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July 16, 1973.

It was afternoon, during the hearings of the Senate Watergate Committee.

Suddenly there was a not previously scheduled witness brought forth.

He was, surprisingly, questioned by Minority Counsel Fred Thompson.

His name was Alexander Butterfield.

He was at that moment, administrator of the FAA.

He had previously been an assistant to White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, with knowledge of the communications systems in the White House.

And then we heard this:

That was the beginning of the end for Nixon.

Both the Senate and the Special Prosecutor wanted the tapes.

Nixon was determined not to release them.

When Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox insisted on pursuing subpoenas for 8 specific tapes to see if they confirmed the testimony of John Dean, Nixon refused.

Then on October 20th the Watergate scandal exploded.

Nixon ordered AG Elliot Richardson to fire Cox.  Richardson refused and resigned.
He ordered Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox.  He refused and was fired.

The only remaining high official in the Department who had been confirmed by the Senate was prepared to resign, but Richardson and Ruckelshaus told him to stay, that one way or another Cox was a goner.  So it was that Solicitor General Robert Bork fired Cox, in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.

On Monday, multiple articles of impeachment were introduced against Nixon.

Public pressure forced him to appoint a replacement Special Counsel, Leon Jaworski.  Among other things, a Federal Judge ruled that the firing of Cox was illegal.

Jaworski also wanted tapes.

Nixon instead offered a compromise of having Sen. John Stennis of MS listen to them.  

Jaworskin issued subpoenas.

Nixon released edited transcripts from which we learned a new expression,  

expletive deleted
because the transcripts omitted the many obscenities to which Nixon was prone in his informal conversation.

The issue of the subpoenas went to the Supreme Court which ruled 8-0 that Nixon had to turn over the tapes.

Eventually among the tapes were found an extended erasure of one key tape, for which Nixon's personal secretary Rosemary Woods tried to take responsibility.  And also found was the "smoking gun" tape on which Nixon was heard clearly actively involved in the coverup, prima facie evidence of obstruction of Justice.

That entire chain of events, culminating in Nixon's resignation in August of 1974, began when Senate Committee Staff interviewed Butterfield on July 13.

And on the afternoon of July 16, all who were watching the ongoing hearings - including me - heard in real time that Nixon had been taping his conversations.

It was the beginning of the end for Richard Milhous Nixon.

Subpoenas were issues for specific tapes, because

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 08:17:39 AM PDT

  •  I remember it well... (10+ / 0-)

    13 months later the sweaty crook took that helicopter ride.

    "Who is John Galt?" A two dimensional character in a third rate novel.

    by Inventor on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 08:28:23 AM PDT

    •  me too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark, john07801

      glued to the TV that whole summer.

      For me the "aha!" moment was Tony Ulascewicz (sp?) testifying about delivering $10,000s in cash around DC in brown paper lunch sacks, the hush money ordered by Atty. Gen. John Mitchell. He was very matter-of-fact about it, just a low-level guy doing what he was told. It was devastating.

      (I may have some of the details wrong; it was a long time ago, and I didn't check Wikipedia before posting.)

  •  Would never happen today. (7+ / 0-)

    This "scandal" pales in comparison to what government, the media and the public yawn through on pretty much a monthly basis. Watergate was back when there actually was a modicum of statesmanship and care for something government propriety.

    Iran Contra saw to all that, and the Starr/Lweinsky affair from the other side.

    Today, the corruption is blatant, unabashed, unforgiving and unrelenting. The powers determine the outcome and use the media to sell it.

    •  Don't Forget 1 Article of Impeachment Was Over (6+ / 0-)

      Nixon's mobilization of the federal government against activist groups and leaders, political enemies of Nixon, etc. The electoral scandal generated most of the counts but the other crimes were much more important to the nation.

      An important reason Ellsberg's charges were dismissed was because of what all the government had been doing against him in the interim, including Nixon's Plumbers' break-in at his psychiatrist's office.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 09:11:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thopmson Tipped the Administration Off (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock

    That the qeustion would be coming publicly several days in advance.  One wonders if there was anything even worse than what came out that they had the time and inclination to get rid of.

    Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

    by TooFolkGR on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 08:53:36 AM PDT

  •  I'm waiting for the beginning of the end... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, sfbob, Stude Dude

    ...for Nixon's ultra-conservative twin in the Wisconsin Governor's Mansion, Scott Walker. He's been one step ahead of the law since before he was first elected Governor of Wisconsin, and mark my words, if somebody with ties to Walker doesn't get paid well, he or she is going to tell all.

    We're already in the beginning of the end stage for Michelle Bachmann, another ultra-conservative crook. The Tea Party corruption machine that the Republicans have built over the past several years can only sustain itself for so long.

    "It's not enough to be in the majority, you have to stand for something." -Russ Feingold

    by DownstateDemocrat on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 09:29:07 AM PDT

  •  I was watching the hearing live at the time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini

    And this was before CNN made this sort of TV coverage commonplace.

    My jaw dropped when Butterfield made the revelation. My thought at the time was that the repercussions would be far more serious. A lot of foreign leaders and diplomats had conversations in the Oval Office, and I'm sure these people were not happy when they learned that their conversations were recorded.

    And here's a question: we now know that Mark Felt was "Deep Throat". Did Felt play any role in getting Butterfield to come forward?

    •  almost certainly not (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob

      the prosecutors were interviewing everyone who had been in the White House during the time in question.

      Because of the role Butterfield had with respect to communications, the prosecutors remembered Dean remarking that at one point Nixon had walked over towards his desk and spoken almost as if he were speaking for the record so they asked Butterfield about the possibility of taping

      my recollection is that after the initial interview, without telling him why, they called Dean and asked whether Butterfield was a straight shooter and could be counted on to answer honestly, and Dean affirmed that he was a straight shooter.

      I have lots of tapes and notes about watergate, but I really do not have time to go back and dig through them now to confirm what I just offered.

      That was the summer after I graduated from College.  I was doing some cramming for German for a language exam for grad school,and I was playing softball, but I was also watching a LOT of the Senate hearings, so I happened to have the TV on that day, July 16, 1973, when Butterfield was brought in as an unannounced witness.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 10:11:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Perhaps the end for Nixon (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, sfbob, ladybug53

    But Roger Ailes still drives Fox News, Karl Rove is running right wing slush funds, and various others of his sweaty apparatchiks walk around unjailed.

    Then there's the Powell Memo come to life in the AEI, CEI, Manhattan Institute, Heartland Institute, and so on.

    Nixon might be gone, but the foul legacy lives on.

  •  I like to think of it as the beginning of the end (0+ / 0-)

    for Robert Bork, also...Nixon's henchman.

    Guns don't kill people but there's always one there at the time of death.

    by john07801 on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 03:42:12 PM PDT

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