1612 K. Street, Northwest, and who operates the company known as Megill and Son, that Reynolds had given him information concerning the assassination of the President approximately two weeks ago.
Reynolds told Megill that President Johnson was soon to be impeached. He stated that, "J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI had collected sufficient data to prove that President Johnson was involved in the assassination of the late President Kennedy. Reynolds stated that Governor Connally of Texas had been an accomplice of President Johnson's in the assassination of the late President Kennedy. Reynolds also told Megill that Clint Murchison had kept Oswald in a hotel in Dallas for several days prior to the assassination.
Salinger told the President that Megill is a very reputable individual individual and a person that would not give accurate information.
While I was in Jenkins' office obtaining the above information, the President walked in and stated that he would appreciate the FBI interviewing Reynolds knew the Director would instruct that we get on this matter immediately.
After the President left, Jenkins requested that we not interview Megill inasmuch as the President does not want Salinger to know this information was given to anyone else.
Don B. Reynolds, Silver Spring, Maryland insurance agent, was interviewed in the office of his attorney, James F. Fitzgerald, Room 300, Citizens Building and Loan Association Building, Silver Spring, Maryland, on January 24, 1964.
Reynolds prefaced his comments with the statement that he had been a long-time friend and associate of Robert G. Baker, a former Secretary for the Majority, United States Senate. He said on January 20, 1961, on the occasion of the inauguration of President Kennedy, he, Reynolds, spent the majority of the day in Baker's offices or in the Capitol Rotunda. He stated there were many people present in Baker's office during the day, including his wife. Reynolds said that during a discussion with Baker on that date, Baker stated while referring to the swearing in of Kennedy, words to the effect that the s.o.b is being sworn in, but he will never live his term out. He will die a violent death.
Reynolds stated he has not discussed his opinions and complete feelings concerning the assassination of President Kennedy with anyone. He stated he has discussed some of his thoughts and observations with Senator John Williams, Delaware, and he may have discussed "facets" of the matter with other individuals… He stated he recalled the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent killing of his assassin and expressed his desire and hope that the authorities would protect Oswald from any similar fate. Reynolds stated he had no knowledge whatsoever of the whereabouts of Oswald prior to the assassination of the President or of his activities during the period.
I have recently received unconfirmed information alleging Don B. Reynolds, a Silver Spring, Maryland, insurance agent, had made various statements attributed to him alleges that President Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as Governor Connally of Texas, was implicated in the assassination….
Immediately upon receipt of this information, I instructed Reynolds be located and interviewed to straighten this matter out.
Enclosed are two copies of the interview of Reynolds conducted on January 24, 1964, by Agents of their Bureau. You will note Reynolds in essence denies the statements attributed to him. You can also be assumed that I have not received any information to implicate President Johnson or Governor Connally in the assassination.
The Senate committee investigation of the affairs of former Senate Majority Secretary Bobby Gene Baker has hardly set a scorching pace. But last week the committee did release closed-door testimony taken earlier this month from Don B. Reynolds, a Maryland insurance man and longtime Baker business associate. It made Bobby out to be a busy, busy boy - from dabbling in abortion to procuring gifts for Lyndon Baines Johnson.
"If Anyone Should Know . . ." Reynolds testified that he had made Bobby a nominal officer of his insurance brokerage, over ten years had paid Baker some $15,000 for putting him in touch with the right people. When other, non-insurable problems came up, Baker was still a good man to know. Once, said Reynolds, a client called him for help in getting an abortion for a friend. Reynolds got in touch with Bobby, who gave him a Capitol number for his concerned client to call. Whether the abortion was actually performed, Reynolds did not know. But, he said, "Some time later, 'Mrs. X' [the client] called and thanked me." Why, asked Committee Counsel Lennox McLendon, had Reynolds turned to Baker for advice about an abortion? Replied Reynolds: "I felt if anyone should know, he should, sir."
Baker also steered Reynolds to Lyndon Johnson. That was in 1957, only two years after Senate Majority Leader Johnson had suffered a heart attack. The Senator was having trouble finding an insurance company that would give him life insurance. Reynolds went looking on Johnson's behalf, talked to three companies, and finally found that the Manhattan Life Insurance Co. would write the policy. Manhattan issued a first policy of $50,000, and shortly afterward, when it had covered part of its risk through a reinsurance company, issued another policy of $50,000 for Johnson.
