As of January 20, 1964, the Warren Commission had yet to hear from its first witness. On that day, the head of the Commission, Chief Justice Earl Warren, held his first staff conference with the recently hired lawyers, some of whom would later go on to become prominent political figures. (Arlen Specter became a US senator, and William Coleman became Secretary of Transportation, for example.)
In the meeting, Warren explained why he took the job after declining it. According to one memo of the meeting, Warren said:
“The President stated that rumors of the most exaggerated kind were circulating in this country and overseas. Some rumors went as far as attributing the assassination to a faction within the Government wishing to see the Presidency assumed by President Johnson. Others, if not quenched, could conceivably lead the country into a war which could cost 40 million lives.”
Explaining the role of the Commission, Warren
“placed emphasis on the importance of quenching rumors, and precluding further speculation such as that which has surrounded the death of Lincoln. He emphasized that the Commission had to determine the truth, whatever that might be.”
Thus the central contradiction of the Commission was laid out before the staff began its work: quench “rumors” that could lead to war, and determine the truth, whatever that might be.
If Oswald was indeed the lone assassin, these goals would be compatible. If not, which would override the other?