Lee Pressman (II)

Excerpts from Lee Pressman‘s testimony (II)

The following are extensive excerpts from Lee Pressman’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee on August 28, 1950. Conducting the questioning are John S. Wood (chairman); committee members John McSweeney, Richard M. Nixon, Morgan M. Moulder and Francis Case; Francis E. Walter, Burr P. Harrison; and staff counsel Frank S. Tavenner.

Mr. TAVENNER. Will you state your full name?

Mr. PRESSMAN. My name is Lee Pressman.

Mr. TAVENNER. Mr. Pressman, the record of Proceedings of this committee shows that you appeared before it on August 20, 1948, and at that time you refused, on constitutional grounds, to answer certain questions relating to your alleged affiliation with the Communist Party. The Committee on Un-American Activities has learned, through the public press, that when you recently resigned from the American Labor Party, you issued a statement to the effect that you were doing so because of the Communist control of that organization. The committee has consistently endeavored to give an opportunity to witnesses who have appeared before it to repudiate their Communist affiliations or associations. A full disclosure of your knowledge of Communist Party activities would perform a great public service, especially at this time, when acts of military aggression are being committed by the forces of international communism. It would also be evidence that the break with your alleged Communist association has been full and complete, and that your action was taken in good faith.

The committee will not be satisfied with a mere perfunctory repudiation of the Communist Party, nor, it is suggested, will the American public. The committee desires to know if you are willing to cooperate with it, in its effort to expose Communist activities, by answering such questions as will be propounded to you with regard to Communist activities during the course of this hearing.

Mr. PRESSMAN. Mr. Chairman, I ask at this time for the opportunity of making a brief statement to the committee.

Mr. WOOD. Mr. Pressman, you will be accorded the privilege of making whatever statement you desire, but you have just been asked a direct question, and we would like to have a direct answer to that question.

Mr. PRESSMAN. May I suggest the question was rather lengthy.

Mr. WOOD. The latter part was direct.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I believe my statement, which will be very brief, will answer the question, as well as indicate precisely what my position will be before the committee today.

Mr. WOOD. Then will you be prepared to answer questions asked you?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. WOOD. Proceed.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I understand, Mr. Chairman, there is a desire that I further clarify the position which I took in my recent letter resigning from the American Labor Party. This I desire to do, as well as take this opportunity to expose many distortions which have been circulated regarding my past activities. There has been considerable speculation regarding my past activities. I propose at this moment to set forth a few very simple facts.

In the early 1930s, Mr. Chairman, as you may well recall, as well as other members of this committee, there was a very severe Depression in our country. The future looked black for my generation just emerging from school. At the same time, the growing spectre of Nazism in Germany presented to my mind an equally grave threat.

In my desire to see the destruction of Hitlerism and an improvement in economic conditions here at home, I joined a Communist group in Washington, D. C., about 1934. My participation in such group extended for about a year, to the best of my recollection. I recall that about the latter part of 1935 – the precise date I cannot recall, but it is a matter of public record – I left the Government service and left Washington to reenter the private practice of law in New York City. And at that time I discontinued any further participation in the group from that date until the present.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I state the following at this time:

There were three other persons in that group in addition to myself. They were all at the time with me in the Department of Agriculture. They have all been named before this committee by others.

I state to you that I am prepared, as I will indicate, to answer any and all questions regarding my activities in the past up to the present, and possibly project my viewpoint into the future. It would be offensive to me, as it would be to practically all people, to have to name individuals with whom I have associated in the past.

What I have stated to you would indicate that I offer no additional information that this committee does not already have. However, that is a decision which this committee will have to make, in propounding its questions to me and the directives you issue to me.

Bear in mind, sir, there may be others like myself who, out of deep convictions, will change their beliefs. If this committee assumes the position that those who do change their convictions and beliefs, as I have, must also be compelled to take what I submit would be an offensive – offensive to one’s own personal self – position, that might well be discouraging to other people to do what I have done. But, I repeat, that is a decision which this committee will have to make.

Now, I believe it of interest to comment that I have no knowledge regarding the political beliefs or affiliations of Alger Hiss. And when I say I have no knowledge, I am not endeavoring to quibble with this committee. I appear here, as I necessarily must, as a lawyer. I am a lawyer. When one asks me for knowledge, knowledge to my mind is based on fact, and I have no facts. And bear in mind, sir, that as an attorney, to be asked to comment on a case now pending in court is a very unusual experience for an attorney, because anything I say undoubtedly may have an impact one way or another on that case, and for that reason I am trying to be very, very precise. I do know, I can state as a matter of knowledge, that for the period of my participation in that group, which is the only basis on which I can say I have knowledge, Alger Hiss was not a member of the group.

Now, those two statements of mine are based on knowledge, which embraces facts within my possession. I do not believe that this committee would want me to hazard conjectural surmise. That is not my function. You want from me, I assume, facts and nothing but facts.

