Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 23, 1972:

The Smoking Gun

In a morning conversation on June 23, 1972, between President Richard Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman (pictured), the two discussed what to do about the break-in at Democratic National Headquarters the week before at the Watergate. They agreed that the best course of action was to tell the FBI to stop its investigation. That and two other conversations about the matter were caught by the Oval Office's tape recording system, and became the essence of the Smoking Gun tape.

The conversations came back to haunt Richard Nixon. In the summer of 1974, the president lost his bid to keep his tapes under wraps, including the Smoking Gun, in the US Supreme Court 8-0. According to the Gerald Ford Presidential Library: "On Monday, August 5 [1974], he released tapes of three conversations between himself and Haldeman recorded six days after the break-in. The text showed the president obstructing justice by ordering the FBI to end its investigation of the break-in. At the Cabinet meeting the next day, Vice President Ford stated that, as 'a party in interest,' he would have no further public comments on the issue. Nixon's remaining support in the House and Senate crumbled."

A transcript and audio file of the Smoking Gun tape is here.

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