Colson has been characterized as the “Evil Genius” and Nixon’s “hatchet man.” A brusque, ambitious ex-Marine, Colson once claimed he would walk over his grandmother to ensure the President was re-elected. As Special Counsel to the President, he often had Nixon’s ear, and the White House tapes reveal many moments of Nixon and Colson lashing out at their enemies. On one tape, made July 19, 1972, Colson attempted to rationalize the Watergate break-in to Nixon. “They weren’t stealing anything, …they had broken and entered with an intent not to steal, [only] with an intent to obtain information.”
Colson plotted against political rivals. Reports implicated him not only in the Watergate cover-up, but also in planning raids on the Brookings Institution, spreading false information about Daniel Ellsberg, and intimidating anti-war protesters and the media. As the cover-up crumbled, Colson experienced a religious conversion, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in the Ellsberg case, provided information to prosecutors in exchange for which other charges were dropped, and served seven months in prison. In 1976, Colson started Prison Fellowship Ministries, a Christian organization he continues administering today.