Now, there has been a great deal of unfortunate distortion, regarding my name, as it arose in the course of previous testimony before this committee by a man named Chambers. I desire to call attention to the fact that on a previous appearance by me before this committee, at which I believe Congressman Nixon was the chairman of the subcommittee, we were then in executive session, but it was a matter of record, there was a colloquy between Mr. Stripling, the counsel of the committee, and myself. At page 1,023 of the record of proceedings of August 18, 1948, there appears this colloquy, and I take this opportunity to repeat this, because up to [this] date, even though I have brought this colloquy to the attention of many representatives of the press, no one has seen fit to date to print it until this morning. The colloquy is as follows. Mr. Pressman asked this question I now quote: “Has there been any charge” –

Mr. WOOD. You say “Mr. Pressman” asked that question?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is myself. I asked the question:

Has there been any charge made by any witness, that has appeared before this committee, that I have participated in any espionage activity while an employee of the Federal Government or thereafter?

End of question.

Mr. Stripling answered as follows, I now quote: “No, there has not been.” End of quote.

And I point out that that colloquy occurred after Mr. Chambers had testified and had mentioned my name in the course of his testimony.

To continue on my background, I will be very brief, Mr. Chairman.

In 1936 I was appointed general counsel of the CIO. Actually, I might say, being more specific, I was named in June 1936 as general counsel for the Steelworkers Organizing Committee. The CIO did not actually begin to function until 1937. At that time I was in the private practice of law in New York City, and continued [as] such until about 1938, to the best of my recollection, when I returned to Washington, D.C., acting as full-time attorney for the CIO and the Steelworkers Organizing Committee, which by that time might well have become the United Steelworkers of America. In 1948 I resigned, for reasons which I then publicly stated.

What I will say might be an aside and quite irrelevant, but I believe quite important, because, contrary to the facts which will be developed in the course of this proceeding, I hope, there has been the wildest kind of distortion regarding my activities and my views in the past.

For example, completely contrary to fact, statements now appear in the press that I was forced to resign from the CIO because of my views. Actually, that action taken then was of my own accord. Contrary to what many newspaper reporters may say, I can prove my assertion, because at that time I was given a letter by the president of the CIO, expressing his appreciation for the contribution which I had made to the CIO while I had been employed in the capacity of general counsel of that organization. And even more important, after my resignation, I was requested by the CIO and Mr. Murray to appear in their behalf as their counsel in connection with their indictments under the infamous Taft-Hartley Act.

I say those two facts certainly attest to the correctness of my assertion that when I resigned it was a matter of my own accord, for the reasons which I stated then publicly. All I can say is that my contribution to organized labor from the year 1938 until 1948, when I acted for the CIO, is a matter of public record on which I do not at this moment intend to comment.

Now, I think it would be in order, Mr. Chairman, for me again to make one or two brief observations regarding present conditions which have had a bearing on the position which I have taken.

A grave crisis confronts our nation and all humanity today. The warfare raging in Korea threatens to unleash a world conflict which would destroy our civilization. All my life I have opposed aggression. I therefore denounce the fighting initiated by the North Korean forces in South Korea. The Communist Party and its forces in the labor movement, as they have expressed themselves publicly, are the supporters and apologists for an aggressive war. I vigorously oppose this position. I desire to support the United Nations and my country. It is my fervent hope that the United Nations can devise immediate steps which can bring about a quick end to the present bloodshed and assure world peace.

The onrushing frightful conflict between ideological forces today threatens our destruction. We find the resurgence of Nazism, assisted by the release of die-hard Nazis who were convicted of the most horrible crimes. We are confronted by the driving aggressive Communist attack. Our survival must be based upon the people’s understanding of the true meaning and worth of American democracy and their determination to fight for its preservation and full enjoyment.

Each individual, Mr. Chairman, must constantly peer into his own conscience to evaluate his convictions upon which to base his faith and creed. The position that I have taken today was not taken hurriedly. It was taken after careful and due consideration and deliberation. The position I have assumed today, Mr. Chairman, stems from very profound convictions. There may be questions in people’s minds regarding the position I have taken. I can only say that I state, as a matter of fact, that the position I have assumed stems from a profound sincerity on my part.

I deeply appreciate that within our democratic way of life, when past beliefs prove false, when a human being finds that he has made mistakes, there is the opportunity for change and to contribute in whatever way possible toward the dignity and well-being of man and the preservation of peace for all humanity.

Those are my observations, which express my knowledge of my activities of the past and my present viewpoint. If you have questions of me, Mr. Chairman, I shall endeavor the best I can to answer the questions.

Mr. WOOD. Before members of the committee are given an opportunity to ask questions, Mr. Counsel, do you have questions to ask?

Mr. TAVENNER. Yes, sir. Mr. Pressman, what is your present address?

Mr. PRESSMAN. 225 Broadway, New York City

Mr. TAVENNER. That is your residential address?

Mr. PRESSMAN. My office address.

Mr. TAVENNER. What is your residential address?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Is there need for that, Mr. Chairman, to be in the record?


