The History Place - Impeachment: Richard Nixon (2022)

The History Place - Impeachment: Richard Nixon (1)

The History Place - Impeachment: Richard Nixon (2)

The History Place - Impeachment: Richard Nixon (3)
Richard Nixon
37th U.S. President

The History Place - Impeachment: Richard Nixon (4)

About President Nixon:

He served as vice president under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhowerfrom 1953-61. Nixon ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1960, losingby a very close margin to John F. Kennedy.

In 1962, Nixon ran unsuccessfully for Governor of California. This secondloss led Nixon to bitterly announce he was leaving politics, telling reporters"...you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore." However, here-emerged as a presidential candidate in 1968 and ran a successfulcampaign against Democrat Hubert Humphrey, squeaking out a victoryin one of the closest elections in U.S. history.

In 1972, Nixon ran for re-election against Democrat George McGovernand swept to victory in a landslide with 60 percent of the popular vote,winning in every state except Massachusetts.

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Events Leading to Impeachment:

A break-in occurred on the night of June 17, 1972, as five burglarsentered the Democratic National Committee offices inside the Watergateoffice complex in Washington. Discovered by 24-year-old night watchmanFrank Wills, they were arrested at the scene by police at 2:30 a.m.

Investigations soon revealed the Watergate burglars were employed bythe Committee to Re-elect President Nixon. However, a White House spokesmandismissed the incident as a "third-rate burglary attempt."

In August of 1972, President Nixon told reporters, "no one in theWhite House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, wasinvolved in this very bizarre incident."

The arrest of the Watergate burglars marked the beginning of a longchain of events in which President Nixon and his top aides became deeplyinvolved in an extensive coverup of the break-in and other White Housesanctioned illegal activities.

Those activities had started in 1970 after The New York Timesrevealed a secret bombing campaign against neutral Cambodia in SoutheastAsia was being conducted as part of the American war effort in Vietnam.Following the revelations, Nixon ordered wiretaps of reporters and governmentemployees to discover the source of the news leaks.

In 1971, the Pentagon Papers were published in The New YorkTimes, detailing the U.S. Defense Department's secret history of theVietnam War. A "Plumbers" unit was then established by Nixonaides in the White House with the sole purpose of gathering political intelligenceon perceived enemies and preventing further news leaks. A team of burglarsfrom the "Plumbers" then broke into a psychiatrist's office lookingfor damaging information on Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analystwho had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press.

Audio Highlights

Taped Conversation
June 23, 1972

In the Oval Office of the White House, President Richard Nixon tells top aide H.R. Haldeman to obstruct the FBI investigation into the Watergate break-in. (:05) "...call the FBI and say that we wish, for the country, don't go any further into this case, period..."

Public Statement
April 17, 1973

President Nixon pledges White House cooperation with the ongoing Watergate investigation. (:22)

Public Statement
July 20, 1973

After returning from the hospital to the White House, President Nixon greets his staff and denies resignation rumors. (:25)

Press Conference
October 23, 1973

President Nixon insults reporters during a White House press conference on Watergate. (:20)

Statement to Press
November 17, 1973

President Nixon meets with news editors and denies any wrongdoing in Watergate. (:32)

TV Speech
August 8, 1974

Faced with the prospect of being impeached by the House of Representatives as a result of the Watergate scandal, President Nixon announces his resignation. (:32)

White House Farewell
August 9, 1974

Following his resignation, Richard Nixon and family bid farewell to his White House staff. (1:19)

TV Speech
August 9, 1974

President Gerald R. Ford speaks to the Nation upon taking office shortly after Richard Nixon had resigned in disgrace. August 9, 1974.(:54)

In 1972, as part of Nixon's re-election effort, a massive campaign ofpolitical spying and 'dirty tricks' was initiated against Democrats, leadingto the Watergate break-in to plant bugs (tiny audio transmitters) insidethe offices of the Democratic National Committee.

Two young reporters from the Washington Post, Bob Woodward andCarl Bernstein, then began a dogged pursuit of the facts surrounding thebreak-in. Among the many items revealed by them -- one of the Watergateburglars, retired CIA employee James W. McCord, was actually the securitycoordinator for Nixon's re-election committee - a $25,000 cashier's checkfor Nixon's re-election campaign had been diverted to the bank accountof one of the burglars - Attorney General John Mitchell had controlleda secret fund which financed political spying and dirty tricks targetingDemocratic presidential candidates.

