Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 2, 1973

The first Watergate trial is over; two have been found guilty, and the others put in guilty pleas. Everything in the trial has gone the way the White House wanted.

But it wasn't over yet. One more step remained: sentencing. And "Maximum John" Sirica wasn't in any hurry. He was confident there was more to what had happened than what was revealed in court (which, remember, is all the prosecutors believed had happened. So he put off sentencing, pressuring the defendants to cooperate with the looming Senate inquiry:

Everyone knows that there's going to be a congressional investigation in this case. I would frankly hope, not only as a judge but as a citizen of a great country and one of millions of Americans who are looking for certain answers, I would hope that the Senate committee is granted the power by Congress by a broad enough resolution to try to get to the bottom in this case.
Since we'll be getting more soon, perhaps it's worth viewing the vulnerabilities in the White House strategy.

They are very much worried about the Senate; Nixon, remember, considers Congressional investigations an incredibly valuable political weapon.

And yet problem number one is that they just aren't that worried about James McCord, because what he knows would be hearsay in court. But of course McCord, even if he is limited in the direct legal damage he can do to those who actually authorized Watergate, can do plenty of political damage.

Which leads to problem number two: there's still no fallback plan. From the very beginning, they tried to figure out how to protect some of the president's men if blame went beyond Hunt, Liddy, and the five who were arrested inside the Watergate, and they never could figure it out. Which meant that if anyone else was accused, eventually all of them might be accused.

But that still misses problem number three: the entire cover-up to date has been purely focused on the Watergate break-in and the events leading up to it (including the "White House horrors" before Watergate). They seem to have completely ignored (as Emery points out) that they've all been guilty of obstruction of justice after June 1972, and that a whole lot of people -- including James McCord -- know about it. Nor have they been particularly careful about limiting anyone's criminal or political liability for the cover-up, including the President of the United States.

Of course, if they all stick to the story they've told so far, perhaps they still can get away with it. But Sirica is squeezing, and the Senate is getting ready.


  1. Also, not on anyone's radar yet is the fact that the new House Majority Leader, Tip O'Neill, has already told Speaker Albert that he (O'Neill) thinks the issue of whether to impeach Nixon will come to the House, and that the House Democrats should be ready for it.

    From the beginning of chapter one of Jimmy Breslin's "How The Good Guys Finally Won":

    "He doesn't remember the date, he wasn't keeping notes on everything at the time, but Congressman Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., does know that it was just after he had become Majority Leader of the House of Representatives in January of 1973 that he walked into Speaker Carl Albert's office and said, 'All my years tells me what's happening. They did so many bad things during that campaign that there is no way to keep it from coming out. They did too many things. Too many people know about it. There is now way to keep it quiet. The time is going to come when impeachment is going to hit this Congress and we better be ready for it.'"

    1. Yup. Thanks for the great quote.

      I had it on the two plane crashes post, but without the quote.

  2. If we ever do mint that platinum coin, and I would say the opportunity to do so is going to come up again and again, we should put Judge Sirica's visage on it. After all, it's a maximum coin.


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