Mr. TAVENNER. You have furnished the committee with a statement of your employment since 1936 when you were appointed as general counsel for the CIO, but will you go back and give us a statement of your record of employment prior to that time, both in and out of Government?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I graduated from Harvard Law School in June 1929. I believe it was September 1929 when I was employed at a law firm in New York City. My recollection is that I was with the law firm from 1929 until sometime the latter part of 1932 or early part of 1933, when I became a partner in another law firm.

Sometime in the spring of 1933, I was called down to Washington by Mr. Jerome Frank, who was then general counsel of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, and asked whether I would accept employment with the Administration as an assistant general counsel.

At this point, Mr. Chairman, I would like to take the opportunity, as I will through the course of these proceedings, to lay low, I hope once and for all, many distortions of truth. It has been asserted time and again by some people that I was responsible, for example, for getting Alger Hiss a job in Triple A. I state as a fact, and the public records will bear me out, that when I came to Washington to become employed in the Triple A, at that time Alger Hiss was already working with Jerome Frank as his assistant in the Triple A. I had nothing whatsoever – and when I say nothing whatsoever I mean precisely that – nothing whatsoever to do with the employment of Alger Hiss in the Triple A.


Mr. PRESSMAN. I was asked to join [the Communist Party] by a man named Harold Ware. For the reasons which I have already indicated, I assented, and I joined with the group which had, in addition to myself, three other persons, all of whom at that time were in the Department of Agriculture.

Mr. WOOD. Are any of them in the Department of Agriculture now?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No, Mr. Chairman, and the three who were then in the Department of Agriculture have been named before this committee time and time again.

Mr. TAVENNER. At the time that you were recruited into the party by Ware, were you assigned to any branch or section or cell of the Communist Party?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I was assigned merely to this specific group.

Mr. TAVENNER. What was the name of this group?

Mr. PRESSMAN. We had no name. We were just a group of individuals.

Mr. TAVENNER. You say there were only four members of that group?

Mr. PRESSMAN. During the period of my participation, there were only four members of the group.


Mr. CASE. You said Harold Ware recruited you into the Communist Party. Was he an employee of the Department of Agriculture?


Mr. CASE. Was he a member of the group?

Mr. PRESSMAN. We did not consider him a member of the group.

Mr. CASE. But you know he was a Communist?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I assume so. He recruited me into the party.

Mr. WOOD. Any further questions, Mr. Nixon?

Mr. NIXON. …. Just so there will be absolute clarity of the record, as I understand, the records of this committee show that the three members of the group, who were in the Department of Agriculture, were John Abt, Nathan Witt, and Henry Collins?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Henry Collins, to my knowledge, was never an employee of the Department of Agriculture.

Mr. NIXON. Then for that reason you should answer the question.

Mr. PRESSMAN. Your records are wrong.

Mr. NIXON. You yourself said you wanted to clear up distortions about yourself, and I assume other individuals, in the files of this committee. Apparently the files of the committee are wrong in respect to Mr. Collins. Obviously Mr. Abt and Mr. Witt are two of the members of the group. I think you should name the other one. Nathan Witt and John Abt are two. That I am sure of myself. I think Mr. Pressman should clear up who is the third one.

Mr. WOOD. You say the record of this committee, if it includes Collins, is wrong?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I think your own record will show that Mr. Collins was an employee of the National Recovery Administration and not of the Triple A.

Mr. WOOD. I will ask you to name the other employee of the Department of Agriculture who was a member of the group.

Mr. PRESSMAN. The third person among the individuals who have been named as members of this group, who was an employee of the Department of Agriculture when I was in 1934, was Charles Kramer.

Mr. WOOD. Charles who?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Kramer, K-r-a-m-e-r. He was employed by the Department of Agriculture at the time I was.

Mr. WOOD. Any further questions on that point?

Mr. CASE. You say Henry Collins at that time was an employee of another branch of the Government?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Are you stating a fact or asking me a question?

Mr. CASE. I am asking you that question.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I take that from your own record.

Mr. WOOD. Did you know him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I knew him socially.

Mr. WOOD. Did you know him as a member of the Communist Party?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I did not. He was not a member of my group.


Mr. MOULDER. What was the function of or reason for having your group of four?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I think it is advisable to explain that situation, because, again, there has been what I consider to be considerable misunderstanding. Bear with me, I am talking now solely of the period during which I was a member of that group. During that period, what we did was receive literature of a Communist nature, daily newspaper, monthly magazines, books, and things of that nature, Communist literature; we would read the literature and discuss problems covered by the literature.

Mr. MOULDER. As a group?

Mr. PRESSMAN. As a group.

Mr. MOULDER. Did you have regular meetings?

Mr. PRESSMAN. We would meet once a month or twice a month, as the occasion developed, where we would be reading the literature and discussing these problems.

Mr. MOULDER. Would the four of the group be the only ones present?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Those four were usually the only ones present.

Mr. WOOD. You say usually. Were there others present at any time, and if so, who?

Mr. PRESSMAN. This literature, which I have described, would be brought down to Washington and delivered to one of the group.

Mr. WOOD. By whom?

Mr. PRESSMAN. It was not delivered to me during that period. It was delivered to one of the others in the group.

