The Nixon White House tapes are audio recordings of conversations between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Nixon administration officials, Nixon family members, and White House staff, produced between 1971 and 1973.
In February 1971, a sound-activated taping system was installed in the Oval Office, including in Nixon's Oval Office desk, using Sony TC-800B open-reel tape recorders to capture audio transmitted by telephone taps and concealed microphones. The system was expanded to include other rooms within the White House and Camp David. The system was turned off on July 18, 1973, two days after it became public knowledge as a result of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings. Nixon was not the first president to record his White House conversations; the practice was initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.
The tapes' existence came to light during the Watergate scandal of 1973 and 1974, when the system was mentioned during the televised testimony of White House aide Alexander Butterfield before the Senate Watergate Committee. Nixon's refusal of a congressional subpoena to release the tapes constituted an article of impeachment against Nixon, and led to his subsequent resignation on August 9, 1974.
Just prior to assuming office in January 1969, President Nixon learned that his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, had installed a system to record his meetings and telephone calls. According to his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, Nixon ordered the system removed, but during the first two years of his presidency he came to the conclusion (after trying other means) that audio recordings were the only way to ensure a full and faithful account of conversations and decisions. At Nixon's request, Haldeman and his staff—including Deputy Assistant Alexander Butterfield—worked with the United States Secret Service to install a recording system.
On February 16, 1971, a taping system was installed in two rooms in the White House, namely, the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Three months later, microphones were added to President Nixon's private office in the Old Executive Office Building and the following year microphones were installed in the presidential lodge at Camp David. The system was installed and monitored by the Secret Service, and the tapes were stored in a room in the White House basement. Significant phone lines were tapped as well, including those in the Oval Office, Old Executive Office Building and the Lincoln Sitting Room, which was Nixon's favorite room in the White House. Telephone conversations were recorded by tapping the telephone lines from the White House switchboard and relaying the conversations to recorders in a closet in the basement of the residence. All audio equipment was sound-activated, except in the Cabinet Room. All locations in the White House were activated by the Executive Protective Service's "First Family Locator" system: when an officer notified the system that the president was in the Oval Office, the taping machinery switched on, ready to record when triggered by sound.
By design, only very few individuals (apart from Nixon and Haldeman) knew of the existence of the taping system: Butterfield, Haldeman's assistant Lawrence Higby, and the Secret Service technicians who had installed it. The recordings were produced on as many as nine Sony TC-800B machines using very thin 0.5mil tape at the slow speed of 15/16 inches (23 mm) per second.
The tapes contain more than 3,000 hours of conversation. Hundreds of hours are of discussions on foreign policy, including planning for the 1972 Nixon visit to China and subsequent visit to the Soviet Union. Only 200 of the 3,500 hours contain references to Watergate and less than 5% of the recorded material has been transcribed or published.
The existence of the White House taping system was first confirmed by Senate Committee staff member Donald Sanders, on July 13, 1973, in an interview with White House aide Alexander Butterfield. Three days later, it was made public during the televised testimony of Butterfield, when he was asked about the possibility of a White House taping system by Senate Counsel Fred Thompson.
On July 16, 1973, Butterfield told the committee in a televised hearing that Nixon had ordered a taping system installed in the White House to automatically record all conversations. Special Counsel Archibald Cox, a former United States Solicitor General under President John F. Kennedy, asked District Court Judge John Sirica to subpoena nine relevant tapes to confirm the testimony of White House Counsel John Dean.
President Nixon initially refused to release the tapes, for two reasons: first, that the Constitutional principle of executive privilege extends to the tapes and citing the separation of powers and checks and balances within the Constitution, and second, claiming they were vital to national security. On October 19, 1973, he offered a compromise; Nixon proposed that U.S. Senator John C. Stennis review and summarize the tapes for accuracy and report his findings to the special prosecutor's office. Special prosecutor Archibald Cox refused the compromise and on Saturday, October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and resigned instead, then Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus was asked to fire Cox but refused and was subsequently fired. Solicitor General and acting head of the Justice Department Robert Bork fired Cox. Nixon appointed Leon Jaworski special counsel on November 1, 1973.