Out of Gratitude. In the course of those negotiations, Reynolds said, it was suggested to him by Walter Jenkins, then and now a top Johnson aide, that he buy advertising time on Lady Bird Johnson's radio-TV station in Austin. Reynolds said he bought $1,208 worth of advertising on the station.
"Did you buy this advertising time to advertise your insurance business?" asked Nebraska's Republican Senator Carl T. Curtis.
Reynolds: No, sir.
Curtis: Why did you buy it?
Reynolds: Because it was expected of me, sir.
Curtis: Who conveyed that thought to you?
Reynolds: Mr. Walter Jenkins.
Reynolds testified that in 1959 Bobby Baker suggested that Reynolds might further show his gratitude by giving a stereo phonograph to the Johnson family. Again Reynolds went along. "I supplied Bobby with a catalogue," said Reynolds, "and he said he had taken it out for Mrs. Johnson to make a selection." Reynolds told the committee that he purchased a set and had it installed in Johnson's home at a cost of $588. Did Johnson know, asked West Virginia's Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, that the stereo was a gift from Reynolds? Replied Reynolds: "The invoice delivered to Johnson's home showed that the charges were to be sent to Don Reynolds." It was two years later, said Reynolds, that Johnson purchased another $100,000 in life insurance through him (for a total of $200,000).
In answer to all this, White House Aide Jenkins swore in an affidavit that he had no knowledge "of any arrangement by which Reynolds purchased time on the TV station." Press Secretary Pierre Salinger said that the President had assumed the stereo to be a gift from "a longtime employee," not Reynolds. And President Johnson, in the course of an impromptu press conference, brought up the matter himself. Said he: "The Baker family gave us a stereo set. We used it for a period, and we had exchanged gifts before. He was an employee of the public and had no business pending before me and was asking for nothing, and so far as I know expected nothing in return, any more than I did when I had presented him with gifts." With that, Johnson cut off questions and left the press conference.
A Difference. Republicans, understandably, had a field day with the Reynolds testimony. G.O.P. National Chairman William Miller called the stereo gift "an atrocious thing and a travesty of justice." Said Delaware's Republican Senator John J. Williams: "I see no difference in the acceptance of an expensive stereo and in the acceptance of a mink or vicuna coat, a deep freeze or an Oriental rug."
There was, in fact, a difference. On the basis of the record so far, neither Johnson nor Baker was guilty of using his public office for private gain. In the Reynolds deal, Johnson got what he wanted: some personal life insurance. Reynolds also got what he wanted: his insurance commissions.
Still, the Baker probe was just getting started, and Washington was alive with reports that the names of Bobby Baker and Lyndon Johnson would be even more closely connected.
A witness in the Baker investigation said today he believed that an adverse file on his Air Force career had been physically pulled out of the F.B.I. and turned over to President Johnson.
The assertion was made by Don B. Reynolds, the insurance agent who brought Mr. Johnson's name into the Senate Rules Committee's inquiry into the business affairs of Robert G. Baker, former secretary to the Senate Democratic majority.
A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation denied the statenent. A Justice Department spokesman said the White House had made no request to the Attorney General's office for any such information Mr. Reynolds said he believed "beyond any doubt" that his file had been removed from the F.B.I. and turned over to Mr. Johnson while Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was absent on a recent mission to the Far East.
In a telephone conversation the Silver Spring, Md., insurance man said that, also in Mr. Kennedy's absence, he had been Interviewed by two F. B. I. agents. He said he was convinced the file could not have been taken from the Justice Department had the Attorney General been in Washington.
The F.B.I. is a branch of the Justice Department, which is administered by the Attorney General. The Director of the F.B.I. is J. Edgar Hoover.
Concerning his activities as an Air Force officer and in the Foreign Service, Mr. Reynolds conceded that he had made "some stupid mistakes" in the past. But he said that this should not be allowed to detract from his testimony in the Baker case. He called his testimony "well documented"
Mr. Reynolds, in his published testimony, said he had sold Mr. Johnson $200,000 worth of insurance in 1957 after the then Senate Democratic leader had suffered a heart attack.
Then, he testified, at Mr. Baker's behest, he sent Mr. Johnson a gift of a $542 stereo' hi-fi set and bought advertising time on an Austin television station controlled by the John son family.
The Defense Department refused comment today on whether the Air Force had originated a memorandum containing derogatory information on a witness in the investigation of Robert G. Baker.
The memorandum, purportedly signed by Benjamin W. Fridge, special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force in charge of manpower and personnel, was circulated confidentially week by Drew Pearson, the newspaper columnist.