Mr. WOOD. You knew who delivered it?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I just knew that it was an individual. Let me make clear what my position is. My recollection by way of names of people is that on one or two occasions at the most, to my knowledge – let me start again. Harold Ware was the person who stands out distinctly in my memory as the person who delivered the literature to the group, by delivering it to one of the group. I forget the precise date but sometime during that period he was killed in an automobile accident. That date is fairly close to the date that I left Washington. Between the day of his death and the time I left Washington, when I disconnected myself from the group, that literature came down, and I have a hazy recollection – and I cannot state this as an affirmative fact – that one person, on one such occasion, who may have brought the literature down and may have sat in with the group was this man named Peters.

Mr. WOOD. Do you know his first name?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No. I just knew him as a man named Peters.

Mr. TAVENNER. Is that a photograph of the man whom you knew as Peters?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.


Mr. NIXON. When did you first meet Peters?

Mr. PRESSMAN. My recollection is that it was once, and possibly twice. I would say definitely once. I can’t remember the second occasion.

Mr. NIXON. You say once and possibly twice?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct, which followed the death of Harold Ware.

Mr. NIXON. As I understand your testimony, you met Peters definitely on one occasion?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. And possibly on two occasions?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. Where did you meet him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I do not remember. I recall I met him with the group.

Mr. NIXON. Have you ever met Peters since you broke with the Communist Party?

Mr. PRESSMAN. In later years I may have met him socially, because as I recall his wife was secretary for some union, and I may have seen him on social occasions, but I had no organizational relationship with him.


Mr. TAVENNER. Where were those meetings held?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Usually at our respective homes; sometimes at someplace other than our respective homes; maybe once or twice elsewhere. The incident would not stand out in my recollection particularly.

Mr. TAVENNER. To whom did you pay your Communist Party dues?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Usually the person who came and delivered our literature would accept our dues.

Mr. TAVENNER. Did you pay dues only twice during that year?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No. Harold Ware would come down more frequently, obviously.

Mr. TAVENNER. Then who were the persons to whom you paid your Communist Party dues?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I have just stated, Harold Ware, and Peters on the occasion he came down.

Mr. TAVENNER. Where there any others?



Mr. TAVENNER. Who were the officials of this group or cell to which you belonged?

Mr. PRESSMAN. We had no officials. It was just a group.

Mr. TAVENNER. Was there not a leader of that group, or someone in charge?

Mr. PRESSMAN. There was absolutely no leader. We were a group. However, it may make a much more colorful story for me to talk about leaders, but giving you facts, this is precisely what occurred; we were a group. If there was a task to perform, one individual would be assigned to that task, such as receiving literature. If there were dues to be collected, an individual would be assigned to the task of collecting dues. It would be left to the discretion of an individual to call the next meeting and arrange whether it would be at my home or at the home of another member. That is the way it worked out during the period I was in the group.

Mr. TAVENNER. You spoke of assignments being given to various ones to do certain jobs. Who made the assignments?


Mr. PRESSMAN. I observe the note of surprise, in the voice of counsel, regarding the functioning of this group, and I take it that appears because of a highly different type of discussion of the operation of the group that may have been furnished here by Mr. Chambers, for example.

I make two points: First, Mr. Chambers, nowhere in the entire record, to my knowledge – I may be wrong about this; I haven’t studied the record as carefully as possibly counsel for the committee has done – to my knowledge Mr. Chambers does not once state that he attended the meetings and met me at any meeting of the group. There was always the inference he knew of us as a group, but not that he met me at the meetings.

Secondly, to show you how inaccuracies can develop, on page 576 of the record of the proceedings of this committee, you will find an exchange between Mr. Chambers and Mr. Hebert. Mr. Chambers I quote first:

After I had been in Washington a while it was very clear that some of the members of these groups were going places in the Government.

And I quote Mr. Hebert:

What year is this?

Mr. Chambers: I would think about 1936. One of them clearly was Alger Hiss, and it was believed that Henry Collins also might go farther. Also was Lee Pressman.

And there is some more comment, and he says they decided to separate some of these people, and so on.

Now, get that. In 1936, as a matter of public record, Lee Pressman was in the City of New York. Chambers has me going high in Government places, and Lee Pressman is in the City of New York, having left Washington and the Government service a year before.

Mr. WOOD. Let us not labor the point, Mr. Pressman. I think your answer was responsive to the question. Any further questions?


Mr. NIXON. What about Donald Hiss?

Mr. PRESSMAN. He was not a member of my group. I have absolutely no information as to his political affiliation.


Mr. NIXON. I think this morning you testified concerning some portion of the testimony of Whittaker Chambers. Do you know Whittaker Chambers?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I am very glad you asked that question, Mr. Nixon, because I would like to answer that very much. I have absolutely no recollection – and I have searched my memory to the best of my ability – of having met Whittaker Chambers in Washington in connection with my participation with the group. I have searched the record to find out whether or not Mr. Whittaker Chambers states anywhere that he met me in connection with that group, and I have not found any such reference. I did find a reference in the record that Mr. Whittaker Chambers – a man of apparently profound knowledge, who could remember in detail occurrences of many years ago – put me in Washington in the Federal Government in 1936 when I was, as a matter of record, in New York City. I do have a recollection of one instance which involves a meeting with Whittaker Chambers, and it is this: If I speak heatedly, Mr. Nixon, it is not in connection with responding to your question.

