1974 September 8

President Gerald Ford Pardons Richard Nixon


One month after Richard Nixon resigned as president, President Gerald Ford on this day granted him a full pardon for all possible criminal charges. The pardon touched off national outrage but, under the Constitution, the president has unlimited pardon power. Nixon had resigned on August 9, 1974, in response to the Watergate scandal and other abuses of power while president. The House of Representatives voted to impeach him on July 27, 1974, over these same issues. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, had rejected his claims of executive privilege on July 24, 1974, and ordered him to turn over a set of White House tape recordings. The famous “smoking gun” tape of June 23, 1972, revealed that Nixon had in fact obstructed justice in the Watergate scandal investigation, and the release of the tape prompted his resignation.

The Watergate burglary, on June 17, 1972, touched off a national scandal that gripped the nation for 15 months, from the day of the original Watergate burglary to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The burglary set in motions investigations that uncovered other abuses of power by President Nixon and several members of his administration. These included the famous “enemies” list of critics of the administration who were targeted for retaliation (August 16, 1971), and the White House “Plumbers” unit that burglarized the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist on September 9, 1971. Nixon was impeached by the House of Representatives on July 27, 1974, and he resigned in disgrace on August 9, 1974.

President Ford: “During this long period of delay and potential litigation, ugly passions would again be aroused. And our people would again be polarized in their opinions. And the credibility of our free institutions of government would again be challenged at home and abroad.”

Read Ford’s Pardon Statement: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=4695

View Ford’s Pardon speech on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM9dGr8ArR0

Read Ford Aide Benton Becker’s fascinating memo on the pardon: http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/document/0238/1126646.pdf

Watch Ford explain the pardon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdsehsvnFMA

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