This Day In History: 08/08/1974 - Nixon Resigns

This Day In History: 08/08/1974 - Nixon Resigns

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On this day in 1974, on an evening televised address, President Richard M. Nixon announces his intention to become the first president in American history to resign. With impeachment proceedings underway against him for his involvement in the Watergate affair, Nixon was finally bowing to pressure from the public and Congress to leave the White House. "By taking this action," he said in a solemn address from the Oval Office, "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America."On this day in 1974, on an evening televised address, President Richard M. "By taking this action," he said in a solemn address from the Oval Office, "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America."

45 Years Since Nixon Resigned

Cokie Roberts talks with NPR's Rachel Martin and answers listener questions about the 45th anniversary of the resignation of President Nixon.

Forty-five years ago today, Richard Nixon went before the nation and announced that he was resigning.


RICHARD NIXON: I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interests of America first.

MARTIN: The next day, Gerald Ford would be sworn in as the first unelected president of the United States. The history of the Nixon resignation is our topic this week for our regular segment Ask Cokie, which is when we ask commentator Cokie Roberts to help us understand politics and government - how everything works together and sometimes, it doesn't. Hi, Cokie.


MARTIN: Let's think about that day 45 years ago. Our first listener wants background, wants to know how all of this happened.

CYNTHIA DOLAN: Cynthia Dolan (ph), Charleston, S.C. What was the turning point for Nixon to resign?

ROBERTS: Well, the pressure on the president had been building. And at the end of July, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes he had made in the Oval Office, and the House Judiciary Committee had voted articles of impeachment.

But the clincher came on August 7, when the grand, old man of the Senate, Barry Goldwater, and the Republican leaders of both houses of Congress went to the White House and told Nixon that he had lost the support of Congress and would be impeached.

MARTIN: A couple listeners want to know how much Republican support there was for Nixon in the House and the Senate.

ROBERTS: Well, a couple of days before the leaders went to Nixon, the so-called smoking gun tape became public. And it revealed that Nixon was personally deeply involved in the Watergate cover-up.

At that point, his congressional support just crumbled. Senate Leader Scott told him he didn't have more than 12 to 15 supporters left. And House Leader Rhodes said it was just as bad on his side of the Capitol. In the judiciary committee, six Republicans had voted against Nixon, some of them from districts he carried handily.

MARTIN: Our next listener is curious about those very leaders.

TERRY ESTES: Hi, my name is Terry Estes, and I'm calling from San Marcos, Texas. Who were the leaders in the House of Representatives for both parties? What type of working relationship did they have with Nixon and with each other?

ROBERTS: Well, John Rhodes of Arizona, who we just talked about, was the fairly new Republican leader, having replaced Gerry Ford when he became vice president. And Carl Albert of Oklahoma was the Democratic speaker.

Just to show you, Rachel, how Byzantine everything in Washington was at that point, there had been a group of Democrats who wanted to delay Ford's confirmation as vice president, speed up impeachment so Nixon would leave without a vice president. Albert would then become president. He didn't go along with it, and he insisted on a fair impeachment process. But he did keep a memo on his papers outlining what he would do if he became president.

MARTIN: Of course, Gerald Ford did get the vice president's job. Our next listener wants to know how that happened. His name is Ron Feiertag, and he writes as follows. Who, other than Ford, was seriously considered to become vice president when Agnew resigned?

ROBERTS: Well, Nixon wanted to name his Treasury Secretary John Connally, the former governor of Texas. But Connally was a former Democrat who had turned on the party. So the Congress was never going to confirm him, as the 25th Amendment requires.

Nixon asked the Republican leaders of each house to come up with a list. They submitted Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller and Connally. But the Democratic leaders told the president Ford was the man they would confirm. So Ford it was, though Nixon told his vice president that he planned to campaign against him for his friend Connally in '76. Connally did run in '80 - lost spectacularly.

MARTIN: Commentator Cokie Roberts. You can ask Cokie your questions about how politics and government work by tweeting us with the hashtag #AskCokie. Cokie, thank you.

ROBERTS: Good to talk to you, Rachel.

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NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR&rsquos programming is the audio record.

August 9th in History: The Resignation of Richard Nixon

Richard M. Nixon's presidency was a tempestuous mix of stunning foreign policy achievements (his trip to China) and shameful lapses in morality and judgment (the Watergate scandal). After the host of criminal activities (bugging the offices of political opponents, harassing activist groups, and breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters) came to light, Nixon faced impeachment. On August 9, 1974, Nixon became the first and only President to resign. Later, President Gerald R. Ford granted Nixon a "full, free, and absolute pardon," though Nixon always maintained his innocence.

This Moment was compiled from interviews by ADST with Dr. William Lloyd Stearman (1992). who worked in the White House as part of the National Security Council staff, Stephen M. Chaplin, who shares his experience from Romania, James Goodby (1990), who saw Nixon at the U.S. Mission in NATO just before his resignation. You can read the entire moment on

CHAPLIN: I arrived there in early August of '74. This was when Watergate was going on. I got there about two days before President Nixon resigned. The library was closed at the time for August because Romanians, like a lot of Europeans, take the month of August for vacation.

We reopened the first Monday in September or the day after because of Labor Day. The head librarian came to me running one day, and she said, "I have a question for you."

I said, "Yes, Zonda, what is your question?" She said, "One of our colleagues here wants to know where the condolence book is."

She said, "Yes when a president has resigned, we want a condolence book to sign showing the American people our solidarity and condolences."

I said, "Well there isn't going to be a condolence book. This is the American political process in action."

But the identification with Nixon had developed. He was the first president to visit. They looked on this as kind of a national tragedy for Americans, whereas we would say the process is washing our dirty linen in public, so be it. No one is above the law. They didn't quite understand that, and they feared, I think, that our system might be weakened which meant that the Russians somehow might take advantage of it from the Romanian perspective. So we had to explain that.

