Before his association with Nixon’s White House, E. Howard Hunt was a CIA operative who took part in the 1954 coup in Guatemala and the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Hunt also wrote spy novels, and the character of Jim Phelps in the television series Mission Impossible (played by Peter Graves) was based on him.

As a member of the plumbers, Hunt wrote a memo to Charles Colson in July 1971. Under the heading “Neutralization of Ellsberg,” Hunt proposed collecting “overt, covert, and derogatory information,” the end of which would be to “destroy his [Ellsberg’s] public image and credibility.” This led to the plumbers breaking into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding.

Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy planned the Watergate break-in. After the burglars were arrested, one was found with Hunt’s name and White House phone number. He was arrested and began making repeated demands for money to Nixon’s personal attorney, John Dean. On March 21, 1973, Dean reported to the president, “The blackmail is continuing…. Hunt now is demanding another $72,000 for his own personal expenses; $50,000 to pay his attorney’s fees – a hundred and twenty some thousand dollars.” Others among the burglars also needed money. “How much money do you need?” the president asked. Dean thought it could be handled with $1,000,000. “We could get that…,” Nixon replied. Hunt’s calls for money and Nixon’s desire to buy his silence were central to the charges of a presidential cover-up. Hunt eventually pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping, and served 33 months in prison.