1973 July 16

Secret White House Taping System Revealed – Tapes Lead to Nixon’s Resignation


On this day, White House staff person Alexander Butterfield revealed to a Congressional investigating committee the existence of a White House tape recording system in the Nixon administration. In the midst of the developing Watergate scandal, the existence of the tape-recording system immediately aroused interest because of what the recordings might reveal about President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate burglary and a possible cover-up of that crime.

Responding to demands for transcripts of the tapes, the White House initially released an edited edition of some of the tapes on April 29, 1974. Its effort to delete vulgarities popularized the phrase “expletive deleted” among comedians. The demand for the still-unreleased tapes by the Watergate Special Prosecutor eventually led to a landmark Supreme Court case (United States v. Nixon, July 24, 1974), in which the Court rejected President Nixon’s claims of executive privilege and ordered him to turn over a set of tape recordings. The release of the tapes confirmed Nixon’s attempt to obstruct justice in the Watergate investigation and led to Nixon’s resignation as president on August 9, 1974.

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 motion 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 in July 1974, and he resigned in disgrace on August 9, 1974. President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, for any crimes he may have committed while president.

See Alexander Butterfield’s testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeQXopJ5U-Q

Read: Stanley I. Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1992)

Read historian Joan Hoff’s analysis of the tapes: Joan Hoff, Nixon Reconsidered (1994)

Read the Senate Watergate Committee report: https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=144965

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