Before I left in '77, I showed the picture All the President's Men. As I did with all of our films, I sent out a notice in Romanian giving a little synopsis of the film because none of these were subtitled. They were all in English. None of these films appeared commercially in Romanian theaters. Then I did an introduction in Romanian to the audience.

I explained this was a film based on the writings of two journalists. The writing of the stories by The Washington Post journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, but that again it was a view from two people.

I showed the film, and talked to a few people afterwards. Some, even some people who admired the United States -- we are talking about some fairly intelligent people, not just necessarily the man off the street you ask a question -- couldn't relate to the fact that this was a commercial film.

They were seeing things through their Romanian upbringing. a leader deposed in their terms, as being government propaganda to discredit the former president put out by the new leadership. I raised the question.

I said, "Well, if this were the case, why was the man he chose to be his Vice President, Gerald Ford, why did he replace him?"

The answer was well, it was the Democrats and the media who were out to get Nixon and this is a temporary thing and so forth. Well, indeed Jimmy Carter defeated President Ford. That probably reinforced their views.

GOODBY: I was Chargé at the US Mission in NATO in July of 1974, because the foreign ministers were meeting at that point in Ottawa, there to sign the Atlantic Charter and have one of their summer meetings. And it was at that point that Nixon came through on his last European swing before resigning. He resigned August 9, 1974, and this was July, I believe.

I went out to receive him at the airport and talk to his advance party and so forth and so on. And I was really shocked by his mien. Actually it was the first I'd seen Nixon close-up in quite a while. He had been at NATO headquarters and I'd seen him before, but this time he came through the receiving line and I shook hands with him.

And his face was like a wooden mask. I mean, it was heavily painted, in effect, a kind of orange color, which I guess he liked because it made him look tanned. But it was just like a face carved out of wood -- no expression.

And I thought, "My goodness, what this man is going through." It was obvious that he just was not himself and not sort of the former Nixon who was, as I had remembered seeing him, a much more animated kind of person. But this was a guy that obviously had in mind, you know, "Who is this guy? Is he for me or against me?" And that was kind of the sensation I had as he went through that receiving line.

Anyway, it was a short visit. He gave a talk and went on Moscow and then he went on to resignation. So that was the last time I saw him, and it was quite a shocking experience to see a President of the United States looking like that.

Well, in the summer that I went back, and I arrived back in Washington just a few days before Nixon resigned, I became the Deputy Assistant Secretary, or Deputy Director as it was called then, of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

The day before Nixon announced his resignation, all of us at the rank of Deputy Assistant Secretary and above were called up to the eighth floor of the State Department [the Protocol rooms] by Secretary Kissinger and we were informed that Nixon was going to resign.

Kissinger made a little speech in which he said that the accomplishments of President Nixon in the field of foreign affairs had been very considerable (those were almost his exact words). He then commented about President Ford, who would be taking over, and that he expected to be working closely with him.

It was kind of a pep talk, you know, not to be too upset by this, but also not to be in a mood of gloating or good cheer about this, obviously, that Mr. Kissinger was quite seriously affected by this. Of course, he himself had been going through a bit of personal anguish at this point, as we all know.

It was a very somber meeting, I must say, to be told that a President of the United States is going to resign the next day -- the first time in history -- and to hear from this man who was now close to the pinnacle of the American government telling us how we should think about it and connect ourselves.

Q: Did Watergate play at all on what you were doing?

STEARMAN: Oh, heavens, yes. I am glad you mentioned that. It had an enormous effect on Kissinger's Vietnam decisions because he felt the Presidency had been so weakened by Watergate that the American public, and certainly the Congress, would not continue our support for the Vietnamese forces much longer.

And that is why he was so anxious to cut the kind of deal he did in October 1972, which I felt at the time and feel now was very unfortunate and a big mistake nevertheless, he felt that because of Watergate -- and he told me this personally -- he just didn't have any other choice.

Now bear in mind that Watergate hadn't really come to the fore in late 1972. The whole concern was then overblown, because Nixon was a shoo-in against [Democratic candidate George] McGovern. Nobody was really that worried about Nixon's losing the election. You had these juvenile lower-level characters, acting without high-level instructions, who thought they could discover some Democratic secrets by breaking into the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate.

The whole Watergate scandal did eventually have great impact on our policy. The more that came out, the weaker the Presidency became. We all felt that. This was particularly true in 1973.

Another thing one should bear in mind is that for the last sixteen months of Nixon's incumbency, actually [White House Chief of Staff, later Secretary of State] Al Haig was the President of the United States. He was a de facto President running the day-to-day operations, while Nixon would make some of the major decisions however, Nixon was so totally wrapped up in Watergate that he was a part-time President at best. Haig never told me this, but everybody more or less assumed this was the case. I knew Haig quite well and could see that he was making the day-to-day decisions.

The absolute nadir came when Nixon resigned. We knew about a week ahead of time that he was going to leave office. I then expected the White House to substantially lose authority. This was in 1974.

I was still trying my best to get equipment sent to Cambodia and to the Vietnamese and was meeting increasing resistance from the Pentagon and others, who were no longer interested in what went on in Southeast Asia, despite everything that was happening there. I expected that with Nixon's downfall I would get zero cooperation from my colleagues in the bureaucracy, but quite the opposite happened. I had never found them to be more cooperative.

I think those people were shaken by the fact that we had a vacuum at the top and felt that those of us who were trying to hold things together at the top deserved support. Now this is just one man's view, but at least, my own subjective impression at that time was that people were all behind us to a remarkable degree, far more than had been the case before.

