The legacy of President Richard Nixon is one of history’s most documented. Today, four months after a judge ordered the release of Nixon’s grand jury testimony in the Watergate cover-up trial, the transcript was made public.
Throughout his two-day session with the attorneys in June 1975, the former president is reluctant, wary of entrapment, sometimes impatient, occasionally self-pitying — but always insistent that he acted responsibly.
Among the subjects covered, the infamous 18 1/2 minute gap in an Oval Office tape recording of a conversation between the president and his chief of staff Bob Haldeman three days after the break-in at the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party.
The former president says he “practically blew my stack” when he learned of the gap – not so much because of the missing information as the fact that the prosecutors even had the tape.
He testifies that he told his chief of staff, General Alexander Haig, “let’s find out how this damn thing happened,” and adds later than in his view, “it is very simple…it was an accident.”
In another part of his testimony, Nixon says a Vietnam peace initiative would have come sooner if the New York Times had not published the Pentagon Papers, saying “the ending of a war and the killing of Americans was delayed.”