According to President Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, on September 29, 1973, she was reviewing a tape of the June 20, 1972, recordings when she made "a terrible mistake" during transcription. While playing the tape on a Uher 5000, she answered a phone call. Reaching for the Uher 5000 stop button, she said that she mistakenly hit the button next to it, the record button. For the duration of the phone call, about 5 minutes, she kept her foot on the device's pedal, causing a five-minute portion of the tape to be rerecorded. When she listened to the tape, the gap had grown to 18 1⁄2 minutes. She later insisted that she was not responsible for the remaining 13 minutes of buzz.
The contents missing from the recording remain unknown, though the gap occurs during a conversation between Nixon and H. R. Haldeman, three days after the Watergate break in. Nixon claimed not to know the topic or topics discussed during the gap. Haldeman's notes from the meeting show that among the topics of discussion were the arrests at the Watergate Hotel. White House lawyers first heard of the gap on the evening of November 14, 1973, and Judge Sirica, who had issued the subpoenas for the tapes, was not told until November 21, after the President's attorneys had decided that there was "no innocent explanation" they could offer.
Woods was asked to replicate the position she took to cause that accident. Seated at a desk, she reached far back over her left shoulder for a telephone as her foot applied pressure to the pedal controlling the transcription machine. Her posture during the demonstration, dubbed the "Rose Mary Stretch", resulted in many political commentators questioning the validity of the explanation.
In a grand jury interview in 1975, Nixon said that he initially believed that only four minutes of the tape were missing. He said that when he later heard that 18 minutes were missing, "I practically blew my stack."
Nixon's counsel, John Dean, has said that "These recordings also largely answer the questions regarding what was known by the White House about the reasons for the break-in and bugging at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, as well as what was erased during the infamous 18 minute and 30 second gap during the June 20, 1972, conversation and why."
A variety of suggestions have been made as to who could have erased the tape. Years later, former White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig speculated that the erasures may conceivably have been caused by Nixon himself. According to Haig, the President was "spectacularly inept" at understanding and operating mechanical devices, and in the course of reviewing the tape in question, he may have caused the erasures by fumbling with the recorder's controls; whether inadvertently or intentionally, Haig could not say. In 1973, Haig had speculated aloud that the erasure was caused by an unidentified "sinister force". Others have suggested that Haig was involved in deliberately erasing the tapes with Nixon's involvement, or that the erasure was conducted by a White House lawyer.
Nixon himself launched the first investigation into how the tapes were erased. He claimed that it was an intensive investigation but came up empty.
On November 21, 1973, Sirica appointed a panel of persons nominated jointly by the White House and the Special Prosecution Force. The panel was supplied with the Evidence Tape, the seven tape recorders from the Oval Office and Executive Office Building, and the two Uher 5000 recorders. One Uher 5000 was marked "Secret Service". The other was accompanied by a foot pedal, respectively labeled Government Exhibit 60 and 60B. The panel determined that the buzz was of no consequence, and that the gap was due to erasure performed on the Exhibit 60 Uher. The panel also determined that the erasure/buzz recording consisted of at least five separate segments, possibly as many as nine, and that at least five segments required hand operation; that is, they could not have been performed using the foot pedal. The panel was subsequently asked by the court to consider alternative explanations that had emerged during the hearings. The final report, dated May 31, 1974, found these other explanations did not contradict the original findings.
The National Archives now owns the tape, and has tried several times to recover the missing minutes—most recently in 2003—but without success. The tapes are now preserved in a climate-controlled vault in case a future technological development allows for restoration of the missing audio. Corporate security expert Phil Mellinger undertook a project to restore Haldeman's handwritten notes describing the missing 18 1⁄2 minutes, though that effort also failed to produce any new information.