Then we had to experience the sad episode of Nixon's embarrassing, maudlin speech that he gave just before he departed -- we were all forgathered in the East Wing of the White House for this farewell. The poor man sort of rambled on and on. I had never seen him wear glasses before, but he would put them on and take them off. He had notes on some sheets of yellow pad paper in his inside coat pocket, which kept shifting into view across his tie.

The whole thing was terminally pathetic. Everybody was there. I looked toward Kissinger, and saw he was seated with the Cabinet. There were also Members of Congress and others present. We from the White House staff were sort of scattered around. Just about everybody was crying.

I was happy to see him go, in a way, but the thing was so pathetic that you felt sorry for all involved, particularly for his poor family bravely standing up there. Then, we walked out to the South Lawn, and waved goodbye as Nixon got into his helicopter and flew off "into the sunset."

We walked back through the West Wing, where there were still pictures of Nixon and his family on the walls and then back to the EOB [Executive Office Building].

Later, my assistant, an FSO [Foreign Service Officer] who was a rather forward Irishman by the name of Kenneth Quinn said, "Why don't we see if we can go down and see Jerry Ford's swearing in?"

I replied, "We are not invited to that. That is only for the top leadership, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, Members of Congress. Only the select, the most senior people in The White House can go to that."

"Well," he said, "Let's try anyway."

We got in the elevator on the third floor of the EOB and it stopped on the second floor. When the doors opened, there was Jerry Ford and two Secret Service men.

We said, "Oh, Mr. Vice President, we will get out for you," whereupon Ford said, "That's okay there is room for all of us."

So we all went down and marched to the West Wing together. Everyone assumed that Ken and I were part of his entourage so in we went, unhindered.

So I was back again in the same room I had been a couple of hours before watching Nixon's pathetic farewell. Now it was a different world. Everybody was upbeat and smiling. I saw the same Cabinet members all sitting in the same places they had been, but now all were wreathed in smiles.

Jerry Ford was sworn in and we walked back through the West Wing. Now there were already pictures of Jerry and Betty Ford all over the place. It was fast work on the part of those responsible for such things. It was "The King is dead, long live the King!"

President Richard Nixon resigns amid the Watergate scandal in 1974

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (News Bureau) - Richard Milhous Nixon, his political power destroyed by the Watergate scandal, announced tonight that he was resigning as 37th President of the United States.

In an emotion-filled, nationally televised speech, the culmination of weeks and months of pressure, Nixon said Vice President Ford would be sworn to succeed him at noon tomorrow. "The leadership of America will be in good hands," Nixon said, his voice wavering.

The President referred only briefly to the political scandal that shattered his administration, brought him to the brink of certain impeachment and removal from office, and ultimately forced him to become the first American President to quit his post before the end of his term.

Admitting no personal involvement in Watergate-related crimes - conceding only some "wrong judgements" - the chief executive declared:

"I would have preferred to carry through to the finish, whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the nation must always come before any personal considerations."

Nixon concluded the 7-minute address with no good night, just a prayer:

"May God's grace be with you all in the days ahead." With this Nixon ended his career in American politics. He also ended an unprecedented constitutional crisis that had divided the nation and dangerously slowed the work of government.

Reliving President Richard Nixon's resignation

"As we look to the future, the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this nation," Nixon said, "to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent past behind us and to discover the shared deals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free people."

Nixon did not directly mention Capitol Hill's increasingly loud cries for his resignation. Most of the demands had come from Republican congressional leaders.

But he did concede that he had decided to resign when it became "evident to me that I no longer have sufficient political base in Congress to continue" in office.

"From the discussions I have had with congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter, I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decision to carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the nation would require," he said.

"I have never been a quitter," Nixon said "to leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest in America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at his time, with the problems we face at home and abroad."

"To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication," he said, would have absorbed the time of both the President and Congress when their "entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home."

Nixon's announcement came six years to the day after his acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination at the 1968 Miami Beach convention, at which he made his famous "train whistles in the night" address.

Although he had been under enormous strain during more than two years of Watergate bombshells - and particularly during the last tumultuous week - the President was described by an aide as "unbelievably serene" tonight before his speech. Aside from a voice that occasionally faltered, he appeared in firm command of himself during his televised speech.

"This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office," Nixon said as he opened what was to be the most momentous speech of his 28-year career in American politics. "In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the nation."

"For more than a quarter-century in public life," he said, "I have shared in the turbulent history of this era. I have fought for what I believe in. I have tried to the best of my ability to discharge those duties and meet those responsibilities that were entrusted in me. Sometimes I have succeeded, and sometimes I have failed."

In what was almost a cry from the heart - perhaps the closest to it that this most private of public men had ever uttered - Nixon said that he was leaving with "great sadness" the pinnacle that he sought for most of his adult years. It was a pinnacle whose prerogatives he clearly relished.

But on this, his most tragic night, Nixon showed no self-pity. Nor did he assail his foes with the harsh recriminations that had become his trademark since he first ran for office in 1946.

Instead, he sought to emphasize the accomplishments of his years in the White House - detente with the Soviet Union, establishment of diplomatic contact with China, the beginnings of peace in the Middle East.

He did not mention the overwhelming reelection victory that he scored in November 1972, a victory that many of his critics believe was tainted by Watergate.

Nixon Resignation 40 Years Ago: August 8 1974

It is one of those iconic moments in history that many recall in detail, down to where they were and what they were doing, August 8, 1974, when President Richard Milhous Nixon announced his resignation as 37th President of the United States, effective at noon the next day. He remains the only American president ever to step down from the office. The former president said that he has never been a quitter, and leaving the presidency before the end of his term “is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.” He said he hoped his action would hasten the beginning of the healing process so “desperately needed in America.”

