The Saturday Night Massacre is the name popularly applied to the series of events that took place in the United States on the evening of Saturday, October 20, 1973, during the Watergate scandal. U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Richardson refused and resigned effective immediately. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; Ruckelshaus refused, and also resigned. Nixon then ordered the third-most-senior official at the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox. Bork considered resigning, but did as Nixon asked. The political and public reaction to Nixon's actions were negative and highly damaging to the president. A new special counsel was appointed eleven days later on November 1, 1973, and on November 14, 1973, a court ruled that the dismissal had been illegal.
U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson had appointed Cox in May 1973 after promising the House Judiciary Committee that he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the events surrounding the break-in of the Democratic National Committee's offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972. The appointment was created as a career reserved position in the Justice department, meaning it came under the authority of the attorney general who could only remove the special prosecutor "for cause", e.g., gross improprieties or malfeasance in office. Richardson had, in his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate, promised not to use his authority to dismiss the Watergate special prosecutor, unless for cause.
When Cox issued a subpoena to Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office, the president refused to comply. On Friday, October 19, 1973, Nixon offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise—asking the infamously hard-of-hearing Senator John C. Stennis of Mississippi to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor's office. Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend.
However, on the following day (Saturday), Nixon ordered Attorney General Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned.
Nixon then ordered the Solicitor General of the United States, Robert Bork, as acting head of the Justice Department, to fire Cox. Both Richardson and Ruckelshaus had given personal assurances to Congressional oversight committees that they would not interfere, but Bork had not. Although Bork later claimed he believed Nixon's order to be valid and appropriate, he still considered resigning to avoid being "perceived as a man who did the President's bidding to save my job". Nevertheless, having been brought to the White House by limousine and sworn in as acting attorney general, Bork wrote the letter firing Cox – and the Saturday Night Massacre was complete.
Initially, the Nixon White House claimed to have fired Ruckelshaus, but as an article published the next day by The Washington Post pointed out, "The letter from the President to Bork also said Ruckelshaus resigned", catching Nixon lying.
The night he was fired, Cox's deputy prosecutor and press aides held an impassioned news briefing and read the following statement from him, "Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people."
On November 14, 1973, federal district judge Gerhard Gesell ruled firing Cox was illegal absent a finding of extraordinary impropriety as specified in the regulation establishing the special prosecutor's office. Congress was infuriated by what it saw as a gross abuse of presidential power—as were many Americans, who sent an unusually large number of telegrams to the White House and Congress in protest.
Less than a week after the Saturday Night Massacre, an Oliver Quayle poll for NBC News indicated that, for the first time, a plurality of U.S. citizens supported impeaching Nixon, with 44% in favor, 43% opposed, and 13% undecided, with a sampling error of 2 to 3 per cent. In the days that followed, numerous resolutions of impeachment against the president were introduced in Congress.
However, the House Judiciary Committee did not approve its first article of impeachment until July 27 the following year – more than nine months after the Saturday Night Massacre – when it charged Nixon with obstruction of justice. Two more articles of impeachment quickly followed.
Within two weeks, Nixon had made the decision to resign; following a televised speech in which he announced his intentions, he did so on August 9, 1974.
The actual origin of the phrase is unknown; it first appeared in writing two days after the events, in a Washington Post article by David S. Broder on October 22, but even in that article, Broder writes that the events were already "being called" the Saturday Night Massacre. In a 2017 article in the Washington Post, Amy B. Wang attributed the phrase to humorist Art Buchwald, based on the recollection of Sally Quinn.
Nixon felt political pressure to allow Bork to appoint a new special prosecutor, and Bork chose Leon Jaworski. There was a question whether Jaworski would limit his investigation to the Watergate break-in or follow Cox's lead and look into other corrupt activities, such as those involving the "White House Plumbers". Continuing Cox's investigation, Jaworski did look at broader corruption involving the White House.
While Nixon continued to refuse to turn over the tapes, he agreed to release transcripts of a large number of them. Nixon said he did so partly because any audio pertinent to national security would have to be redacted from the tapes. There was further controversy on November 7 when an 18½-minute portion of one tape was found to have been erased. Nixon's personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, said she had accidentally erased the tape by pushing the wrong foot pedal on her tape player while answering the phone. Later forensic analysis determined that the tape had been erased in several segments—at least five, and perhaps as many as nine.
Nixon's presidency succumbed to mounting pressure resulting from the Watergate scandal and its cover-up. Faced with almost certain impeachment and conviction, Nixon resigned.