Mr. NIXON. Mr. Pressman, you need not apologize. Just go ahead.

Mr. PRESSMAN. Sometime in 1936, two gentlemen appeared in my private law office in New York City. One of them I have recognized since, by virtue of pictures that have appeared in the public print, as Whittaker Chambers. He did not appear at that time by that name and, for the life of me, I have been trying to find out what was the name he appeared by, and I can’t remember, nor can I find any record.

He came in with another individual. Whittaker Chambers, by whatever name he appeared at that time, stated that he knew of me through mutual friends, without identifying them, and was bringing to me this second person as a potential client.

Mr. NIXON. You had no difficulty recognizing Mr. Chambers from his picture?

Mr. PRESSMAN. He looked quite different from when I saw him, but I recognized him.

Mr. NIXON. You did not have to see his teeth?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Is that necessary, Mr. Nixon, with me as a witness?

Mr. NIXON. Go ahead.

Mr. PRESSMAN. The second individual, this person who wanted to be my client, showed me credentials that he was a representative of the Spanish Republican Government – this was in 1936 – who wanted to go to Mexico to purchase materials for the Spanish Republican Government. The request was whether I would accompany such individual, as an attorney, to Mexico in that endeavor. I said I would go as an attorney with him to Mexico, to see what could be done. I went, not with Whittaker Chambers, but with this other individual, to Mexico as his attorney. Our expedition, by the way, was unsuccessful, and we returned. I have not seen Whittaker Chambers since the day that he appeared in my office at that time.

Mr. NIXON. How long was he in your office?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Maybe a half hour or an hour.

Mr. NIXON. That is the only time in your life you ever saw him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. You had no difficulty recognizing him from his picture?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I recognized him from the pictures. Whether I had difficulty, I don’t know.

Mr. NIXON. You are sure it is the same man?

Mr. PRESSMAN. As sure as I can be in these days.

Mr. NIXON. Who was the other individual?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Mr. Eckhart.

Mr. NIXON. What is his first name?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I believe his initial was J.

Mr. NIXON. Have you seen him since?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No; or maybe one time.

Mr. NIXON. Have you heard from him since?


Mr. NIXON. What did you call Mr. Chambers?

Mr. PRESSMAN. When he was in my office? I can’t remember what name he gave when he came. The reason I recall Mr. Eckhart, he appears in my records as a client.

Mr. NIXON. At the time Mr. Whittaker Chambers came in your office with Mr. Eckhart, you made a notation of him as a client?


Mr. NIXON. Your secretary made no notation of who appeared with Mr. Eckhart?


Mr. NIXON. What was your fee?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Is that necessary?

Mr. HARRISON. You were paid a fee?


Mr. NIXON. I thought it might serve to refresh your recollection.

Mr. PRESSMAN. Refresh your recollection? It was a reasonable fee.

Mr. NIXON. Who paid the fee?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Mr. Eckhart.

Mr. NIXON. When did you learn Mr. Whittaker Chambers was the man who brought him to your office?

Mr. PRESSMAN. When his picture started appearing in the public press.

Mr. NIXON. Did you take that information to public authorities?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Which one?

Mr. NIXON. Any one.

Mr. PRESSMAN. Somebody appeared from the FBI in 1948.

Mr. NIXON. What did you tell them?

Mr. PRESSMAN. The same answer I gave this committee at that time.

Mr. NIXON. Refused to answer the question?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. Has the FBI questioned you since August 10 of this year?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Mr. Nixon, I said this morning that the answer was no. I am of the opinion, if I may say –

Mr. NIXON. Let me ask you another question, and then you may express your opinion.

Mr. PRESSMAN. Surely.

Mr. NIXON. Has anybody attempted to determine whether you would give information to the FBI before you appeared before this committee?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I have had a lot of inquiries from newspaper reporters.

Mr. NIXON. Only newspaper reporters?

Mr. PRESSMAN. To date.

Mr. NIXON. No official or unofficial inquiry from the FBI?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I do think that is an avenue or arena which could best be left with the FBI.

Mr. NIXON. I am asking you.

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is my answer.

Mr. NIXON. In other words, you don’t want to answer the question?

Mr. PRESSMAN. My position has been that after issuing my statement, I was not going to say anything to anybody until I had appeared before this committee, since you had subpoenaed me.

Mr. NIXON. Your position has been, you would not appear before the FBI until you had appeared before this committee?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct. This was my appearance that was called for by the subpoena.

Mr. NIXON. As I understand your testimony, this was a complete ideological and organizational break that you made on August 10, but as far as information is concerned, you are limiting the giving of information to the extent that this committee questions you about?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is not what I said. I said, after I issued my public statement, I read in the public press that a member of this committee had announced that I was going to be subpoenaed, and following that announcement I made up my mind I would make no public statement to anybody until after I had appeared before this committee.