For the two years leading up to his resignation, Nixon had been embroiled in bitter public debate over the Watergate scandals, which led to talks of impeachment and, eventually, the resignation. With over half of America not yet been born when it occurred, Watergate is fading into a note in the history books.

Vice President Spiro Agnew had resigned in disgrace a year earlier, and Gerald R. Ford appointed to take his place. Ford would become the only U.S. President not elected by the public. America admired Ford, describing him as “a leader to be trusted,” but “no intellectual.” The Chicago Tribune reported that Harry Truman was probably the only other man to assume the office of President with such little personal desire and as little preparation. Former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller was nominated as Ford’s Vice President.

The Watergate cover-up began on June 17, 1972, with the arrest of a team of five burglars in the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate complex in Washington. Within a week, hundred-dollar bills that had been found on the burglars were traced back to contributions to the Republican Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP). Hugh W. Sloan, Jr., treasurer of the Republican National Committee, confirmed to prosecutors that the money was given to G. Gordon Liddy, who was by then suspected of being the conspiracy’s ringleader.

Within 24 hours after the arrest of the burglars the FBI searched their homes and founds checks, address books and receipts that linked White House consultant E. Howard Hunt to the conspiracy. The investigation led to the confirmation that Hunt and Liddy were working together on secret projects, and had received telephone calls from Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate burglars, just hours before the arrest.

The final link in the chain of evidence leading to Nixon’s resignation involved a “listening post” discovered by the FBI at the Howard Johnson Motor Hotel across the street from the Watergate. Conspirators communicated with the burglars inside the Watergate and received transmissions from the Democratic headquarters from electronic eavesdropping devices. Alfred Baldwin was a former FBI agent who had monitored the wiretaps, kept logs of the transmissions and acted as lookout.

Ford pardoned Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal one month after assuming the presidency, after the former president had been accused by Congress of obstruction of justice. White House tape recordings revealed that the former president not only knew about, but had possibly authorized, the break-in and wiretapping of the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee. The pardon was Ford’s attempt to put the scandal behind, and he justified the controversial decision by saying a long, drawn-out trial would further polarize the public. It may have been Nixon’s pardon that caused Ford to lose the 1976 presidential election.

Forty government officials were jailed or indicted following Watergate. Hunt and Liddy were both jailed, as was White House legal counsel John Dean. Also jailed were White House staff members John Erlichman and H.R. Haldeman, Chairman of the CRP and Attorney-General John Mitchel, CRP security director James McCord and special counsel to the President Charles Colson.

New television programs, books, documentaries and panel discussions have been released coinciding with the 40-year anniversary, many of which rely on Nixon’s tapings of White House conversations. He was not the first president to tape his discussions, but in the case of the scandal and resignation they have provided an in-depth historical record.

Forty years ago August 8, as President Nixon announced his resignation, he said he must put the interests of America first, and that the country needed a “full-time president and a full-time Congress,” referring to the amount of time spent investigating and defending his actions. Nixon said that he deeply regretted any injuries that might have been caused in the course of events leading up to his decision, saying he had done his best to live up to his oath of office.

Nixon Resignation 40 Years Ago: August 8 1974 added by Beth Balen on August 7, 2014
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This Day In History: 08/08/1974 - Nixon Resigns - HISTORY

Nixon Resigns

Richard Nixon announces
his resignation in 1974.
AP File Photo
By Carroll Kilpatrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 9, 1974 Page A01

Richard Milhous Nixon announced last night that he will resign as the 37th President of the United States at noon today.

Vice President Gerald R. Ford of Michigan will take the oath as the new President at noon to complete the remaining 2 1/2 years of Mr. Nixon's term.

After two years of bitter public debate over the Watergate scandals, President Nixon bowed to pressures from the public and leaders of his party to become the first President in American history to resign.

"By taking this action," he said in a subdued yet dramatic television address from the Oval Office, "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America."

Vice President Ford, who spoke a short time later in front of his Alexandria home, announced that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger will remain in his Cabinet.

The President-to-be praised Mr. Nixon's sacrifice for the country and called it "one of the vary saddest incidents that I've ever witnessed."

Mr. Nixon said he decided he must resign when he concluded that he no longer had "a strong enough political base in the Congress" to make it possible for him to complete his term of office.

Declaring that he has never been a quitter, Mr. Nixon said that to leave office before the end of his term " is abhorrent to every instinct in my body."

But "as President, I must put the interests of America first," he said.

While the President acknowledged that some of his judgments "were wrong," he made no confession of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" with which the House Judiciary Committee charged him in its bill of impeachment.

Specifically, he did not refer to Judiciary Committee charges that in the cover-up of Watergate crimes he misused government agencies such as the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.

After the President's address, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski issued a statement declaring that "there has been no agreement or understanding of any sort between the President or his representatives and the special prosecutor relating in any way to the President's resignation."

Jaworski said that his office "was not asked for any such agreement or understanding and offered none."

His office was informed yesterday afternoon of the President's decision, Jaworski said, but "my office did not participate in any way in the President's decision to resign."

Mr. Nixon's brief speech was delivered in firm tones and he appeared to be complete control of his emotions. The absence of rancor contrasted sharply with the "farewell" he delivered in 1962 after being defeated for the governorship of California.

An hour before the speech, however, the President broke down during a meeting with old congressional friends and had to leave the room.

He had invited 20 senators and 26 representatives for a farewell meeting in the Cabinet room. Later, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater (R-Ariz.), one of those present, said Mr. Nixon said to them very much what he said in his speech.

"He just told us that the country couldn't operate with a half-time President," Goldwater reported. "Then he broke down and cried and he had to leave the room. Then the rest of us broke down and cried."

