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View Full Version : Why didn't Nixon just destroy the tapes?


AnabolicDoberman
05-22-2006, 01:49 AM
Instead of hiding the tapes why didn't Nixon just destroy the ones with incriminating stuff? There probably would have been a ton left to turn over and he could have just claimed that what he turned over was all he had.

Jebus H. Christ
05-22-2006, 02:23 AM
Instead of hiding the tapes why didn't Nixon just destroy the ones with incriminating stuff? There probably would have been a ton left to turn over and he could have just claimed that what he turned over was all he had.

Did he try that with the 18 minute gap?

AnabolicDoberman
05-22-2006, 02:36 AM
Did he try that with the 18 minute gap?
I know but that was just dumb and drew attention to it. Why not dispose of the entire tape if it had incriminating stuff on it?

Jebus H. Christ
05-22-2006, 02:40 AM
I should probably have included that the tapes were specifically listed in the subpoena. Nixon couln't just say they didn't exist. The investigators already knew they existed.


[ Footnote 5 ] The specific meetings and conversations are enumerated in a schedule attached to the subpoena. App. 42a-46a.

http://www.watergate.info/tapes/united-states-v-nixon.shtml#f5

Jebus H. Christ
05-22-2006, 02:43 AM
I know but that was just dumb and drew attention to it. Why not dispose of the entire tape if it had incriminating stuff on it?

That's not really any better. What is Nixon going to say, "You know those tapes you wanted? Well, here they are expect one."

Easier to say that the 18.5 minutes was accidently taped over by your secretary sitting in a very comfortable position while on the phone.

Walloon
05-22-2006, 02:59 AM
Do you mean an uncomfortable (http://www.cbc.ca/story/news/national/2005/01/23/woods050123.html) position?

Jebus H. Christ
05-22-2006, 03:07 AM
Do you mean an uncomfortable (http://www.cbc.ca/story/news/national/2005/01/23/woods050123.html) position?

You're saying that doesn't look comfortable?

Jebus H. Christ
05-22-2006, 03:13 AM
The best answer is that if there something bad in the gap, Nixon was screwed. He couldn't just not turn over the tape because the investigators knew it existed. And he couldn't release it assuming it had something bad on it. Erasing part of it have seemed like the best idea. Or maybe, however unlikely, it was an accident and nothing important was there.

rbroome
05-22-2006, 06:57 AM
Instead of hiding the tapes why didn't Nixon just destroy the ones with incriminating stuff? There probably would have been a ton left to turn over and he could have just claimed that what he turned over was all he had.

For a long time Nixon and his administration were convinced that he could legally withold the tapes. Excecutive privilige and all that. By the time it became apparent that the courts were going to force the turnover of the tapes, it was too late. It isn't like the tapes were kept in the bottom drawer of his desk. They were held by staff, and not all the staff were interested in going to jail to protect the boss. Not by the time things became desparate. The tapes were in danger as evidenced by the 18 minute gap, but they were protected by the administration's believe they were going to remain private.

Remember to that recordings of presidential conversations had been going on for a very long time. There are tapes of Roosevelt. Prior to Nixon none of them had ever been released or even sought after.

Dinsdale
05-22-2006, 08:32 AM
I am not sure about the legalities, but I recall thinking as soon as they became an issue and before the courts got involved, he should have just had a bonfire of the damn tapes on the White House lawn.
I always attributed his motivation to pride, and an overblown sense of privilege and entitlement.

Freddy the Pig
05-22-2006, 08:46 AM
Destruction of evidence is a serious crime. What good does it to to cover up one crime by commiting another crime? Instead of the House threatening impeachment for covering up White House involvement in the Watergate burglary, they would have threatened impeachment for covering up the cover-up by destroying the tapes.

saoirse
05-22-2006, 08:51 AM
Kennedy and Johnson also taped extensively in the Oval Office. They would turn the machine on and off with a foot switch. Nixon couldn't get the hang of it, so he just left it on.

RealityChuck
05-22-2006, 09:13 AM
Destruction of evidence is a serious crime. What good does it to to cover up one crime by commiting another crime? Instead of the House threatening impeachment for covering up White House involvement in the Watergate burglary, they would have threatened impeachment for covering up the cover-up by destroying the tapes.This is the answer: Since congress knew of the tapes, destroying them would have been grounds for impeachment, even if he destroyed them before Congress knew of them. Nixon's only defense would be that they only kept the tapes for six months (or whatever) and destroyed them routinely, but that would have been another lie.

He really had no choice that wouldn't dig him in deeper.

Cervaise
05-22-2006, 10:00 AM
Did he try that with the 18 minute gap?It's been recently determined that the gap was caused by a couple of teenage girls messing with the recording equipment.