In his posthumously published memoirs, Bork said Nixon promised him the next seat on the Supreme Court following Bork's role in firing Cox. Nixon was unable to carry out that promise, but President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork for the Supreme Court in 1987; he was rejected by the Senate.
At least 22 impeachment resolutions were quickly introduced in the House, along with 12 bills and resolutions ... calling for the appointment of a new special prosecutor.
Archibald "Archie" Cox Jr. (May 17, 1912 – May 29, 2004) was an American lawyer and law professor who served as U.S. Solicitor General under President John F. Kennedy and as a special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal. During his career, he was a pioneering expert on labor law and was also an authority on constitutional law. The Journal of Legal Studies has identified Cox as one of the most cited legal scholars of the 20th century.Cox was Senator John F. Kennedy's labor advisor and in 1961, President Kennedy appointed him solicitor general, an office he held for four and a half years. Cox became famous when, under mounting pressure and charges of corruption against persons closely associated with Richard Nixon, Attorney General nominee Elliot Richardson appointed him as Special Prosecutor to oversee the federal criminal investigation into the Watergate burglary and other related crimes that became popularly known as the Watergate scandal. He had a dramatic confrontation with Nixon when he subpoenaed the tapes the president had secretly recorded of his Oval Office conversations. When Cox refused a direct order from the White House to seek no further tapes or presidential materials, Nixon fired him in an incident that became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Cox's firing produced a public relations disaster for Nixon and set in motion impeachment proceedings which ended with Nixon stepping down from the presidency.
Cox returned to teaching, lecturing, and writing for the rest of his life, giving his opinions on the role of the Supreme Court in the development of the law and the role of the lawyer in society. Although he was recommended to President Jimmy Carter for a seat on the First Circuit Court of Appeals, Cox's nomination fell victim to the dispute between the president and Senator Ted Kennedy. He was appointed to head several public-service, watchdog and good-government organizations, including serving for 12 years as head of Common Cause. Cox was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board in 1976 and 1997. In addition, he argued two important Supreme Court cases, winning both: one concerning the constitutionality of federal campaign finance restrictions (Buckley v. Valeo) and the other the leading early case testing affirmative action (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke).Bradley Thompson
Bradley Thompson is an American television writer and producer known for episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1996–1999), The Twilight Zone (2002–2003), Battlestar Galactica (2004–2009), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2009-2011), Falling Skies (2011-2013), and The Strain (2014-2017) with writing partner David Weddle. They also wrote for the short-lived series Ghost Stories (1997) and The Fearing Mind (2000).Committee for the Re-Election of the President
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.Elliot Richardson
Elliot Lee Richardson (July 20, 1920 – December 31, 1999) was an American lawyer and politician who was a member of the cabinet of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. As U.S. Attorney General, he was a prominent figure in the Watergate Scandal, and resigned rather than obey President Nixon's order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Richardson served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from 1970 to 1973, Secretary of Defense from January to May 1973, Attorney General from May to October 1973, and Secretary of Commerce from 1976 to 1977. That makes him one of only two individuals to have held four Cabinet positions within the United States government (the other being George Shultz).Ethics in Government Act
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 is a United States federal law that was passed in the wake of the Nixon Watergate scandal and the Saturday Night Massacre. It created mandatory, public disclosure of financial and employment history of public officials and their immediate families. It also created restrictions on lobbying efforts by public officials for a set period after leaving public office. Last, it created the U.S. Office of Independent Counsel, tasked with investigating government officials.Leon Jaworski
Leonidas "Leon" Jaworski (September 19, 1905 – December 9, 1982) was an American attorney and law professor who served as the second special prosecutor during the Watergate Scandal. He was appointed to that position on November 1, 1973, soon after the Saturday Night Massacre of October 19–20, 1973, that resulted in the dismissal of his predecessor, Archibald Cox.Massacre
A massacre is a killing, typically of multiple victims, considered morally unacceptable, especially when
perpetrated by a group of political actors against defenseless victims.
The word is a loan of a French term for "butchery" or "carnage".There is no objective definition of what constitutes a "massacre". Various international organisations have proposed a formal definition of the term crimes against humanity, which would however include incidents of persecution or abuse that do not result in deaths.
Conversely, a "massacre" is not necessarily a "crime against humanity".