In his televised resignation, after thanking his friends for their support, the President concluded by saying he was leaving office "with this prayer: may God's grace be with you in all the days ahead."

As for his sharpest critics, the President said, "I leave with no bitterness toward those who have opposed me." He called on all Americans to "join together . . . in helping our new President succeed."

The President said he had thought it was his duty to persevere in office in face of the Watergate charges and to complete his term.

"In the past days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort," Mr. Nixon said.

His family "unanimously urged" him to stay in office and fight the charges against him, he said. But he came to realize that he would not have the support needed to carry out the duties of his office in difficult times.

"America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress," Mr. Nixon said. The resignation came with "a great sadness that I will not be here in this office" to complete work on the programs started, he said.

But praising Vice President Ford, Mr. Nixon said that "the leadership of America will be in good hands."

In his admission of error, the outgoing President said: "I deeply regret any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision."

He emphasized that world peace had been the overriding concern of his years in the White House.

When he first took the oath, he said, he made a "sacred commitment" to "consecrate my office and wisdom to the cause of peace among nations."

"I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge," he said, adding that he is now confident that the world is a safer place for all peoples.

"This more than anything is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the presidency," Mr. Nixon said. "This more than anything is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the presidency."

Noting that he had lived through a turbulent period, he recalled a statement of Theodore Roosevelt about the man "in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood" and who, if he fails "at least fails while daring greatly."

Mr. Nixon placed great emphasis on his successes in foreign affairs. He said his administration had "unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century stood between the United States and the People's Republic of China."

In the mideast, he said, the United States must begin to build on the peace in that area. And with the Soviet Union, he said, the administration had begun the process of ending the nuclear arms race. The goal now, he said, is to reduce and finally destroy those arms "so that the threat of nuclear war will no longer hang over the world." The two countries, he added, "must live together in cooperation rather than in confrontation."

Mr. Nixon has served 2,026 days as the 37th President of the United States. He leaves office with 2 1/2 years of his second term remaining to be carried out by the man he nominated to be Vice President last year.

Yesterday morning, the President conferred with his successor. He spent much of the day in his Executive Office Building hideaway working on his speech and attending to last-minute business.

At 7:30 p.m., Mr. Nixon again left the White House for the short walk to the Executive Office Building. The crowd outside the gates waved U.S. flags and sang "America" as he walked slowly up the steps, his head bowed, alone.

At the EOB, Mr. Nixon met for a little over 20 minutes with the leaders of Congress -- James O. Eastland (D-Miss.), president pro tem to the Senate Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.), Senate majority leader Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), Senate minority leader Carl Albert (D-Okla.), speaker of the House and John Rhodes (R-Ariz.), House minority leader.

It was exactly six years ago yesterday that the 55-year-old Californian accepted the Republican nomination for President for the second time and went on to a narrow victory in November over Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey.

"I was ready. I was willing. And events were such that this seemed to be the time the party was willing for me to carry the standard," Nixon said after winning first-ballot nomination in the convention at Miami Beach.

In his acceptance speech on Aug. 8, 1968, the nominee appealed for victory to "make the American dream come true for millions of Americans."

"To the leaders of the Communist world we say, after an era of confrontation, the time has come for an era of negotiation," Nixon said.

The theme was repeated in his first inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1969, and became the basis for the foreign policy of his first administration.

Largely because of his breakthroughs in negotiations with China and the Soviet Union, and partly because of divisions in the Democratic Party, Mr. Nixon won a mammoth election victory in 1972, only to be brought down by scandals that grew out of an excessive zeal to make certain he would win re-election.

Mr. Nixon and his family are expected to fly to their home in San Clemente, Calif. early today. Press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler and Rose Mary Woods, Mr. Nixon's devoted personal secretary for more than two decades, will accompany the Nixons.

Alexander M. Haig Jr., the former Army vice chief of staff who was brought into the White House as staff chief following the resignation of H.R. (Bob) Haldeman on April 30, 1973, has been asked by Mr. Ford to remain in his present position.

It is expected that Haig will continue in the position as staff chief to assure an orderly transfer of responsibilities but not stay indefinitely.

The first firm indication yesterday that the President had reached a decision came when deputy press secretary Gerald L. Warren announced at 10:55 a.m. that the President was about to begin a meeting in the Oval Office with the Vice President.

"The President asked the Vice President to come over this morning for a private meeting -- and that is all the information I have at this moment," Warren said.

He promised to post "some routine information, bill actions and appointments" and to return with additional information" in an hour or so."

Warren's manner and the news he had to impart made it clear at last that resignation was a certainty. Reports already were circulating on Capitol Hill that the President would hold a reception for friends and staff members late in the day and a meeting with congressional leaders.

Shortly after noon, Warren announced over the loudspeaker in the press room that the meeting between the President and the Vice President had lasted for an hour and 10 minutes.

At 2:20 p.m., press secretary Ziegler walked into the press room and, struggling to control his emotions, read the following statement:

"I am aware of the intense interest of the American people and of you in this room concerning developments today and over the last few days. This has, of course, been a difficult time.

"The President of the United States will meet various members of the bipartisan leadership of Congress here at the White House early this evening.

"Tonight, at 9 o'clock, Eastern Daylight Time, the President of the United States will address the nation on radio and television from his Oval Office."

The room was packed with reporters, and Ziegler read the statement with difficulty. Although his voice shook, it did not break. As soon as he had finished, he turned on his heel and left the room, without so much as a glance at the men and women in the room who wanted to question him.

There were tears in the eyes of some of the secretaries in the press office. Others, who have been through many crises in recent years and have become used to overwork, plowed ahead with their duties, with telephones ringing incessantly.

In other offices, loyal Nixon workers reacted with sadness but also with resignation and defeat. They were not surprised, and some showed a sense of relief that at last the battle was over.