Perhaps the most notorious dirty trick was a letter planted in a NewHampshire newspaper alleging that leading Democratic presidential candidate,Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, had referred to Americans of French-Canadiandescent as "Canucks."

On a snowy New Hampshire day, standing outside the offices of the newspaper,Musky gave a rambling, tearful denial. His emotional conduct, replayedon television, caused him to drop in the New Hampshire polls shortly beforethe presidential primary. George McGovern, considered a weaker candidateby Nixon political strategists, eventually won the 1972 Democratic nominationand lost the general election to Nixon in a landslide.

In February of 1973, the U.S. Senate established a Select Committeeon Presidential Campaign Activities, chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin, to investigateall of the events surrounding Watergate and other allegations of politicalspying and sabotage conducted on behalf of Nixon's re-election.

March and April of 1973 saw the start of the unraveling of the coverup.On March 23, one of the five burglars convicted after the Watergate break-in,James W. McCord, informed U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica that he wasbeing pressured to remain silent. On April 20, acting FBI Director L. PatrickGray resigned after admitting he had destroyed Watergate evidence underpressure from Nixon aides. Ten days later, four of Nixon's top officialsresigned: Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman; DomesticAffairs Assistant John Ehrlichman; AttorneyGeneral Richard Kleindienst; and Presidential Counsel JohnDean.

The Senate Select Committee began televised hearings on May 17. A monthlater, former Presidential Counsel John Dean testified there was an ongoingWhite House coverup and that Nixon had been personally involved in thepayment of hush money to the five burglars and two other operatives involvedin planning the Watergate break-in. Three weeks later, another Nixon aiderevealed the President had ordered hidden microphones installed in theOval Office in the spring of 1971 and hadrecorded most conversations since then on audio tape.

The tapes then became the focus of an intensive year-long legal battlebetween all three branches of the U.S. government. In October of 1973,Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been appointed by theNixon administration, publicly vowed to obtain the tapes despite Nixon'sstrong objections.

This resulted in the "Saturday Night Massacre" on October20 in which Nixon attempted to fire Cox, but was temporarily thwarted asAttorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General WilliamRuckelshaus refused Nixon's order and instead resigned. Solicitor GeneralRobert Bork agreed to carry out the order and fired Cox.

The minute-by-minute events of the "Saturday Night Massacre"were covered live by stunned reporters on network television starting about8:30 p.m. and sent a political shockwave throughout America that led toimmediate calls for impeachment.

"Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and notof men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people," ArchibaldCox stated after his firing. Ten days later, impeachment proceedings inthe House of Representatives began as the House Judiciary Committee, chairedby Rep. Peter Rodino, started its preliminary investigation.

Nixon responded to public outrage by initially agreeing to turn oversome of the tapes. However, the White House then revealed that two of thetapes no longer existed and later revealed there was an 18 minute blankgap on a crucial recording of the President and H.R. Haldeman taped threedays after the Watergate break-in.

Nixon's new Chief of Staff Alexander M. Haig Jr. suggested the possibilitythat "some sinister force" had erased portions of the subpoenaedtape. President Nixon's personal secretary Rose Mary Woods was eventuallyblamed as having caused the erasure supposedly after she had been askedto prepare a summary of taped conversations for the President.

In November of 1973, amid all of the controversy, Nixon made a scheduled appearance before 400 Associated Press managing editors in Florida. During a feisty question and answer period he maintained his innocence, stating, "... in all of my years in public life I have never obstructed justice...People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook."

To avoid handing over all of the 42 subpoenaed tapes to the House JudiciaryCommittee, Nixon instead released1,254 pages of edited transcripts of 20 tapes in the spring of 1974. Butthe transcripts caused a national sensation as Americans glimpsed behindclosed doors for the first time at a cynical Nixon who frequently usedobscene language in the Oval Office, in contrast to his carefully tailoredpublic image. The transcripts also revealed Nixon frequently discussingWatergate including the raising of "hush money" to keep the burglarsquiet.

"We could get that. On the money, if you need the money you couldget that. You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. Iknow where it could be gotten. It is not easy, but it could be done. Butthe question is, Who would handle it? Any ideas on that?" -- Nixonto John Dean, March 21, 1973.

The new Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, who had been appointed bythe Justice Department, pursued Nixon's tapes all the way to the U.S. SupremeCourt. On July 24, 1974, the Court unanimously ruled that Nixon had tosurrender the tapes.