Other terms with overlapping scope include war crime, pogrom, mass killing, mass murder, and extrajudicial killing.Nixon White House tapes
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.On August 19, 2013, the Nixon Library and the National Archives and Records Administration released the final 340 hours of the tapes that cover the period from April 9 through July 12, 1973.Paul Siebert
Paul Edward Siebert (born June 5, 1953) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He pitched parts of five seasons in the majors, from 1974 until 1978. Paul's father was former major league first baseman Dick Siebert.
Siebert was selected in the 3rd round (58th overall) of the 1971 amateur entry draft by the Houston Astros. He made his major league baseball debut with the Astros in 1974, and was traded to the San Diego Padres before the 1977 season.
Siebert was part of the infamous "Saturday Night Massacre" in New York. On June 15, 1977, the Mets traded Dave Kingman to the San Diego Padres for Siebert and Bobby Valentine, sent Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman, and Mike Phillips to the St. Louis Cardinals for Joel Youngblood. Siebert split the rest of that year as well as 1978 between the Mets and the minor league Tidewater Tides.
Siebert was traded to the Cardinals after the 1978 season, but was released at the end of spring training in 1979. He signed with the Montreal Expos, playing for the Denver Bears in 1979 before retiring.Pete McCloskey
Paul Norton "Pete" McCloskey Jr. (born September 29, 1927) is a former Republican politician from the U.S. state of California who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1967 to 1983. He ran on an anti-war platform for the Republican nomination for President in 1972 but was defeated by incumbent President Richard Nixon. In April 2007, McCloskey switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party.
Born in Loma Linda, California, McCloskey pursued a legal career in Palo Alto, California after graduating from Stanford Law School. He served in the Korean War as a member of the United States Marine Corps. For his service, he was awarded the Navy Cross and the Silver Star. He won election to the House of Representatives in 1967, defeating Shirley Temple in the Republican primary. He unsuccessfully challenged President Richard Nixon in the 1972 Republican primaries on an anti-Vietnam War platform. He co-authored the 1973 Endangered Species Act. After the Saturday Night Massacre, he became the first member of Congress to publicly call for President Nixon's resignation.
He continually won re-election until 1982, when he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination to represent California in the United States Senate. The nomination was won by Pete Wilson, who went on to defeat Jerry Brown in the general election. During the 1988 Republican presidential primaries, McCloskey helped put an end to Pat Robertson's campaign by revealing that the latter had not served in combat, contrary to Robertson's claims. In 1989, he co-founded the Council for the National Interest. He strongly opposed the Iraq War and supported Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. In 2006, he unsuccessfully challenged Congressman Richard Pombo in the Republican primary and endorsed Democrat Jerry McNerney in the general election.
He has written two books, Truth and Untruth: Political Deceit in America and The Taking of Hill 610: And Other Essays on Friendship.Robert Bork
Robert Heron Bork (March 1, 1927 – December 19, 2012) was an American judge, government official and legal scholar who served as the Solicitor General of the United States from 1973 to 1977. A professor at Yale Law School by occupation, he later served as a judge on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1982 to 1988. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the U.S. Senate rejected his nomination.Bork was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He pursued a legal career after attending the University of Chicago. After working at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, he served as a Yale Law School Professor. He became a prominent advocate of originalism, calling for judges to hew to the framers' original understanding of the United States Constitution. He also became an influential antitrust scholar, arguing that consumers often benefited from corporate mergers and that antitrust law should focus on consumer welfare rather than on ensuring competition. Bork wrote several notable books, including The Antitrust Paradox and Slouching Towards Gomorrah.
From 1973 to 1977, he served as the solicitor general under President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford, arguing several cases before the Supreme Court. In the October 1973 Saturday Night Massacre, Bork became acting attorney general after his superiors in the Justice Department resigned rather than fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate scandal. Bork fired Cox, and served as acting attorney general until January 1974.
In 1982 President Reagan appointed Bork to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. After Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell announced his impending retirement, Reagan nominated Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, precipitating a contested Senate debate. Opposition to Bork centered on his stated desire to roll back the civil rights decisions of the Warren and Burger courts and his role in the Saturday Night Massacre. His nomination was defeated in the Senate, with 58 of the 100 Senators opposing his nomination. That Supreme Court vacancy was eventually filled by another Reagan nominee, Anthony Kennedy. Bork resigned his judgeship in 1988 and served as a professor at the George Mason University School of Law and other institutions. He also advised presidential candidate Mitt Romney and was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute before his death in 2012.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.Sally Yates
Sally Caroline Yates (née Quillian; August 20, 1960) is an American lawyer. She served as a United States Attorney and later United States Deputy Attorney General, having been appointed to both positions by President Barack Obama.