The memorandum went to editors of newspapers carrying his column. The columns published Feb. 5 and 6 contained disparaging statements about Don B. Reynolds, a principal witness before the Senate Rules Committee.
Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said today that he had no comment on whether such a memorandum existed.
Yesterday, Mr. Sylvester's assistant, Nils Lennartson, did not deny the existence of the memoranduumm. But he said that the Air Force Secretary, Eugene M. Zuckert. had not requested that such a memorandum be prepared.
Linked to White House Mr. Fridge could not be reached for comment today. Secretary Zuckert was out of the city and aides in his office would not discuss the incident.
The Pearson column has been linked with an effort by persons within the White House to discredit Mr. Reynolds's testimony concerning the gift of a stereophonic phonograph to President Johnson when he was the Senate Democratic leader.
In transmitting his Feb. 5 column to subscribers last week, Mr. Pearson appended the following "confidential note to editors."
"For your information and because of possible concern over libel in columns on Don B. Reynolds, I am giving for your private information a copy of an Air Force report on Reynolds's background. Information contained in columns is from various sources, though the following is a fairly good summary."
There then followed wnat purported to be a memorandum from Mr. Fridge. It set out in considerable detail adverse information about Mr. Reynolds while he was in the Air Force from 1941 to approximately 1953. The material was generally similar to what appeared in the two Pearson columns.
Information of this nature from Government personnel files ordinarily carries a high security rating. The chairman of the Rules Committee, Senator B. Everett Jordan, Democrat of North Carolina. complained last week that the committee had not had access to any official data on Mr. Reynolds's background before summoning him for questioning.
Revelations that persons in or close to the White House had had a hand in making available such information to impugn Mr. Reynolds's testimony has caused sharp criticism from Republican members of Congress and from some segmments of the press.
The White House press secretary. Pierre Salinger. has denied that anyone in the White House took part in making available the information about Mr. Reynolds.
The Senate committee is investigating the business activities of present and former employes of the Senate. Mr. Baker, who last fall resigned as the $19,600-a-year secretary to the Senate Democratic majority, has been the inquiry's target so far.
Mr. Reynolds testified that he had paid $542 for a stereophonic phonograph that Mr. Baker gave to Mr. Johnson. He also said that he had been persuaded by an aide to Mr. Johnson to buy advertising time on a Johnson family television station after selling insurance on Mr. Johnson's life.
The Senate Rules Committee will open the second stage of its Robert G. Baker investigation tomorrow with Don B. Reynolds as the lead-off witness.
Mr. Reynolds, a Maryland insurance man and one-time business associate of Mr. Baker, supplied the information on which the reopening of the inquiry was ordered by the Senate late in September.
He charged that Mr. Baker had received a $25,000 contribution for the 1960 Democratic Presidential campaign from Matthew H. McCloskey, builder of the $20 million D. C. Stadium in Washington, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser.
The contribution, he said, was in the form of an overpayment by the McCloskey concern for a premium on a performance bond for the stadium that Mr. Reynolds's company had written. Mr. Reynolds said he had turned the money over to Mr. Baker on Mr. McCloskey's instructions.
But the prospect that the new phase of the inquiry would go beyond the stadium charges was indicated strongly today. There is a possibility that it may delve into rumors that were widespread last winter that party girls were used in furtherance of efforts to influence the award of Government contracts. The committee stayed away from this aspect of the case last time.
After its initial investigation into the outside business activities of Mr. Baker while he was secretary to the Senate's Democratic majority, the Rules Committee issued a report last summer criticizing him for "gross improprieties." Mr. Baker resigned the Senate post last year after his wide business activities became known.
In a news conference today, the committee counsel, Lennox P. McLendon, released the names of more than 20 persons whom the committee plans to question.
Among them was that of Paul Aguerre, a Puerto Rican businessman with whom Mr. Baker is said to have been associated in one or more real estate ventures, and several officials of the Federal Housing Administration.
Another witness to be called is Harry Barr, identified by Mr. McLendon as a New York exporter. Other sources expressed the belief that Mr. Barr would be asked to give testimony on Mr. Baker's connection with a Haitian meat-exporting enterprise.
Don B. Reynolds told the Senate Rules Committee today that he acted as a “bag man” in 1960 in the transfer of an allegedly illegal campaign contribution of $25 000 from Matthew H. McCloskey to Robert G. Baker.
Mr. Reynolds said Mr. Baker had told him that $15,000 of this money was to go to the campaign of John F. Kennedy for President and Lyndon B. Johnson for Vice President. The Maryland insurance man said he had no knowledge of where the money had actually gone.