On Saturday, July 27, the House Judiciary Committee approved its firstarticle of impeachment charging President Nixon with obstruction of justice.Six of the Committee's 17 Republicans joined all 21 Democrats in votingfor the article. The following Monday the Committee approved its secondarticle charging Nixon with abuse of power. The next day, the third andfinal article, contempt of Congress, was approved.

Articles of Impeachment:

RESOLVED, That Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, isimpeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articlesof impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:

ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT EXHIBITED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OFTHE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN THE NAME OF ITSELF AND OF ALL OF THE PEOPLEOF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AGAINST RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OFTHE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT OF ITS IMPEACHMENTAGAINST HIM FOR HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANOURS.

Article 1: Obstruction of Justice.In his conduct of the office of the President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that: On June 17, 1972, and prior thereto, agents of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence. Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his subordinates and agents in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede and obstruct investigations of such unlawful entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities. The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan have included one or more of the following:

(1) Making or causing to be made false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employes of the United States.

(2) Withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employes of the United States.

(3) Approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counseling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employes of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings.

(4) Interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force and congressional committees.

(5) Approving, condoning, and acquiescing in, the surreptitious payments of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses or individuals who participated in such unlawful entry and other illegal activities.

(6) Endeavoring to misuse the Central Intelligence Agency, an agency of the United States.

(7) Disseminating information received from officers of the Department of Justice of the United States to subjects of investigations conducted by lawfully authorized investigative officers and employes of the United States for the purpose of aiding and assisting such subjects in their attempts to avoid criminal liability.

(8) Making false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation has been conducted with respect to allegation of misconduct on the part of personnel of the Executive Branch of the United States and personnel of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct; or

(9) Endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.

In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

(Approved by a vote of 27-11 by the House Judiciary Committee on Saturday, July 27, 1974.)

Article 2: Abuse of Power.

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, imparting the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.
This conduct has included one or more of the following:

(1) He has, acting personally and through his subordinated and agents, endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigation to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.

(2) He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and other executive personnel, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; he did direct, authorize, or permit the use of information obtained thereby for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; and he did direct the concealment of certain records made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of electronic surveillance.

(3) He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, authorized and permitted to be maintained a secret investigative unit within the office of the President, financed in part with money derived from campaign contributions to him, which unlawfully utilized the resources of the Central Intelligence Agency, engaged in covert and unlawful activities, and attempted to prejudice the constitutional right of an accused to a fair trial.

(4) He has failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed by failing to act when he knew or had reason to know that his close subordinates endeavored to impede and frustrate lawful inquiries by duly constituted executive; judicial and legislative entities concerning the unlawful entry into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, and the cover-up thereof, and concerning other unlawful activities including those relating to the confirmation of Richard Kleindienst as attorney general of the United States, the electronic surveillance of private citizens, the break-in into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, and the campaign financing practices of the Committee to Re-elect the President.

(5) In disregard of the rule of law: he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch: including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Division and the Office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force of the Department of Justice, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws by faithfully executed.

In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

(Approved 28-10 by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, July 29, 1974.)

Article 3: Contempt of Congress.

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of the President of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, had failed without lawful cause or excuse, to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things, Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgement as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.

(Approved 21-17 by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 30, 1974.)

Consequences:

On August 5, 1974, the long sought after audio tapes provided the "smoking gun" which revealed President Nixon had been deeply involved in the coverup and had ordered Haldeman to halt the FBI investigation just six days after the Watergate break-in."...call the FBI and say that we wish, for the country, don't go any further into this case, period..." -- Nixon to Haldeman, June 23, 1972.)

That revelation resulted in a complete collapse of support for Nixonin Congress. On Friday, August 9, Nixon resignedthe presidency and avoided the likely prospect of losing the impeachmentvote in the full House and a subsequent trial in the Senate. He thus becamethe only U.S. President ever to resign. Vice President Gerald R. Ford succeededhim and a month later granted Nixon a full pardon for any crimes he mighthave committed while President.

Richard Nixon had served a total of 2,026 days as the 37th Presidentof the United States. He left office with 2 1/2 years of his second termremaining. A total of 25 officials from his administration, including fourcabinet members, were eventually convicted and imprisoned for various crimes.

"...I think that the Watergate tragedy is the greatest tragedythis country has ever suffered. I used to think that the Civil War wasour country's greatest tragedy, but I do remember that there were someredeeming features in the Civil War in that there was some spirit of sacrificeand heroism displayed on both sides. I see no redeeming features in Watergate."-- Senator Sam Ervin.

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