Nixon's long-secret Watergate testimony coming out

Nixon's long-secret Watergate testimony coming out

Four months after a judge ordered the June 1975 Watergate records unsealed, the US government's Nixon Presidential Library was making them available online and at the California facility today.

Historians dared hope that the testimony would form Nixon's most truthful and thorough account of the circumstances that led to his extraordinary resignation 10 months earlier under threat of impeachment.

"This is Nixon unplugged," said historian Stanley Kutler, a principal figure in the lawsuit that pried open the records. Still, he said, "I have no illusions. Richard Nixon knew how to dodge questions with the best of them. I am sure that he danced, skipped, around a number of things."

Nixon was interviewed near his California home for 11 hours over two days, when a pardon granted by his successor, Gerald Ford, protected him from prosecution for any past crimes.

Despite that shield, he risked consequences for perjury if he had lied under oath.
It was the first time an ex-president had testified before a grand jury and it is rare for any grand jury testimony to be made public.

Historians won public access to the transcript over the objections of the Obama administration, which argued in part that too many officials from that era still are alive for secret testimony involving them to be made public.

The library also is releasing thousands of pages of other Watergate-era documents, several oral histories from that time and 45 minutes of recordings made by Nixon with a dictating machine.

The recordings include his dictated recollections of an odd episode late one night in May 1970 when Nixon impulsively had the Secret Service take him to the Lincoln Memorial so he could meet anti-war protesters there.

He lingered with the astonished crowd and, according to accounts of that time, asked the protesters to "keep it peaceful. Have a good time in Washington, and don't go away bitter."

On the grand jury testimony, US District Judge Royce Lamberth sided with the historians in his ruling in July.