1972 June 23

Nixon White House “Smoking Gun” Meeting; Nixon Obstructs Justice


A week after the Watergate break-in (June 17, 1972), President Richard Nixon met with his top aides in the White House for one of many meetings on the developing political and legal crisis. At one of the meetings on this day, Nixon and his aide H. R. Haldeman discussed possible steps to prevent a full investigation of the burglary, a move that represented an obstruction of justice. Recorded by a secret White House taping system that Nixon had installed, the tape of his meeting eventually became the famous “smoking gun” tape, as Nixon clearly endorsed a scheme to block an investigation.

The June 17 Watergate burglary 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 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 on August 9, 1974. President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, for any crimes he may have committed while president.

Nixon approving obstruction of justice:

Haldeman: “That the way to handle this now is for us to have [Vernon] Walters [of the CIA] call [FBI Director] Pat Gray and just say, ‘Stay the hell out of this…this is ah, business here we don’t want you to go any further on it.’ That’s not an unusual development…”

Nixon: “Um huh.”

Read or listen to the full “smoking gun” meeting:

Learn more at a Watergate Scandal timeline: http://watergate.info/chronology/brief-timeline-of-events

Learn more about Nixon, the Plumbers, and Watergate: Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1990)

Learn more about Watergate: Fred Emery, Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon (1994)

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