In April 1974, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the tapes of 42 White House conversations. At the end of that month, Nixon released edited transcripts of the White House tapes, again citing executive privilege and national security; the Judiciary Committee, however, rejected Nixon's edited transcripts, saying that they did not comply with the subpoena.
Sirica, acting on a request from Jaworski, issued a subpoena for the tapes of 64 presidential conversations to use as evidence in the criminal cases against indicted former Nixon administration officials. Nixon refused, and Jaworski appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to force Nixon to turn over the tapes. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to release the tapes. The 8–0 ruling (Justice William Rehnquist disqualified himself owing to having worked for Attorney General John Mitchell) in United States v. Nixon found that President Nixon was wrong in arguing that courts are compelled to honor, without question, any presidential claim of executive privilege.
In late July 1974, the White House released the subpoenaed tapes. One of those tapes was the so-called "smoking gun" tape, from June 23, 1972, six days after the Watergate break-in. In that tape, Nixon agrees that administration officials should approach Richard Helms, Director of the CIA, and Vernon A. Walters, Deputy Director, and ask them to request L. Patrick Gray, Acting Director of the FBI, to halt the Bureau's investigation into the Watergate break-in on the grounds that it was a national security matter. The special prosecutor felt that Nixon, in so agreeing, had entered into a criminal conspiracy whose goal was the obstruction of justice.
Once the "smoking gun" tape was made public on August 5, 1974, Nixon's political support practically vanished. The ten Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who had voted against impeachment in committee announced that they would now vote for impeachment once the matter reached the House floor. He lacked substantial support in the Senate as well; Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott estimated no more than 15 Senators were willing to even consider acquittal. Facing certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction in the Senate, Nixon announced his resignation on the evening of Thursday, August 8, 1974, effective as of noon the next day.
After Nixon's resignation, the federal government took control of all of his presidential records, including the tapes, in the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974. From the time that the federal government seized his records until his death, Nixon was locked in frequent legal battles over control of the tapes; Nixon argued that the act was unconstitutional in that it violated the constitutional principles of separation of powers and executive privilege, and infringed on his personal privacy rights and First Amendment right of association.
The legal disputes would continue for 25 years, past Nixon's death in 1994. He initially lost several cases, but the courts ruled in 1998 that some 820 hours and 42 million pages of documents were his personal private property and had to be returned to his estate. However, Nixon had been deceased for four years at the time of this latest court ruling so most experts agree that it was a moot development after years of legal battles over the tapes.
On July 11, 2007, the National Archives were given official control of the previously privately operated Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. The newly renamed facility, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, now houses the tapes and releases additional tapes to the public periodically, which are available online and in the public domain.
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The Committee for the Re-Election of the President (also known as the Committee to Re-elect the President), abbreviated as CRP was a fundraising organization of United States President Richard Nixon in his 1972 re-election campaign.D. Todd Christofferson
David Todd Christofferson (born January 24, 1945) is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He has been a general authority of the church since 1993. Currently, he is the ninth most senior apostle in the church.Douglas Brinkley
Douglas Brinkley (born December 14, 1960) is an American author, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and professor of history at Rice University. Brinkley is the history commentator for CNN, and a contributing editor to the magazine Vanity Fair A public spokesperson on conservation issues. He joined the faculty of Rice University as a professor of history in 2007.Egil Krogh
Egil "Bud" Krogh Jr. (born August 3, 1939) is an American lawyer who became infamous as an official of the Nixon Administration and who was imprisoned for his part in the Watergate Affair. He is currently Senior Fellow on Ethics and Leadership at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress and Counselor to the Director at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership.Eugenio Martínez