Mr. NIXON. Do you recall discussing with Mr. Chambers, the man who came into your office, on this occasion or previous to that time, your contemplated plans to go with the CIO?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Absolutely not.

Mr. NIXON. Do you recall an occasion when Mr. Chambers visited you in your apartment across from the Zoo on Connecticut Avenue?

Mr. PRESSMAN. He was never in my apartment in the city of Washington, and he couldn’t tell the color of my furniture, either.

Mr. NIXON. It is very possible that he might not, because Mr. Chambers might have been there in the summertime.

Mr. PRESSMAN. At that time I only had one set of furniture, summer or winter.

Mr. NIXON. And the furniture is usually covered when you go away in the summer?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Not on the salary I was making at that time. I have absolutely no recollection of ever having met this man known as Chambers, up until the day he walked in my office in New York City.

Mr. NIXON. On this occasion I speak of, which was in the summer, your wife and family were out of the city.

Mr. PRESSMAN. What year was this?

Mr. NIXON. In the year that you took your position with the CIO.

Mr. PRESSMAN. In Washington or New York?

Mr. NIXON. I am talking about Washington.

Mr. PRESSMAN. That shows how Whittaker Chambers is incorrect, if he made that statement. I was not in Washington at that time.

Mr. NIXON. I recognize that. I said at a time when you were considering leaving the Government service, prior to your taking your position with the CIO.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I am glad you put the question that way, because here are the facts: This indicates how, if Whittaker Chambers made any such assertion, he is lying, because when I left Washington to go back into private practice, the CIO was not even organized. It was not until the convention of the AFL in 1935, when the AFL kicked out those six or seven unions, and Mr. Lewis happened to punch Mr. Hutchinson in the nose, thereafter Mr. Lewis and six other men met and formed the CIO; and it wasn’t until months later that Mr. Lewis asked me if I would go to Pittsburgh to be counsel for the Steel Workers Organizing Committee.

Mr. NIXON. And you deny any meeting with Whittaker Chambers in your home in 1935?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Absolutely.

Mr. NIXON. You deny meeting Whittaker Chambers during the period you were living in Washington, D.C.?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I have absolutely no recollection, and I have canvassed my recollection to the best of my ability.

Mr. NIXON. You never met him in the company of J. Peters?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. You never met him in the home of Henry Collins?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct. While I was in that group, Mr. Chambers did not appear before that group.

Mr. NIXON. Going back to this incident in your office, can you give us the date of that incident?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Sometime in the middle of 1936.

Mr. NIXON. Do you have a notation to that effect in your file?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No, I do not have the files.

Mr. NIXON. Where are the files?

Mr. PRESSMAN. The partnership I was with was dissolved years ago.

Mr. NIXON. And you have no files at all?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct. The reason I can place it in 1936, I know when I returned from my trip to Mexico coincided with an incident in Wheeling, Ohio, when two men were shot, and I believe killed, by some strikebreakers – Did I say Wheeling, Ohio? I mean Portsmouth, Ohio. I had to go to Portsmouth, and I date it from that time. It was sometime in 1936.

Mr. NIXON. The early part?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No. It was after June. It was between June and the fall.

Mr. NIXON. The Spanish Civil War didn’t break out until the summer of 1936, so that would date it, wouldn’t it?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Is that when it started? I say between June and the fall of 1936.

Mr. NIXON. And the purpose of this trip was to obtain arms for the Spanish Republican Government?


Mr. NIXON. What else did Whittaker Chambers say?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Nothing other than the introduction.

Mr. NIXON. He introduced himself to you?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Only as knowing me through mutual friends, that mutual friends said I was practicing law in New York. And at that time, having only been in business a few months, I wasn’t making too many inquiries. I wanted a client if it was a good client.

Mr. NIXON. Do you know Dr. Philip Rosenbleitt?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Absolutely not. I do not know the name or know the man. I saw the name in the press. Pegler mentioned him.

Mr. NIXON. Have you heard of his returning to the United States?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No. Not knowing him in the first place, I wouldn’t know anything about his return.

Mr. NIXON. I thought you said you had read about it in the press.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I have read in a Pegler story something about Chambers saying I had something to do with some dentist.

Mr. NIXON. Do you know Colonel Ivan Lamb?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Absolutely not.

Mr. NIXON. You never heard of him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. What is his last name, again?

Mr. NIXON. Lamb, as mutton.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I don’t know him.

Mr. NIXON. You didn’t meet him in New York City in 1936?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I never met the man.

Mr. NIXON. You never met him in company with Whittaker Chambers?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. Have you ever used the name “Cole Phillips”?


Mr. NIXON. You never used it?


Mr. NIXON. When you were in the party, did you use any name other than your own?


Mr. NIXON. Did any other member of your group?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I don’t believe so. We used our own names during the period I was there.

Mr. NIXON. Have you ever gotten a government position for Charles Kramer, or assisted in getting him a government position?

