As our nation continues to go through crisis after crisis, and our modern mainstream media refuses to ask tough questions while our leaders refuse to be held accountable for their actions, it is important to look back at our history and realize this has all happened before. This is the first in a series of articles on the history of Watergate, a time in our nation’s history that is as important for all of us to understand today, as it was back in 1973.
United States Attorney General Elliot Richardson appointed independent Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in May 25, 1973 after giving assurances to the House Judiciary Committee that he would have the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972.
The appointment was created as a Career Reserved position in the Justice department, which meant (a) it came under the authority of the Attorney General, and (b) the incumbent could not be removed for any reason other than “for cause” (e.g. gross improprieties or malfeasance in office).
Attorney General Richardson had, in his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate, given the explicit promise not to use his ministerial authority to dismiss the Watergate Special Prosecutor, unless for cause.
Then on Friday, October 19, 1973, Special Prosecutor Cox issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office and authorized by Nixon as evidence, the president initially refused to comply.
President Nixon immediately refused to release the tapes, for two reasons:
- The Constitutional principle of executive privilege extends to the tapes and citing the separation of powers and checks and balances within the Constitution.
- The President claimed the tapes were vital to national security.
Then later the same day, President Nixon offered a compromise that would later become known as the Stennis Compromise; Nixon proposed that U.S. Senator John C. Stennis (a Democrat that was known to be hard of hearing) review and summarize the tapes for accuracy and report his findings to the special prosecutor’s office.
Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox refused the compromise and believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend.
Now WE know em