Jeb Stuart Magruder (born November 5, 1934, New York City) was the second official in the administration of President Richard Nixon (the first was Fred LaRue) to plead guilty to charges of involvement in events leading to the Watergate first break-in and the subsequent Watergate scandal.
In April 1973, Magruder began cooperating with federal prosecutors. In exchange, Magruder was allowed to plead guilty in August 1973 to a one-count indictment of conspiracy to obstruct justice, defraud the United States, and eavesdrop on the Democratic Party's national headquarters. On May 21, 1974, Magruder was sentenced by Judge John Sirica to four months to ten years for his role in the failed Watergate burglary and subsequent coverup; he served seven months of the sentence in a prison near Allenwood, Pennsylvania. After his sentencing, Magruder said, "I am confident that this country will survive its Watergates and its Jeb Magruders."
Magruder was the only direct participant in the scandal to claim that President Nixon had specific foreknowledge of the Watergate break-in, and that Nixon actually directed Mitchell to proceed with the break-in, which was organized by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt. Magruder originally testified that he knew of nothing to indicate that President Nixon had any foreknowledge of the Watergate break-in. He also wrote in his 1974 book "An American Life: One Man's Road to Watergate ", "I know nothing to indicate that Nixon was aware in advance of the plan to break into the Democratic headquarters. It is possible that Mitchell or Haldeman told him in advance, but I think it's likelier that they would not have mentioned it unless the operation had produced some results of interest to him." Magruder's story concerning the famous meeting in Key Biscayne, Florida with John Mitchell and Fred LaRue has also changed many times. In addition, Magruder testified that he thought that he was helping establish what he perceived to be a legal intelligence-gathering operation. In May 1983, President Ronald Reagan refused a request from Magruder for a pardon.
A former marketing executive, Magruder was 34 years old when he joined the White House staff. He was educated at Williams College, where he received his Bachelor of Arts and the University of Chicago, where he picked up a Master of Business Administration degree. Magruder also served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Korea. After the Watergate scandal, he left politics and business, earned a Masters Degree in Divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1981, and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He served as associate minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Burlingame, California and First Community Church of Columbus, Ohio (where for a period of time Magruder chaired that city's Commission on Ethics and Values), and in 1990 became senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Lexington, Kentucky. In 1995, Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones reinstated Magruder's right to run for public office in the state.
In 1974, Magruder wrote a book about his involvement in the Watergate scandal called An American Life: One Man's Road to Watergate. He also wrote "From Power to Peace" in 1976, about the reaffirmation of his Christian faith after the scandal.
In 2003, Magruder asserted in a PBS documentary called Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History, and in an interview with the Associated Press, that Nixon knew about the Watergate burglary from the beginning. These new statements were in direct contradiction to Magruder's prior statements that the cover-up had gone no higher than Mitchell. Magruder said in the 2003 interviews that he attended a meeting with Mitchell on March 30, 1972, at which he heard Nixon tell Mitchell over the phone to go ahead with the Watergate plan. This account, however, has been contested by one source who disputed Magruder's claim, Fred LaRue. LaRue, who was the only other person present at the same meeting in which the alleged phone call from Nixon to Mitchell occurred, claimed no call from Nixon to Mitchell ever took place during this meeting. Magruder originally stated that the only phone call from the White House during this meeting came from H.R. Haldeman's aid, Gordon Stachan. Sixteen years later, on August 7, 1990, Magruder changed his story and claimed that the phone call from the White House came from H.R. Haldeman himself. In 2003 Magruder changed his story once again to now claim the President Nixon had phoned Mitchell at the Key Biscayne meeting.
Magruder has had two run-ins with the law in recent years. He was arrested in 2003 for disorderly conduct in Grandview Heights, Ohio, and was arrested for drunken driving (later reduced to a charge of reckless operation) in Fayette County in 2005. On 23 July 2007, he was hospitalized after crashing his Audi A4 into a motorcycle and a truck on State Route 315 in Columbus.. It was later reported that Magruder suffered a stroke while driving. He was charged with failure to maintain an assured clear distance and failure to stop after an accident or collision. Magruder pleaded guilty in January 2008 to a charge of reckless operation stemming from crashes with two vehicles in July. His license was suspended and he was fined $300.