Dinsdale
05-22-2006, 10:25 AM
This is the answer: Since congress knew of the tapes, destroying them would have been grounds for impeachment, even if he destroyed them before Congress knew of them.

I'm not entirely sure about that, for a number of reasons.
1. Not every "offense" is necessarily an impeachable offense. I'm not sure that the destruction of potential evidence coupled with the suspicion of inappropriate behavior, is necessarily as damaging as proof positive of an orchestrated coverup of a series of illegal activites.
2. Perhaps he could have succeeded in arguing that executive privilege allowed him to destroy the tapes.
3. Moreover, even if Nixon had been impeached, absent the evidence on the tapes, I am not certain he would have been convicted/removed from office. He could have survived the impeachment, a la Clinton.

IIRC, no one really suspected the extent of wrongdoing before the tapes were disclosed, and info on those tapes was the impetus behind obtaining specirfic indictments and testimony.

But I may misremember the timeline and the political situation at the time. After all, I was only 13 years old!

Freddy the Pig
05-22-2006, 11:31 AM
2. Perhaps he could have succeeded in arguing that executive privilege allowed him to destroy the tapes.No chance. The proper way to assert executive privilege is by claiming it in court, not by destroying the evidence.
3. Moreover, even if Nixon had been impeached, absent the evidence on the tapes, I am not certain he would have been convicted/removed from office. He could have survived the impeachment, a la Clinton.

IIRC, no one really suspected the extent of wrongdoing before the tapes were disclosed, and info on those tapes was the impetus behind obtaining specirfic indictments and testimony.The existence of the tapes became public knowledge as a result of testimony by White House staff before the Senate Watergate committee in July 1973. The tapes were quickly subpoenaed by the committee itself and by the grand jury which was investigating illegal Watergate-related activities. (By this time the burglars themselves had already been convicted and had implicated higher-ups.)

The White House released transcripts of the more innocuous tapes, but asserted a claim of executive privilege on the more incriminating ones. This claim was rejected by the Supreme Court in July 1974, and the content of the most incriminating tapes became public on August 5, 1974. Nixon resigned by the end of the week.

Note that even before the incriminating content was revealed:

* The House Judiciary Committee had recommended impeachment by a vote of 28-10.
* Many of Nixon's top aides were under indictment or had already pled guilty.
* Nixon himself had been named by a grand jury as an "unindicted co-conspirator".

Of course, all of the above don't prove that Nixon would have been removed by the Senate. At that point he still planned to mount a defense and fight for the necessary one-third-plus-one votes.

But if we take the above difficulties and add to them the wanton destruction of evidence under subpoena, it becomes clear that Nixon would not have survived. Destruction of the tapes would have been pointless. In fact, it might have been so blatantly criminal that Ford would have blanched at pardoning Nixon, and he would have faced criminal prosecution on top of the disgrace of resignation.

Cliffy
05-22-2006, 11:41 AM
I'm not entirely sure about that, for a number of reasons.
1. Not every "offense" is necessarily an impeachable offense. I'm not sure that the destruction of potential evidence coupled with the suspicion of inappropriate behavior, is necessarily as damaging as proof positive of an orchestrated coverup of a series of illegal activites.
Sure, but destroying the tapes when it was already public knowledge that Watergate investigators wanted them is tantamount to an admission of guilt in the court of public opinion. Ir proves he had something to hide. And that's why public opinion shifter after the Saturday Night Massacre, which sent the same message.

2. Perhaps he could have succeeded in arguing that executive privilege allowed him to destroy the tapes.
I don't see how; the Court didn't but his executive privilege arguments to prevent their handover, I don't know why it'd buy the same arguments to achieve Nixon's desired result through another method.

3. Moreover, even if Nixon had been impeached, absent the evidence on the tapes, I am not certain he would have been convicted/removed from office. He could have survived the impeachment, a la Clinton.
Who knows? But I doubt it. His supporters would run for cover the minute it came out that he had knowingly destroyed evidence.

But you're in a better posititon to remember than I -- you may have been 13, but I spent most of that period learning to walk.

--Cliffy[/QUOTE]

t-bonham@scc.net
05-22-2006, 06:43 PM
There was probably some concern on Nixon's part as to whether he could actually destroy the tapes, or had somebody already secretly made copies of them. Remember that there were already low-level people in the administration who were putting loyalty to the country above loyalty to Nixon, and were providing evidence to the investigators.

If he had destroyed the tapes, saying we erased them because there was nothing on those tapes, and then had a copy come to light, with all the incriminating stuff that was on them, he would have been in even more hot water.