Mr. PRESSMAN. My understanding is he was a friend of Nathan Witt. I don’t recall getting him a position.

Mr. NIXON. After that time did you ever recommend him for a position?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Not that I recall. I never had occasion to recommend people for jobs in the Federal government. I can’t deny if, over the past 15 years, somebody called me about an individual, I might have said something, but I have no recollection of helping him or anybody else get a job in the Federal government.

Mr. NIXON. When you went to Mexico, did you go by plane?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is right. My name is on the roster of the airline company, and so is Mr. Eckhart’s. There is nothing secret about that.

I would like to comment on that, because several years later – and this is indicative of the kind of misstatements of fact that have been made about me – years later some columnist prints a story that my trip to Mexico was connected with some oil deal down in Mexico. That columnist got that story from an individual around Washington, whose name I do not care to mention at this time, who is a drunken paranoiac who has on his mind Lee Pressman. That columnist did not inquire of me about the facts. After the column appeared, I called the columnist and asked, “For God’s sake, how can you say I was connected with an oil deal?” I gave him the facts. “Oh,” he said, “you were down there laying the groundwork for an affair two or three years later.” Go ahead and meet that kind of individual.

Mr. NIXON. That individual is not Whittaker Chambers?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No; but I wonder if that columnist is here now. I was hoping he was.

Mr. NIXON. You don’t mean the columnist?


Mr. NIXON. You don’t know any columnist who is a drunken paranoiac?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Are you asking that as a question?

Mr. NIXON. That is all at this time.


Mr. TAVENNER. Was this trip in 1945 your only trip to the Soviet Union?

Mr. PRESSMAN. The only trip I have made abroad, except for my trip to Mexico. By the way, I did make a trip to Bermuda on my honeymoon.

Mr. TAVENNER. We are not asking about that.

Mr. NIXON. In regard to that trip to Mexico, do you know a man by the name of Mark Moran?

Mr. PRESSMAN. What is that name?

Mr. NIXON. Mark Moran, or Gerald Mark Moran?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No; absolutely not.

Mr. NIXON. In that connection, I think it might be well at this point to put in the record here the version of the meeting – I assume it was the one Mr. Pressman referred to – that Mr. Chambers gave in December 1948. There are differences of names and places I might point out, however, in that connection, before I read this, that it does not involve espionage.

Mr. PRESSMAN. May I ask the date of that incident Chambers describes?

Mr. NIXON. It will appear as I read it.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I want to call attention to another incident, where in 1936 he put me in Washington.

Mr. NIXON. (reading):

Mr. STRIPLING. Did you ever hear of a man named Gerald Mark Moran?

Mr. CHAMBERS. Yes. I heard of him under the name of Mark Moran. I assume that is the same name. Shall I tell you about the circumstances under which I heard of him?


Mr. CHAMBERS. Dr. Rosenbleitt had gone to Russia sometime in 1935, I imagine, and he reappeared in New York sometime in 1937 or 1938, and made contact with me and told me that he had come on a special mission, that Stalin had recently had a close look at the munitions industry in Russia and had discovered to his horror that there was no automatic shell-loading machinery, that shells were still being loaded by hand by women, and he wanted to buy shell-loading machinery in the United States, but he didn’t want to buy them at the going price, and he wanted all kinds of blueprints and specifications thrown in. Dr. Rosenbleitt asked me to give him, for this work and other work, the smartest Communist lawyer whom I knew, and also a man who would have access in the course of his normal business to patents of all kinds. Well, I started thinking about the problem, and the man who had both those qualifications turned out to be the general counsel of the CIO, Mr. Lee Pressman. He was a very smart lawyer, and he was doing some kind of special work for the Rust Bros., who had invented the cotton picker, and who was dealing with other patents. So, I introduced Dr. Rosenbleitt to Lee Pressman at Sacher’s Restaurant in New York City, a restaurant on Madison Avenue between Forty-second and Forty-first streets, which was much favored by Dr. Rosenbleitt. He then took Pressman away. I don’t believe I saw Pressman again. But either from Rosenbleitt or Peters or someone, I learned that Rosenbleitt had connected Pressman directly with Mark Moran, with whom he continued to work, and I was told made trips around this country on munitions-buying excursions, and also in Mexico. I was told by J. Peters specifically, I remember that, at one point, their airplane was forced down on one side or the other of the border, and that Moran was very much perturbed because he was afraid they would be watched and caught. I think Mr. Pressman has already gone into this incident.

Mr. PRESSMAN. No, I haven’t. I would like to comment. Will I be given that opportunity?

Mr. NIXON. Certainly. Your recollection of such an incident involved Mr. Eckhart?

Mr. PRESSMAN. My recollection is of no such incident.

Mr. NIXON. But your recollection of your meeting with Mr. Chambers involved Mr. Eckhart?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct, on this specific incident, of accompanying Mr. Eckhart to Mexico, and that was between June and the fall of 1936. And my name and Mr. Eckhart’s appear on the roster of the airline. If you would go to the airline, instead of these other sources, you could find the facts.

Mr. WALTER. What airline was it?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I believe American Airline.

