Inside the Supreme Court ruling that made Nixon turn over his Watergate tapesBreaking News
tags: legal history, Supreme Court, Watergate, impeachment, Nixon
The Supreme Court case hinged on to what extent a president could withhold information from other government branches in the name of privacy, and the stakes for then-President Richard M. Nixon were high.
Seven of Nixon’s closest confidants had been indicted in the Watergate scandal, and the special prosecutor investigating the matter wanted audio recordings of some of the president’s phone conversations from the Oval Office. Nixon claimed executive privilege protected him, and he refused to release the tapes.
“Many people assume that the tapes must incriminate the president, or that otherwise, he would not insist on their privacy,” Nixon said in a speech in April 1974. “But the problem I confronted was this: Unless a president can protect the privacy of the advice he gets, he cannot get the advice he needs.”
The nation’s highest court found that argument inadequate. Speaking to a packed and hushed courtroom on July 24, 1974, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger delivered a 16-minute judgment that Nixon must comply with a trial subpoena for the recordings “forthwith,” The Washington Post reported at the time.
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