Some commented bitterly about former aides H.R. (Bob) Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman. The President's loyal personal aide and valet Manola Sanchez, a Spanish-born immigrant from Cuba whose independence and wit are widely admired, did not hide his feelings.

Speaking bluntly to some of his old friends, he castigated aides he said had betrayed the President. One long-time official, who heard about the Sanchez remarks, commented: "They [Haldeman and Ehrlichman] tried three times to fire him because they couldn't control him. Imagine, trying to fire someone like Manola."

But why did the President always rely on Ehrlichman and Haldeman? The official was asked. "Will we ever know?" he replied. "When Mr. Nixon was Vice President," he recalled, "he demanded that we never abuse the franking privilege. If there was any doubt, we were to use stamps. Everything had to be above board.

"Surely his friendship with Ehrlichman and Haldeman was one of the most expensive in history."

But the President himself, said another long-time aide, must have been two persons, the one who was motivated by high ideals and another who connived and schemed with his favorite gut-fighters.

One man who worked through most of the first Nixon term said he saw the President angry only once. Often he would say, "That will be tough politically, but we must do the right thing."

When that official left his post after nearly four years of intimate association with the President, he told his wife: "I've never gotten to know what sort of man he is."

One official, who has known Mr. Nixon well for many years and remains a White House aide, commented: "He is obviously a bad judge of character. But a lot was accomplished. So much more could have been accomplished but for these fun and games. It was such a stupid thing to happen."

The march of events that brought about the President's downfall turned its last corner Monday when Mr. Nixon released the partial transcripts of three taped conversations he held on June 23, 1972 with Haldeman.

It seemed inevitable then that this would be his last week in office, yet he continued to fight back and to insist that he would not resign. On Tuesday, the President held a Cabinet meeting and told his official family that he would not resign.

On Wednesday, however, the end appeared near, for his support on Capitol Hill was disappearing at dizzying speed. There were demands from some of his staunchest supporters that he should resign at once.

Late Wednesday, the President met with Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), House Minority Leader John J. Rhodes (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barry M. Goldwater (R-Ariz.).

They said afterward that the President had made no decision, but it was obvious later that for all intents and purposes the decision had been made despite what the leaders said. They obviously could not make the announcement for him, but it must have been apparent to them that the end was at hand.

Later Wednesday, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger twice conferred with Mr. Nixon, first in the early evening for half an hour and then from 9:30 p.m. until midnight.

It was not known whether the two men were alone or accompanied by Haig and others.

Yesterday, Kissinger met with principal deputies in the State Department to tell them what to expect and to assign tasks to different people. Messages will be sent to heads of state to notify them formally of the change.

A White House spokesman said more than 10,000 telephone calls were received in the past two days expressing "disbelief and the hope that the President would not resign."

Thursday was a wet, humid August day, but despite intermittent rain the crowds packed the sidewalks in front of the White House. It was an orderly crowd, resigned and curious, watching newsmen come and go and being a part of a dramatic moment in the life of the nation.

The Clinton Affair

On 9 August 1974, following the long and drawn-out Watergate Scandal, Richard Nixon was forced to resign as President of the United States. The consequences of the attempt to bug the Democratic Committee headquarters came back to bite him and Nixon became the first President in history to resign. The dirty political tactics used to get an edge before the 1972 election came at a cost and showed that not even the President is above the law.

Today, as President Donald Trump faces calls to resign following claims he worked alongside Russian government officials to win the 2016 American election, is history repeating itself?

To find out we spoke to Professor Iwan Morgan, a historian and lecturer in United States History at University College London, who specialises in American political history. We asked what happened in the Nixon case and whether there are similarities between then and now. Could Trump, like Nixon, be forced to walk or was Watergate a one-off event in American political history?

Nixon walked because of the misdeeds of his aides and himself in what became known as the Watergate Scandal. Operatives from the Committee to Re-elect the President were caught breaking into the Watergate complex. Quite what they wanted to find at the Democratic headquarters is unknown, but clearly it was an act of illegal political espionage. A security guard caught them and phoned the police.

Nixon was told what had happened while he was on holiday in Florida. He immediately came back because he knew that these operatives – although he hadn’t ordered the break-in – had connections to the Committee to Re-elect the President. Nixon conspired with one of his top aides [H.R. 'Bob' Haldeman] to obstruct justice and to get the FBI to drop the investigation on grounds of national security.

Nixon thought that public opinion would be with him. He had just been elected and he thought the American people would see this as another liberal conspiracy against the President who was trying to represent the great heartland of America. He totally misjudged the situation.

A Grand Jury was set up against him. You can see the similarities with Trump at this point. Trump hasn’t sacked the Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller but he’s making noises and publicly speaking of his dissatisfaction

Watergate created an illusion that the press had got Nixon. The two journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were instrumental in the early days. They were the first journalists to suspect that the Watergate burglars were connected to the White House and they kept the story in the headlines of the Washington Post during the latter part of 1972 and the early part of 1973. They wrote their best-selling book All The President’s Men, which was later turned into the film, portraying them as the white knights of the press, but in fact, Woodward and Bernstein were minor players in it all.

The real people who got Nixon were the congressional investigators, the special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, and the FBI who tracked down the money that was found in the conspirators’ accounts, taking them all the way to Mexico and back again to Washington DC. The role of the FBI in getting Nixon has always been underestimated.

We know now that it was a disgruntled top FBI man who was the infamous Deep Throat who fed the information to Woodward and Bernstein. For the moment we don’t know if there is a Deep Throat for Trump. I doubt whether there is, but Trump has already committed some very serious errors. Most important of which is the sacking of the FBI Director James Comey. If he gets Robert Mueller sacked that will be an even greater misstep.