Eugenio Rolando Martínez (alias Musculito, born July 8, 1922) was a member of the anti-Castro movement in the early 1960s, and later was one of the five men recruited by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt in 1972 for the Memorial Day weekend Watergate burglary at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington, D.C. He later worked as a real estate agent.Weeks after the initial break in, on June 17, 1972, the men were arrested by District of Columbia Police inside DNC headquarters during what they said was a second entry into the building to correct problems with the first break-in. Martinez and the others were convicted in the ensuing Watergate scandal. The others were Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Bernard Barker and James McCord. After completing his prison term, Martinez was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.On August 31, 2016, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained CIA internal documents, through a FOIA request, that stated Martinez was a paid asset of the Agency at the time of the break in. Although his connection to the Agency was acknowledged, until this release the CIA had maintained that his service had ended and he no longer had an association with the Agency for at least two years prior to the incident at the Watergate Hotel.Howard Simons
Howard Simons (June 3, 1929 - June 13, 1989) was the managing editor of the Washington Post at the time of the Watergate scandal, and later curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
According to his Washington Post obituary, Simons was a native of Albany, New York, and received a BA from Union College in Schenectady in 1951 and a master's degree a year later from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. After service in the Korean War, he became a science reporter in Washington for several news organizations, and joined The Post as a science writer in 1961. He became assistant managing editor in 1966 and managing editor in 1971.Impeachment process against Richard Nixon
An impeachment process against Richard Nixon was formally initiated on February 6, 1974, when the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution, H.Res. 803, giving its Judiciary Committee authority to investigate whether sufficient grounds existed to impeach Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States of high crimes and misdemeanors, primarily related to the Watergate scandal. This investigation was undertaken one year after the United States Senate established a select committee to investigate the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. and the Nixon Administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement.
Following a subpoena from the Judiciary Committee, in April 1974 edited transcripts of many Watergate-related conversations from the Nixon White House tapes were made public by Nixon, but the committee pressed for full tapes and additional conversations. Nixon refused, but on July 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered him to comply. On July 27, 29, and 30, 1974, the Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon, for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress, and reported those articles to the House of Representatives. Two other articles of impeachment were debated but not approved. Before the House could vote on the impeachment resolutions, Nixon made public one of the additional conversations, known as the "Smoking Gun Tape", which made clear his complicity in the cover-up. With his political support completely eroded, Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974. It is widely believed that had Nixon not resigned, his impeachment by the House and removal from office by a trial before the United States Senate would have occurred.
Nixon is one of only three U.S. presidents against whom articles of impeachment have been reported to the full House for consideration. The other two–Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998–were both impeached; however, both were also acquitted from all charges following a Senate trial, and thus allowed to remain in office. The impeachment process against Nixon is the only one resulting in the departure from office of its target.James W. McCord Jr.
James Walter McCord Jr. (January 26, 1924 – June 15, 2017) was an American CIA officer, later involved, as an electronics expert, in the burglaries which precipitated the Watergate scandal.Nixon's Enemies List
"Nixon's Enemies List" is the informal name of what started as a list of President of the United States Richard Nixon's major political opponents compiled by Charles Colson, written by George T. Bell (assistant to Colson, special counsel to the White House), and sent in memorandum form to John Dean on September 9, 1971. The list was part of a campaign officially known as "Opponents List" and "Political Enemies Project".
The list became public knowledge on June 27, 1973, when Dean mentioned during hearings with the Senate Watergate Committee that a list existed containing those whom the president did not like. Journalist Daniel Schorr, who happened to be on the list, managed to obtain a copy of it later that day.A longer second list was made public by Dean on December 20, 1973, during a hearing with the Congressional Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation.Our Nixon
Our Nixon is an all-archival documentary providing a view of the Nixon presidency through the use of home movies filmed by top Nixon aides combined with other historical material. It was directed by Penny Lane.Richard Nixon's resignation speech
Richard Nixon's resignation speech was an address made on August 8, 1974, by President of the United States Richard Nixon to the American public. It was delivered in the White House Oval Office. The purpose of the speech was for Nixon, who had been intimately involved in the events surrounding the Watergate scandal that occurred during his controversial re-election campaign in 1972, to announce to the nation that he was resigning from office. Watergate had cost Nixon much of his political support, and at the time of his resignation, he faced almost certain impeachment and removal from office.
