The United States of America vs. Richard M. Nixon

Issue

In this case, the court is asked to decide if the president had
knowledgeinvolvement in the Watergate robberies and if he had the right to
invoke Executive Privilege.

Facts

During the campaign of President Nixon\'s second term, a group of
burglars working for the committee to re-elect the President broke into the
headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office-
apartment complex in Washington DC, apparently in search of political
intelligence. Attempts by the White House to stop or frustrate the ensuing
investigations ultimately failed when Nixon\'s own White House tape recordings
revealed that the president and his assistants had engaged in an obstruction of
justice.
Following the arrest of the two co-plotters--G. Gordon Liddy and E.
Howard Hunt-- District Court Judge John J. Sirica was convinced that pertinent
details had not been unveiled during the trial and proffered leniency in
exchange for further information. It became increasingly evident that the
Watergate burglars were tied closely to the CIA and the Committee to Re-elect
the President, some of Nixon\'s aides began talking to federal prosecutors. Due
to the defection of these aides, the Senate established, in February of 1973, an
investigative committee held by Senator Sam Ervin, Jr., to look into the growing
scandal. Amid the disclosures of White House involvement in the Watergate
break-in and its aftermath, Nixon announced the resignation of two of his
closest advisors and the dismissal of his counsel John W. Dean III. Dean told
the Ervin committee in June that Nixon had known of the cover-up. A month later,
former White House staff member Alexander Butterfield revealed that Nixon had
secretly tape-recorded conversations in his offices. The special prosecutor Cox,
and the Ervin committee attempted to obtain such tapes but the president cited
Executive Privilege, and refused to relinquish them and attempted to have Cox
fired. This attempt failed and as a result on Oct. 20, 1973, Attorney General
Elliot L. Richardson resigned in protest. His deputy also refused and was fired.
Nixon\'s solicitor general, who was nest in command fired Cox. This night is
now known as the “Saturday Night Massacre” and heightened suspicions that Nixon
had much to hide.
On Nov. 1 Leon Jaworski replaced Cox but continued to press for the
tapes and on Mar. 1 1974, a federal jury indicted 7 men for conspiracy to
obstruct justice. On April 30 the president released edited transcripts--
containing suspicious gaps of Watergate related Oval Office conversations. Not
satisfied Judge Sirica subpoenaed additional tapes, but Nixon refused and the
case moved to the Supreme Court.

Decision

On July 24, the Supreme Court justices ruled in a unanimous 8-0 vote
against him. Reasoning

The court conceded that a president could withhold national security
material but insisted that Watergate was a criminal matter. On July 27-30, the
House Judiciary Committee recommended that Nixon be impeached on three charges:
obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential power, and trying to impede the
impeachment process by defying committee subpoenas but rejected the charges of
unauthorized, secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969 and his use of public funds to
improve his private property. After this decision, a beleaguered President
released three tapes to the public on August 5, 1974; one revealing that he had
attempted to thwart the FBI\'s inquiry into the Watergate burglary. It proved
that Nixon had been a large part in the cover-up from its beginnings. With this
new evidence and the remaining congressional support for the president crushed,
Richard Nixon became the first President to resign.
criminal matter. On July 27-30, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that
Nixon be impeached on three charges: obstruction of justice, abuse of
presidential power, and trying to impede the impeachment process by defying
committee subpoenas but rejected the charges of unauthorized, secret bombing of
Cambodia in 1969 and his use of public funds to improve his private property.
After this decision, a beleaguered President released three tapes to the public
on August 5, 1974; one revealing that he had attempted to thwart the FBI\'s
inquiry into the Watergate burglary. It proved that Nixon had been a large part
in the cover-up from its beginnings. With this new evidence and the remaining
congressional support for the president crushed, Richard Nixon became the first
President to resign.

Category: History