Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 48

WORTH READING

NEW MEMOIR OF THE WATERGATE SAGA
Review by Kathleen Troy	

Henry Holt and Co.

story, writes the history" may have been one
motivation in writing her long-delayed side of
the story. But it could have been that the pioneering prosecutor, high-profile lawyer,
business executive, and, most recently, MSNBC
legal analyst on the Trump impeachment story
has returned to her journalistic roots and discovered a rare career renaissance moment.
Subtitled "My Fight for Truth and Justice
Against a Criminal President," The Watergate Girl
positions itself as an account of Wine-Banks'
prosecutorial role in bringing down one president and leverages her voice in advocating for
bringing down another.

N

early 50 years ago, the
Watergate scandal dominated
national headlines. Only
months ahead of the 1972 presidential election, police caught
burglars in the act of bugging
phones at the Democratic National
Committee headquarters in the
D.C. Watergate complex. The
ensuing investigations into the
break-in operation implicated top
Nixon administration officials, and
the discovery of secret Oval Office
tapes revealed the president, in his
own profanity-laced conversations,
to have been involved in the subsequent cover-up.
A new retrospective, The Watergate Girl by Jill
Wine-Banks, the lone female assistant special
prosecutor who worked on the investigation,
relives the drama of Watergate and reestablishes its enduring relevance. "Whoever tells the

48 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

JULY/AUGUST 2020

The Watergate Girl is, first and foremost, a
personal memoir. The book is not cast as a
missing historical piece of the Watergate
puzzle. Instead, it is the revealing story of the
author's life as a successful lawyer who had
a front-row seat at a historic moment in
American history, and who was an early
survivor of an era when calling a woman professional "girl" was deemed a compliment and
lawyers wearing miniskirts made national news.
The book opens with a tense courtroom scene
in November 1973 during the author's crossexamination of Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary, about the still-unexplained 18-minute
gap in the Oval Office recordings. The narrative
quickly lays the groundwork for the book's
recurring themes: Wine-Banks' mastery of the
legal craft, her intuition and insights into key
Watergate figures, her constant battles to be
taken seriously despite her youth and gender,
and her unhappy early marriage. Like a skillful
candidate at a job interview, she attributes the
same personal qualities that drove her success
in court - "a fierce sense of obligation, a willingness to ignore all roadblocks, and a refusal
to give up" - to her failure to resolve problems
in her personal life.
The story then rewinds to May 1973, when
Wine-Banks was hired at age 30 as an assistant
special prosecutor, highlighting her early journalistic career aspirations and Democratic
activism. In later chapters, she skillfully resurrects behind-the-scenes camaraderie at the
prosecutor's office. They were a youthful, idealistic band of attorneys who worked 16-hour

days sifting through evidence, questioning
witnesses, fashioning prosecutorial strategies,
and wrangling with White House lawyers over
the Nixon tapes. She reveals inside stories,
some secondhand, that sketch key figures as
both exceptional lawyers and ordinary people.
Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was
fired in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre,
treated her fairly and respectfully, Wine-Banks
writes, and his replacement, Leon Jaworski,
"deserved more respect than we gave him."
Wine-Banks also details her perceptions of
Watergate witnesses she interviewed, including
Woods, former White House counsel John
Dean, and Jeb Magruder, Nixon's 38-year-old
communications aide and deputy campaign
director. Looking back, her opinion of some
Watergate actors, especially Dean and Woods,
has softened. She now sees Woods as a professional in her own right whom Nixon and his
legal team "threw under the bus" when they
cut her loose to engage her own lawyer and
explain the infamous 18-minute recording
gap. However, Wine-Banks has no mercy, even
in retrospect, for Magruder. To her, he is an
incorrigible liar who "came from a long line
of criminals," stretching back to 1651, when
his ancestors immigrated. She later retells a
story of Magruder's tearful breakdown after
spending a sleepless night in the D.C. jail,
saying she abhorred not only his lying, but
also his emotional weakness.
Despite its intrigue, the book has its shortcomings. The author admits to personal misjudgments but appears to be unforgiving of others'
lapses. For example, she quips lightly about
one incident in which she and her lover
narrowly escaped detection by her husband:
"When it came to covering up my misdeeds, I
had better luck than Nixon." The book's breezy
style also occasionally slips into silly statements:
"That Halloween, though, the treats did not
protect us from Nixon's tricks." And improbable
details are disguised as scene-setting devices:
"The yellow nautical knots pattern on
Petersen's ship-themed blue tie struck me as a
fitting symbol for the tangled mess we were
in." These may be unforgettable eyewitness
continued on page 50



Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Election Coverage
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Staying Afloat feature
Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Annual Report
Taking the Stand
The Learning Curve
On Further Review
Member Spotlight -
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Women's Suffrage special section
Speaking of Ethics
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Election Coverage
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 10
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Staying Afloat feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 26
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Annual Report
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 38
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 40
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Member Spotlight -
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Women's Suffrage special section
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover4
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