Following the inauguration of Donald Trump and the departure of Attorney General Loretta Lynch on January 20, 2017, Yates served as Acting Attorney General for 10 days. She was dismissed for insubordination by President Trump on January 30, after she instructed the Justice Department not to make legal arguments defending Executive Order 13769, which temporarily banned the admission of refugees and barred travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. Rather than defend it, Yates stated the order was neither defensible in court nor consistent with the Constitution. Large portions of the order were subsequently blocked by federal courts, which ruled that those sections violated the Fifth Amendment.
Following her dismissal, Yates returned to private practice and declined to run for elected office.Stennis Compromise
The Stennis Compromise was a legal maneuver attempted by U.S. President Richard Nixon on October 19, 1973, during the Watergate scandal.
The Compromise was offered by Nixon to Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was appointed by the Justice Department to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972. It was made in response to a subpoena requesting, as evidence, copies of taped conversations which Nixon had made in the Oval Office.
After an initial refusal to comply on the grounds of executive privilege, Nixon offered to remit the tapes to a respected U.S. Senator, John C. Stennis, a Democrat from Mississippi. Sen. Stennis would listen to the tapes himself, then summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor's office.
The explanation was that Stennis would be sensitive to matters of national security contained within. However, Stennis was famously hard-of-hearing, therefore it is believed that President Nixon did not want the tapes entered into the public record, because they contained recordings of Nixon using coarse language and racial epithets, and – preeminently – implicating himself in the "cover-up" surrounding the Watergate break-in.
Cox refused the compromise that evening. Nixon's response was to have the special prosecutor fired the next day, in a chain of events later known as the "Saturday Night Massacre."Timeline of the Watergate scandal
Timeline of the Watergate Scandal —Regarding the burglary and illegal wiretapping of the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex by members of President of the United States Richard Nixon's re-election committee and subsequent abuse of powers by the president and administration officials to halt or hinder the investigation into the same.United States v. Nixon
United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that resulted in a unanimous decision against President Richard Nixon, ordering him to deliver tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials to a federal district court. Issued on July 24, 1974, the decision was important to the late stages of the Watergate scandal, when there was an ongoing impeachment process against Richard Nixon. United States v. Nixon is considered a crucial precedent limiting the power of any U.S. president to claim executive privilege.
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger wrote the opinion for a unanimous court, joined by Justices William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun and Lewis F. Powell. Burger, Blackmun, and Powell were appointed to the Court by Nixon during his first term. Associate Justice William Rehnquist recused himself as he had previously served in the Nixon administration as an Assistant Attorney General.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 scandal
The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States during 1972 to 1974, following a break-in by five men at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, and President Richard Nixon's administration's subsequent attempt to cover up his involvement. After the five burglars were caught and the conspiracy was discovered—chiefly through the work of a few journalists, Congressional staffers and an election-finance watchdog official—Watergate was investigated by the United States Congress. Meanwhile, Nixon's administration resisted its probes, which led to a constitutional crisis.The term Watergate, by metonymy, has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. Those activities included such dirty tricks as bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious. Nixon and his close aides also ordered investigations of activist groups and political figures, using the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as political weapons.The scandal led to the discovery of multiple abuses of power by members of the Nixon administration, the commencement of an impeachment process against the president, and Nixon's resignation. The scandal also resulted in the indictment of 69 people, with trials or pleas resulting in 48 being found guilty, many of whom were top Nixon officials.The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex on Saturday, June 17, 1972. The FBI investigated and discovered a connection between cash found on the burglars and a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP), the official organization of Nixon's campaign. In July 1973, evidence mounted against the president's staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee. The investigation revealed that Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations.After a series of court battles, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that the president was obligated to release the tapes to government investigators (United States v. Nixon). The tapes revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and to use federal officials to deflect the investigation.
Facing virtually certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, preventing the House from impeaching him. On September 8, 1974, his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him.
The name "Watergate" and the suffix "-gate", used after an identifying term, i.e. Bridgegate, have since become synonymous with political and non-political scandals in the United States, and some other parts of the world.William Ruckelshaus
William Doyle Ruckelshaus (born July 24, 1932) is an American attorney and former U.S. government official. He was the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, was subsequently acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then Deputy Attorney General of the United States. During 1983 through 1985 he returned as EPA Administrator.