Thompson cooperated with White House during Watergate

WASHINGTON (AP) - An Associated Press review of taped conversations from the Nixon White House gives a behind-the-scenes look at Fred Thompson's role during Watergate.

When the former Senator from Tennessee was appointed minority counsel for the hearings, President Nixon was disappointed and considered him not very bright.

But Nixon grew to like him better as he worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from the president's lawyer.

During the trial, Thompson became famous for asking former White House aide Alexander Butterfield whether he was aware of listening devices in the Oval Office.

Butterfield's confirmation set off events that led to Nixon's resignation 13 months later. The question made Thompson appear a nonpartisan truth seeker.

What rarely is mentioned is that Thompson knew the answer to the question before he asked it.

Investigators for the committee had gotten the information three days earlier.

And Thompson had called Nixon's lawyer to tip off the White House.

In a book he wrote about his participation in Watergate, Thompson described himself as a Nixon administration loyalist who struggled with his role as minority counsel.

He wrote that he tried to -- quote -- "walk a fine line between a good-faith pursuit of the investigation and a good-faith attempt to insure balance and fairness."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)