Mr. WALTER. Was your plane forced down?


Mr. HARRISON. Until you gave that information, we had no airline to check with.

Mr. PRESSMAN. We changed at Fort Worth. We took a chartered plane to Laredo, Pan American, to Mexico City, and direct from Mexico City to New York. That was between June and the fall of 1936.

Mr. NIXON. When did you last see J. Peters?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I really can’t tell you. I know I met him once or twice.

Mr. NIXON. Have you seen him in the past 5 years?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I can’t say.

Mr. NIXON. How well did you know J. Peters?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I did not know him.

Mr. NIXON. There were some occasions on which you saw him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. Yes, after I left the group.

Mr. NIXON. You can’t recall when you last saw him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No. When did he leave the country?

Mr. NIXON. Can you describe Mr. Eckhart?

Mr. PRESSMAN. About as tall as myself, or taller. At that time, in 1936, I was about 30 years of age. I would judge he was in his early fifties. Nothing distinctive in any way I could identify him by.

Mr. NIXON. Was he heavy or slight?

Mr. PRESSMAN. No. Average weight.

Mr. NIXON. No speaking characteristics?


Mr. NIXON. You have never seen him since?

Mr. PRESSMAN. For a week or two after coming back, there was a question of setting up a corporation in New York City to do the task.

Mr. NIXON. You have not heard of him since?


Mr. NIXON. Was he an American citizen?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I don’t know. I never inquired. I went to Mexico with him, but there was no need for a passport. We got a visiting card from the Mexican Embassy, to go to Mexico. I would have thought he was a Spaniard.

Mr. NIXON. Over how long a period did you know him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. For the period I have described, when he came in a week or two before we left for Mexico, and a week or two after we returned. We were in Mexico only a few days.

Mr. NIXON. What did you call him?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I think Joe.

Mr. NIXON. You called him “Joe”?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is right.

Mr. NIXON. You don’t recall any meetings with J. Peters in the last 5 years?

Mr. PRESSMAN. When did he leave the country?

Mr. NIXON. J. Peters?


Mr. NIXON. I think 1948.

Mr. PRESSMAN. You see the difficulty I have been having about dates.

Mr. NIXON. I think Peters left in 1948.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I think 2 or 3 years prior to that I may have seen him.

Mr. NIXON. Socially?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is right.

Mr. NIXON. Never in a business connection?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is absolutely correct.

Mr. NIXON. Never in a business connection since the time you broke, organizationally speaking, with the party?

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. Was Peters a Communist?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I assume he was.

Mr. NIXON. You want to be certain, don’t you?

Mr. PRESSMAN. When he came to our group in the capacity he did, I took it for granted he was.

Mr. NIXON. You have never heard that he left the party?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I never heard it.

Mr. NIXON. That is all.

Mr. PRESSMAN. May I say, jocularly, just as I would never inquire of you if you had left the Republican Party, I didn’t ask if he had left the Communist Party or was still in.

Mr. NIXON. I know that an expression frequently used in Communist circles is that there is no difference between an affiliation with the Communist Party, Republican Party, or Democratic Party. You recognize there is a difference, I assume?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I recognize the basic difference. On that issue, I recall back in the early days of the New Deal, on the occasion when I joined, to be a Democrat at that time, and to participate in the New Deal program under President Roosevelt, was akin to being a Communist in the minds of some people in this country.

Mr. HARRISON. You were both, though.

Mr. PRESSMAN. That is correct.

Mr. NIXON. In the light of your testimony today, it is very possible there were some who were Democrats and also members of the Communist Party.

Mr. PRESSMAN. I don’t know.

Mr. WALTER. Mr. Ware, who did the recruiting for the Communist Party, was a member of the Republican Party and President Hoover’s adviser in the Agriculture Department.

Mr. PRESSMAN. He may have been.

Mr. NIXON. In 1935, you were general counsel to two of the most powerful agencies in Government?

Mr. PRESSMAN. I was general counsel of two agencies of the Government. Whether they were powerful, I don’t know.

Mr. NIXON. My point is this, that this line: “What is the difference? You don’t ask if a person is a Democrat or a Republican, so why should you ask if he is a Communist?” I think there is a real difference. I think at the present time certainly an effort is being made in both political parties to be sure they have no connection with the Communist Party. That is a correct statement, is it not, Mr. Walter?


Mr. PRESSMAN. May I, with your permission, Mr. Nixon, go back to that record which you read, that perfectly fantastic story Mr. Chambers told? He has me down as an expert on patents. I have never handled a patent matter in my life. Second, he has me doing business with Rust Brothers on a machine. I don’t know what that machine is. I remember in Triple A some discussion of Rust Brothers inventing a machine that could allegedly pick cotton. That is the only knowledge I have of Rust Brothers or their machine. Third, he has me getting legal work through him in 1937 or 1938. During that period I was full time with the CIO and had no private practice at all. I have already answered the question of the airplane. In 1937 and in 1938 I wasn’t flying on airplanes in connection with the Rust Brothers machine or patent work. Every day of my life is a matter of public record.