His testimony was supported by copies of invoices and a canceled check. These indicated that Mr. McCIoskey builder of the §20 million D.C. Stadium had overpaid the premium on his company's performance bond with most of the excess going to Mr. Baker for political purposes.
Mr. Johnson was then the Senate Democratic leader and thus Mr. Baker's superior.
The hearing today was a resumption of an investigation begun more than a year ago into the business affairs of Mr. Baker former secretary of the Senate's Democratic majority. Almost immediately the proceedings were bogged down in partisan dispute among committee members.
Repeatedly Senator Carl T. Curtis of Nebraska the senior Republican on the committee accused the committee cdunsel Lennox P. McLendon of trying to impeach the testimony of Mr. Reynolds rather than trying to extract information from him.
Seated next to Senator Curtis as a guest of the committee was Senator John J. Williams Republican of Delaware who touched off the initial Baker inquiry and has accused the committee of a lack of zeal and courage. At one point he tangled with the chairman Senator B. Everett Jordan Democrat of North Carolina over material in the Reynolds testimony that Senator Williams said he himself had given the committee months ago.
After another exchange ber tween Senator. Williams and Mr. McLendon Senator Curtis turned to the counsel and said angrily:
“You have called Senators down when they are asking questions and I resent it. And I resent the sandbagging of a colleague.”
Mr. Reynolds a husky sixfooter with gray hair and a pronounced Southern accent is an insurance broker in nearby Silver Spring Md. Mr. Baker was briefly associated with him in business three or four years ago.
Mr. Reynolds said that the entire purpose of his serving as “bag man” between Mr. McCloskey and Mr. Baker was to divert money from the stadium project into political channels. The Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for a corporation to make political contributions. It also imposes a limit of $5,000 on the contribution of an individual.
The witness said that he first became interested in the D. C. Stadium contract in the spring of 1959. He said that Mr. Baker invited him to have breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel with a small group that included former President Harry S. Truman and Mr. McCloskey.
Mr. McCloskey who later became Ambassador to Ireland was at that time treasurer of the Democratic National Committee.
At the end of the breakfast Mr. Reynolds said Mr. Baker took him and Mr. McCloskey aside to discuss a bill then pending in Congress to authorize the construction of the stadium. Mr. Baker said that he and William L. McLeod then chief counsel for the House District of Columbia Committee could” -assure passage of the bilk Mr. Reynolds said. The. understanding was that Mr. .McCloskey would get the contract for the stadium and that Mr. Reynolds would write the insurance for the .project he said.
The witness then quoted Mr. Baker as saying to Mr. McCloskey: “The additional funds we have discussed can be channeled.through Don.”
This Mr. Reynolds told the committee related to a proposed overpayment on the insurance contracts that could be used as concealed political contributions.
Mr. Truman was not a party to any of this conversation Mr. Reynolds said.
Subsequently the Witness continued he was awarded only the performance bond in the stadium project. Copies of twoj invoices and a canceled check: covering this transaction were then introduced into the record by the committee.
The first invoice was addressed to Mr. Reynolds from the insurance brokers through whom he had- placed the bond Hutchinson Rivinus & Co. of Philadelphia. This was in the: sum of 573 631.28 and was dated Sept. 13 1960.
The second invoice was from Mr. Reynolds to the McCloskey company dated Sept. 14 and was in the sum of $109 205.60. This invoice was made out for the larger sum the witness said on instructions from Mr. Baker
The third document was a photostat of a canceled check drawn by the McCloskey company to the order of Don Reynolds Associates Inc. dated Oct. 17 1960 for 5109 205.60.
Mr. Reynolas said that at Mr. Baker's suggestion he deposited this check in a savings; and loan company with which he did not usually do business.! From the proceeds he paid the; proper premium on the performance bond to Hutchinson less nis commission of $10 000 Out of the remainder approximately $35 000 he kept S10.000 as “my fee for acting as bag man” and gave the rest to Mr. Baker over a period of time as he called for it in sums of 55 000 always in cash.
Mr. Reynolds said it was his understanding that Mr. Baker and Mr. McCloskey had agreed that $15,000 of this sum was to go to the Kennedy-Johnson campaign fund and that Mr. Baker was to distribute the remaining $10,000 to other Democratic campaign funds as he saw fit.
The public session originally scheduled for this morning was delayed until 2:30 o’clock while the committee was locked in a three-hour debate in an executive session attended both byMr. Reynolds and Senator Williams. The subject under debate was reportedly whether the committee should investigate allegations that party girls had’ been involved in some of Mr. Baker's business activities while he was a Senate employe.
