Nixon’s Obstruction and the Smoking Gun Tapes

On this day in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approves the first of three articles of impeachment against Nixon, for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress, reporting said articles to the House of Representatives. Before the House could vote on the impeachment resolutions, Nixon was forced to release additional recorded conversations, known as the “Smoking Gun Tape,”which made clear his complicity in the cover-up.

The entire affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex on Saturday, June 17, 1972. The FBI investigated and discovered a connection between cash found on the burglars and a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CREEP), the official organization of Nixon’s campaign.

In July 1973, evidence mounted against the president’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation by the Senate Watergate Committee; that inquiry revealed Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices on which he had recorded countless conversations.

After a series of Nixon’s cloying, feckless court battles, denials and maneuvers, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the President was obliged to release all the tapes, including the “gappy” ones and the smoking gun tape to government investigators (United States v. Nixon). These tapes revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and used federal officials to deflect the investigation.

15 days later, with the engines of Marine One whining behind him, Nixon would wave his last “victory” salute, and the helo would carry him off of the south lawn and away from the levers of power he so brazenly abused, forever. Any similarity to current events is purely coincidental and neither the fault nor intent of this humble scribe. That said, many would see Nixon as Cicero compared to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.