Some of the key questions in the Trump investigation took place during the campaign and in the early stages of the administration: the National Security Advisor Michael Flynn lying to the Senate in his hearings about campaign connections and consultation with Russian officials Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey even Trump’s personal finances are now coming into the mix. You might say that Trump is in a position now that Nixon was in late 1973 and early 1974.

Trump needs to avoid further obstruction of the investigation. So far, Trump hasn’t had any contact with Russian officials he should just let the investigation go its way. We might very well find out that there is nothing worthy of impeachment, but Trump of course seems to have no capacity to keep quiet. I suspect that if he gets into trouble it will be largely his own doing. I think he has it within his political grasp to avoid impeachment.

Nixon is one of three Presidents to have gone through the impeachment process, along with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. There is one common factor to all three of them: Congress was under the control of the opposition party to the President. Right now, both houses are under Republican control. House Republicans are not going to move any time soon to draw up articles of impeachment against Trump and even if they do, I suspect it will be very difficult to get a two-thirds majority in the Senate as currently constituted.”

The similarities between now and then are hard to ignore: dirty political tactics to get an edge in an election, accusations followed by denials that lead to the President and a media outcry that is driving the public discussion. Trump’s fate is now in the hands of the investigation that is going on around him and how Washington will deal with him remains to be seen. For now Morgan’s answer is a simple one: "What Trump needs to do is get on with the job of being President."

Richard Nixon’s Resignation Letter and Gerald Ford’s Pardon

During the night of June 17, 1972, five burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. Investigation into the break-in exposed a trail of abuses that led to the highest levels of the Nixon administration and ultimately to the President himself.

On the evening of August 8, 1974, President Nixon addressed the nation and announced his intention to resign. The next morning, White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig presented this letter to President Nixon to sign. The President’s resignation letter is addressed to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who initialed it at 11:35 a.m.

On September 8, 1974, the new President, Gerald Ford, issued a full pardon to the former President for any offenses he “has committed or may have committed.” Even before President Nixon’s resignation, speculation had swirled around the possibility that the new President might pardon him, but at the time and later in his memoirs, President Ford strongly denied that there was any “deal” to trade a pardon for a Presidential resignation. In his televised address announcing the pardon, President Ford said that trying President Nixon would only further inflame political passions and prevent the country from moving forward. He also said that Nixon and his family had suffered enough, that he might not be able to receive a fair trial, and that a trial might prove inconclusive.

The resignation and pardon mark the conclusion of the events we know as Watergate. For two years, public revelations of wrongdoing inside the White House had convulsed the nation in a series of confrontations that pitted the President against the media, executive agencies, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. The Watergate affair was a national trauma—a constitutional crisis that tested and affirmed the rule of law.

These documents were on display in the “Featured Documents” exhibit in the Rotunda Galleries of the National Archives in Washington, DC, August 8 through August 11, 2014.

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the generous support of Toyota.

Download a high-resolution version of Nixon’s resignation letter and Ford’s pardon from the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

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The Nixon Resignation

The resignation of Richard M. Nixon, 37th President of the United States and the first to leave office under threat of impeachment, comes as a tragic climax to the sordid history of misuse of the Presidential office that has been unfolding before the eyes of a shocked American public for the last two years.

Twice elevated to the nation's Chief Magistracy by electoral majorities that viewed him as an exemplar of stern rectitude in public life, Mr. Nixon announced last night his intention to resign following the production of incontrovertible evidence that he had indeed been criminally guilty of obstruction of justice and abuse of the powers of his great office. Although the only reason he offered was erosion of his “political base” in Congress, he decided to step down from the Presidency only when it had become unmistakably clear within the last few days that the new and additional evidence he himself made public had insured an overwhelming vote of impeachment in the House of Representatives and his almost certain conviction by the Senate. His resignation at this point was to forestall and frustrate the constitutional Procedure which had begun earlier this year and was steadily moving forward to its inexorable end.

The forced departure of Richard M. Nixon from the Presidency—for that is what it was even though his resignation is nominally an act of his own volition—is in a larger sense a reaffirmation of the strength of the United States and of the structure of American democracy.

For the events that have been exposed under the generic name of “Watergate,” including the disgrace of former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and culminating in Mr. Nixon's resignation, represented a profound subversion of American democratic institutions, an attempt to seize and consolidate control—not by arms but by the far more effective and penetrating method of subtle accretion of political power in the Executive Office. This is really what was going on at the pinnacle of government, in the White House itself and this, along with all his other violations of law, is what Richard M. Nixon resolutely refused to acknowledge—or even refer to—in his muted appeal to the American people over the airwaves last night.

Thus, while Mr. Nixon's degradation is a deep personal tragedy and a poignant disappointment for those millions upon millions of Americans who had placed their trust and confidence in him, it is at the same time a triumph for the people of the United States as a whole, whose faith in free and representative government, in the sanctity of the Bill of Rights and of the constitutional system established on this continent nearly two centuries ago, is the bedrock of our political strength.

Not even the stanchest opponents of Mr. Nixon can rejoice in the tragedy that has befallen him. Certainly we who have been among his most persistent critics take no joy in his personal disaster but all Americans who maintain their belief in a government of laws rather than of men must be thankful that it has survived this extraordinary trauma with resolution‐and with honor.

Mr. Nixon's Presidency was surely not without its positive accomplishments, especially in the arena of foreign affairs, as he understandably stressed in last night's speech. This quixotic man whose political career was founded on virulent opposition not merely to anything that could be made to look like Communism but to any effort to reconcile the Western and Communist worlds, was the President under whom the policy of détente with both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China went further than it ever had before. While the crucial question of limitation of armaments and many other facets of foreign policy are in less than satisfactory condition, the United States is in a generally better relationship with the rest of the world, including our own allies, than when Mr. Nixon assumed office five and a half years ago.