Nixon was the ninth incumbent president not to complete the four-year term to which they had been elected since the presidency was established in 1789. He was however, the first to do so for a reason other than dying in office. His presidential resignation remains the only one in U.S. history.Rose Mary Woods
Rose Mary Woods (December 26, 1917 – January 22, 2005) was Richard Nixon's secretary from his days in Congress in 1951, through the end of his political career. Before H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman became the operators of Nixon's presidential campaign, Woods was Nixon's gatekeeper.Smoking Gun
Smoking Gun may refer to:
Smoking gun, an object or fact that serves as conclusive evidence of a crime or similar act
The Smoking Gun, a website that posts legal documents, arrest records, and police mugshots
The Smoking Gunns, a wrestling tag team
JFK: The Smoking Gun, a documentary and book on Howard Donahue's theory on the Kennedy assassination
Smoking Gun Interactive, video game companySmoking gun
The term "smoking gun" is a reference to an object or fact that serves as conclusive evidence of a crime or similar act, just short of being caught in flagrante delicto. "Smoking gun" refers to the strongest kind of circumstantial evidence, as opposed to direct evidence. Direct evidence would include the entire action: Pulling the trigger, firing the gun, and the victim falling.The Final Days
The Final Days is a 1976 non-fiction book written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the Watergate scandal. A follow up to their 1974 book All the President's Men, The Final Days concerns itself with the final months of the Presidency of Richard Nixon including battles over the Nixon White House tapes and the impeachment process against Richard Nixon.United States Senate Watergate Committee
The Senate Watergate Committee, known officially as the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, was a special committee established by the United States Senate, S.Res. 60, in 1973, to investigate the Watergate scandal, with the power to investigate the break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and any subsequent cover-up of criminal activity, as well as "all other illegal, improper, or unethical conduct occurring during the presidential election of 1972, including political espionage and campaign finance practices".
American print news media focused the nation's attention on the issue with hard-hitting investigative reports, while television news outlets brought the drama of the hearings to the living rooms of millions of American households, broadcasting the proceedings live for two weeks in May 1973. The public television network PBS broadcast the hearings from gavel to gavel on more than 150 national affiliates.
Working under committee chairman Sam Ervin (D-North Carolina), the committee played a pivotal role in gathering evidence that would lead to the indictment of forty administration officials and the conviction of several of Richard Nixon's aides for obstruction of justice and other crimes. Its revelations prompted the impeachment process against Nixon, which featured the introduction of articles of impeachment against Nixon himself in the House of Representatives, which led to his resignation on August 9, 1974.Virgilio Gonzalez
Virgilio (Villo) R. Gonzalez (born May 18, 1926) is a Cuba-born political activist, locksmith, and one of the five men arrested at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972. The break-in led to the Watergate scandal and the eventual resignation of United States President Richard Nixon two years later.Watergate Seven
The Watergate Seven has come to refer to two different groups of people, but both fall in the context of the Watergate scandal. First, it can refer to the five men caught June 17, 1972, burglarizing the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in the Watergate Hotel, along with their two handlers, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, who were Nixon campaign aides. All seven were tried before Judge John Sirica in January 1973.The second use of Watergate Seven refers to seven advisors and aides of United States President Richard M. Nixon who were indicted by a grand jury on March 1, 1974, for their role in the Watergate scandal. The grand jury also named Nixon as an unindicted conspirator. The indictments marked the first time in U.S. history that a president was so named.White House Plumbers
The White House Plumbers, sometimes simply called the Plumbers, the "Room 16 Project," or more officially, the White House "Special Investigations Unit" was a covert White House Special Investigations Unit, established within a week after the publication of the "Pentagon Papers" in June 1971, during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Its task was to stop and/or respond to the leaking of classified information, such as the Pentagon Papers, to the news media. The work of the unit "tapered-off" after the bungled "Ellsberg break-in" but some of its former operatives branched into illegal activities while still employed at the White House together with managers of the Committee to Re-elect the President, including the Watergate break-in and the ensuing Watergate scandal. The group has been described as Nixon's "fixers".