Richard Nixon was a criminal even before he spent a day as president, new evidence uncovered by historian Jack Farrell suggests. Farrell says notes uncovered in the Republican's presidential library confirm rumors that during his presidential run in 1968, Nixon tried to sabotage Vietnam peace talks that could have given his rival, Democratic vice president Hubert Humphrey, a boost. In the notes, top Nixon aide HR Haldeman records that Nixon told him to put a "monkey wrench" in President Lyndon Johnson's peace plans. "There's really no doubt this was a step beyond the normal political jockeying, to interfere in an active peace negotiation given the stakes with all the lives," Farrell tells the New York Times. "Potentially, this is worse than anything he did in Watergate."
South Vietnam walked away from the bargaining table the day before the election, and there were rumors that Nixon had violated federal law by sending the message through aide Anna Chennault that he would give them a better deal as president, the Smithsonian reports. Other Nixon historians say Farrell's discovery amid the Haldeman papers is a breakthrough. Former LBJ aide Tom Johnson tells the Times that the president considered Nixon's actions treasonous, but didn't make them public because there was no proof of a direct link to Nixon. "Disclosure of the Nixon-sanctioned actions by Mrs. Chennault would have been so explosive and damaging to the Nixon 1968 campaign that Hubert Humphrey would have been elected president," he says. Some analysts, though, believe the peace talks were doomed with or without Nixon's sabotage.