After the closed session the chairman indicated that “the call girl angle” would not be taken up for the present. He did not rule out the possibility that it might come up later.
At one point when Senator Curtis accused. Mr. McLendon of trying to discredit Mr. “Reynold's testimony the counsel replied “I’m after the truth.”
Mr. Reynolds produced a Bible and opened it saying “I refer the committee to read the 32d verse of St. John and stop using semantics to misinterpret what I say.”
He said later that he had referred to John 8:32 which says: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
Mr. McCloskey and members of his company will be called later this week to give their side of the story. The contractor previously denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
Last Dec. 1, in closed hearings held by the Senate Rules Committee investigating the Bobby Baker case, Maryland Insurance Agent Don B. Reynolds leveled a barrage of charges against Democrats in high office, testified to parties where "beauties and whisky and money flowed freely." Only last week was the substance of Reynolds' testimony made public - along with the release of a 30-page document rebutting Reynolds' charges, one by one, which the Rules Committee chairman, North Carolina's Democratic Senator B. Everett Jordan, pretentiously called "the FBI report."
Among the charges and rebuttals:
* Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that "the leader" - meaning then Vice President Lyndon Johnson - had "interceded" to make sure that the controversial $10 billion TFX fighter-bomber contract was awarded to General Dynamics Corp. The so-called FBI report quoted Defense Secretary Robert McNamara as saying that any claim of official pressure brought to bear about the TFX contract was "definitely and categorically" wrong.
* Reynolds said that a Grumman Aircraft official, anxious to land a fat TFX subcontract, visited Baker's Capitol office, left behind a bulging blue flight bag containing $100,000 in "hundred dollar bills that were bound in brown paper or some sort of thing." The report quoted the Grumman official as saying that he had never been in Baker's office and had never paid Bobby so much as a penny "for any purpose whatsoever."
* Reynolds said that in 1949 Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, then a Democratic Representative, while on a European junket used counterpart funds - local funds accumulated by the U.S. abroad and often used to meet official Government expenses - to buy "many articles," including a statue called Dawn. The report quoted Mansfield as saying that if he had indeed spent counterpart funds, it was only for such legitimate expenses as hotel bills, and that his wife had bought the controversial statue with $110 of "her own personal funds."
* Reynolds said that in 1961 Vice President Johnson, while in Hong Kong, spent 150,000 Hong Kong dollars in counterpart funds "in a period of 14 hours in buying personal gifts for people." The report says that at the time Johnson was there, the counterpart fund was down to 37,642 Hong Kong dollars.
The Rules Committee's six-man Democratic majority promptly seized upon the report to try to bring an end to the Baker investigation. "I think it's over," said Chairman Jordan, explaining that the report "makes it obvious beyond a doubt that the testimony of Don B. Reynolds is unworthy of belief."
But did it? In fact, the report was not written by the FBI at all, but rather by a team of Justice Department functionaries who boiled down hundreds of pages of raw FBI interviews. Unlike Reynolds, none of the persons interviewed by the FBI were under oath. The only part of Reynolds' testimony that has at any time been tested by a sworn statement from an adversary witness turned out to be true: that was Reynolds' claim that he had purchased advertising time on a Johnson-owned Austin TV station in return for selling insurance on Johnson's life. The claim was recently corroborated in substance by former White House Aide Walter Jenkins.
In connection with the 1973 hearings held by the Senate Watergate Committee, John Dean, on June 27, 1973, testified and identified certain documents which he previously had furnished to the Committee. Among those documents were items referred to during the testimony as the "Sullivan memoranda", apparently authored by William C. Sullivan, former Assistant to the Director, who retired on October 21, 1971…
The third document is headed "President Johnson and the FBI," is marked "Top Secret", and consists of three pages. It cites ten alleged incidents of misuse of the FBI by President Johnson as follows: (1) Re: Mrs. Claire Chennault and the Embassy of South Vietnam; (2) Ref: Democratic National Convention Atlantic City, 1964; (3) Re: Don Reynolds (a personality in the Bobby Baker case); (4) Re: Democratic Convention 1968; (5) Re: Walter W. Jenkins; (6) Re: Walter W. Jenkins; (7) Re: Mrs. Claire Chennault and the Embassy of South Vietnam; (8) Re: Senator Barry Goldwater; (9) Re: George Reedy; (10) Re: Walter W. Jenkins.