The domestic record, on the contrary, has little to commend it. With inflation the worst in modern times, Mr. Nixon leaves the American economy in a shambles. In virtually every other crucial area of domestic life —from race relations to social policy to environmental quality—Mr. Nixon's accomplishments have been largely negative. In terms of public morality, the record of the President and his immediate entourage has, obviously, been abysmal—a point to which he, obviously from last night's address is still totally oblivious.

But his accomplishments, or his failure of accomplishment, are the least important part of the saga of Richard M. Nixon. What is important is that here was a man who failed his public trust. Never before in American history has there been such a failure at so high a level. This is the sorrow and the tragedy.

Historians and students of human psychology will long ponder Mr. Nixon's mind and motives to try to understand why this supremely pragmatic man followed courses of action that produced his own downfall and turned honor to ashes. At the moment, it is clear only that he destroyed himself by senseless acts in an election he could not lose, wasted his opportunities for lasting achievement and ended by consciously and continually deceiving his most loyal political supporters.

While one can have only pity for Mr. Nixon today, one can have pride in the institutions that have proved strong and resilient enough successfully to surmount the severe internal crisis and the insidious internal danger with which the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon threatened this Republic.


U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson had appointed Cox in May 1973 after promising the House Judiciary Committee that he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the events surrounding the break-in of the Democratic National Committee's offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972. The appointment was created as a career reserved position in the Justice Department, meaning it came under the authority of the attorney general, who could only remove the special prosecutor "for cause", e.g., gross improprieties or malfeasance in office. Richardson had, in his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate, promised not to use his authority to dismiss the Watergate special prosecutor unless for cause. [8]

When Cox issued a subpoena to Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office, the president refused to comply. On Friday, October 19, 1973, Nixon offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise – asking the infamously hard-of-hearing Senator John C. Stennis of Mississippi to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor's office. Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. [8]

However, on the following day (Saturday), Nixon ordered Attorney General Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned. [8]

Nixon then ordered the Solicitor General of the United States, Robert Bork, as acting head of the Justice Department, to fire Cox. Both Richardson and Ruckelshaus had given personal assurances to Congressional oversight committees that they would not interfere, but Bork had not. Although Bork later claimed he believed Nixon's order to be valid and appropriate, he still considered resigning to avoid being "perceived as a man who did the President's bidding to save my job". [4] Nevertheless, having been brought to the White House by limousine and sworn in as acting attorney general, Bork wrote the letter dismissing Cox. [6] [9]

Initially, the Nixon White House claimed to have fired Ruckelshaus, but as an article published the next day by The Washington Post pointed out, "The letter from the President to Bork also said Ruckelshaus resigned", catching Nixon lying. [10]

The night he was fired, Cox's deputy prosecutor and press aides held an impassioned news briefing and read the following statement from him, "Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people [to decide]." [11]

On November 14, 1973, federal district judge Gerhard Gesell ruled firing Cox was illegal absent a finding of extraordinary impropriety as specified in the regulation establishing the special prosecutor's office. [6] [12] Congress was infuriated by what it saw as a gross abuse of presidential power – as were many Americans, who sent an unusually large number of telegrams to the White House and Congress in protest. [13] [14] [15]

Less than a week after the Saturday Night Massacre, an Oliver Quayle poll for NBC News indicated that, for the first time, a plurality of U.S. citizens supported impeaching Nixon, with 44% in favor, 43% opposed, and 13% undecided, with a sampling error of 2 to 3 per cent. [16] In the days that followed, numerous resolutions of impeachment against the president were introduced in Congress, and the impeachment process against Richard Nixon was underway.

However, the House Judiciary Committee did not approve its first article of impeachment until July 27 the following year – more than nine months after the Saturday Night Massacre – when it charged Nixon with obstruction of justice. Two more articles of impeachment quickly followed.

Within two weeks, Nixon had made the decision to resign following a televised speech in which he announced his intentions, he did so on August 9, 1974.

The actual origin of the phrase is unknown it first appeared in writing two days after the events, in a Washington Post article by David S. Broder on October 22, but even in that article, Broder writes that the events were already "being called" the Saturday Night Massacre. In a 2017 article in the Washington Post, Amy B. Wang attributed the phrase to humorist Art Buchwald, based on the recollection of Sally Quinn. [17]

Nixon felt political pressure to allow Bork to appoint a new special prosecutor, and Bork chose Leon Jaworski. [18] [19] There was a question whether Jaworski would limit his investigation to the Watergate break-in or follow Cox's lead and look into other corrupt activities, such as those involving the "White House Plumbers". [20] Continuing Cox's investigation, Jaworski did look at broader corruption involving the White House. [21]

While Nixon continued to refuse to turn over the tapes, he agreed to release transcripts of a large number of them. Nixon said he did so partly because any audio pertinent to national security would have to be redacted from the tapes. There was further controversy on November 7 when an 18½-minute portion of one tape was found to have been erased. Nixon's personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, said she had accidentally erased the tape by pushing the wrong foot pedal on her tape player while answering the phone. Later forensic analysis determined that the tape had been erased in several segments – at least five, and perhaps as many as nine. [22]

Nixon's presidency succumbed to mounting pressure resulting from the Watergate scandal and its cover-up. Faced with almost certain impeachment and conviction, Nixon resigned.

In his posthumously published memoirs, Bork said Nixon promised him the next seat on the Supreme Court following Bork's role in firing Cox. Nixon was unable to carry out that promise, but President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork for the Supreme Court in 1987 his nomination nevertheless failed in the Senate. [23]

The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 was a direct result of the Saturday Night Massacre. [24]

Watch the video: Richard Nixon resigns - August 8, 1974