With the FBI’s report on Kennedy’s assassination, the Commission undertook to select staffers and figure out how to approach its work.
Chief Justice Warren complained about the leaks of the FBI report: ”I have read that report two or three times and I have not seen anything in there that has not been in the press.”
The Commissioners then held a wide-ranging discussion that touched upon:
–the medical evidence. (John J. McCloy: “This bullet business leaves me confused”);
–Marina Oswald and whether she might flee to Mexico,
–the ease of Oswald getting a wife out of the Soviet Union and obtaining a passport in New Orleans,
–Jack Ruby: (Hale Boggs: “One of the keys to this whole thing is Ruby.”)
Senator Richard Russell summed things up thusly: “There’s nothing absolutely normal about any phase of it.”
On this day in 1963, the Warren Commission had its first meeting behind closed doors in Washington. As the seven commissioners began to discuss how to proceed, they grappled with the question of whether they should endorse the FBI’s upcoming report on JFK’s murder, or conduct their own investigation. After some discussion, they chose the latter.
The public was demanding explanation of the incredible and baffling events of Nov. 22-24. The FBI’s findings were already being leaked to the press; Asst. Attorney General Katzenbach said the FBI had denied leaking but “I can’t think of anybody else it could have come from.”
Once President Johnson decided to back the idea of a Presidential Commission, he moved swiftly. By Friday, November 29, his selections had solidified, reluctant participants arm-wrestled into service, and the Commission was announced. It was to be headed by the most reluctant participant of all, Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, and the story of how Johnson got him on board is revealing.
First, the names had to be run by the all-powerful FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Johnson was coy, asking if Hoover was “familiar with this proposed group they’re trying to put together?”