Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23, 1973

Nixon responds to the Ervin Committee's request for a handful of tapes:


I have considered your request that I permit the Committee to have access to tapes of my private conversations with a number of my closest aides. I have concluded that the principles stated in my letter to you of July 6th preclude me from complying with that request, and I shall not do so. Indeed the special nature of tape recordings of private conversations is such that these principles apply with even greater force to tapes of private Presidential conversations than to Presidential papers.


But that's not all. Nixon begins a series of claims about the tapes which will eventually be shown to be flat-out lies.


The fact is that the tapes would not finally settle the central issues before your Committee. Before their existence became publicly known, I personally listened to a number of them. The tapes are entirely consistent with what I know to be the truth and what I have stated to be the truth. However, as in any verbatim recording of informal conversations, they contain comments that persons with different perspectives and motivations would inevitably interpret in different ways. Furthermore, there are inseparably interspersed in them a great many very frank and very private comments, on a wide range of issues and individuals, wholly extraneous to the Committee's inquiry. Even more important, the tapes could be accurately understood or interpreted only by reference to an enormous number of other documents and tapes, so that to open them at all would begin an endless process of disclosure and explanation of private Presidential records totally unrelated to Watergate, and highly confidential in nature.


Indeed: the tapes are not consistent with what Nixon has stated to be the truth, and they will, in fact, finally settle the central issues of Watergate, or at least will do so sufficiently to end Nixon's presidency.


Accordingly, the tapes, which have been under my sole personal control, will remain so. None has been transcribed or made public and none will be.


That's not quite true, either. Bob Haldeman had borrowed the tapes to prepare his defense -- and would soon use (and therefore make public) a highly selective version of the Dean/Nixon March 21 conversation.

In a separate letter, the White House also turns down Special Prosecutor Cox's request for tapes.

The committee, having been rebuffed when they asked for the tapes, now votes to issue subpoenas for them.

And Cox goes to Judge Sirica and asks for subpoenas for nine tapes; the subpoenas are served to the president's lawyer, Fred Buzhardt, at the White House.

Emery quotes from Cox's description of what Cox and Sirica arranged: an open session of the Watergate grand jury to make public their insistence that the president comply:


It was a marvelously symbolic scene...There were the people of the United States calling on the highest official in the United States to do his share to contribute to the administration of justice....The judge recounted the procedure and asked them, one at a time, did they want the order to show cause to issue? And while one was nervous as to whether in all this drama they would say yes, when the first two or three said yes, by then one could relax and know that the others were going to follow on, but I think it was one of the one or two most dramatic scenes in all Watergate.

1 comment:

  1. Did Nixon ever consider trying to threaten the members of the grand jury? It doesn't seem like he would have considered that beyond the pale...


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