Richard Nixon's state crimes

Richard Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal led to impeachment proceedings, and then to his resignation as president. His successor, Gerald Ford, controversially awarded him a full pardon for any federal crimes he may have committed. (Presidential pardons do not apply to state crimes.)

Wikipedia claims that before his pardon, Nixon was at risk of criminal prosecution “both on the federal and state level”. This claim is sourced to "The Legal Aftermath: Citizen Nixon and the Law, a 1974 Time article that I can’t read at the moment on account of it being paywalled.

I understand that Nixon was ultimately never charged in connection with Watergate, even at the state level, but I am curious as to what state laws he might have violated. As I understand it, the Watergate break-in happened in the federal District of Columbia, and Nixon’s cover-up was presumably conducted from the White House or other government properties in D.C. So what’s the possible state connection? Which state(s) even had jurisdiction to charge him with anything, and what could those charges conceivably have been?

I don’t have a solid answer for you, due to not being any more willing than you are to do the research, but from memory there was a team of people who did “dirty tricks” against Nixon’s supposed enemies, some of which tricks were probably criminal. If these crimes were committed outside of DC, which seems a reasonable assumption, it would not matter if the planning were done in DC, anyone with a proven connection to the crimes could probably be charged by the state where the crime was committed. Said crimes would probably have to have been more serious than burglary, however, for the machinery to start cranking.

This leaves aside, of course, any discussion of how practical it would have been to prove that Nixon actually helped plan any of these actions.

I think that was the point of the final release of the White House Tapes - they provided the “smoking gun” that proved that Nixon was aware of what was going on, was involved in the relevant discussions and that he approved it. He had released the tapes in sections, obviously hoping to avoid releasing the most incriminating. The final release came just a few days before his resignation, and it was that final release that was called the “smoking gun” - it left no doubt as to Nixon’s guilt and assured that he would be impeached. Even the most loyal members of his own party called for his resignation after those tapes became public.

So, in terms of OP’s question, I’d think Nixon could have been prosecuted for a variety of state and federal charges, mostly in the area of conspiracy to commit burglary, obstruction of justice, things like that. But only after he was impeached, of course.

If they didn’t conduct illegal incidents in a state, then the answers are none, none, and none.

Yes, but given that the burglary was committed in federal territory, wouldn’t any state-level conspiracy and obstruction charges need to involve criminal activity carried out within a state? Do we have any evidence that the burglary or the subsequent obstruction was planned outside of DC?

Yes, but this is exactly what I’m asking. My source says Nixon could have been charged with state crimes, so which of Nixon’s activities in state jurisdiction were illegal? Or is the source wrong, and none of Nixon’s illegal activities were conducted in a state?

The Time article makes references to other activities that may not be connected to Watergate.

Among other incidents, the “White House plumbers” broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, (the psychiatrist for Daniel Elsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.) Fielding’s offrice was in California, so at the very least, that’s one potential state crime.

If I recall correctly from “All the President’s Men”, part of the plans were to disrupt election activities in some of the key states. Since the elections are run by the states, wouldn’t that possibly infringe state anti-corruption laws, as well as federal law?

Also, a big part of the background was money-laundering, running money through accounts in Mexico and Florida, ultimately ending up in cash in a safe with CREEP (the acronym for “Committee to Re-Elect the President” - great planning on someone’s part. :rolleyes: )

I don’t know how strict state money-laundering laws were back then, but that might have been an area of criminal misconduct.

As i recall part of the crimes of Nixon was using the IRS on political enemies.

Yes, but…

In California at the time, burglary was the breaking and entering into a place with the intent to commit a crime therein. The prosecution had trouble convicting the principals because there was no crime involved (at the time) in photographing papers. I recall that the prosecution was reduced to arguing that the burglars probably turned on the lights and thus stole electricity for which Fielding was billed.

Interesting. Do you know if violating medical confidentiality was a crime in California at the time?

Even if it was, medical confidentiality normally only applies to professionals in the health care system, like doctors, nurses and administrators. So I would think it would be unusual if a person who was not working in the health care system would have a duty of confidentiality.

I agree with Northern Piper - even now I don’t think it’s a crime for me to learn of someone’s medical condition and publicize it. Less so in the 1970s.

According to G. Gordon Liddy, he (Liddy) proposed the assassination of syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, which certainly would have been a state crime (the plan was to stage a car accident near Anderson’s Chevy Chase, Maryland, home) but the White House refused to approve that plan.

Glad to learn the Nixon White House had some standards!!

Sure, but that would still be a federal crime, not state.

Not every crime committed within the borders of DC is a Federal crime. There is a local government and local laws. Perhaps they aren’t “state” laws, I’m not sure. If someone is charged with robbery or burglary in DC, I’m pretty sure they aren’t brought before a Federal judge.

There must be some legal structure to accommodate cases like this. I expect Nixon, aside from questions of executive immunity, could be charged like any other local criminal.

So in 1973 people could break into houses with impunity, so long as they behaved themselves once inside?

Isn’t “breaking and entering” a crime all in itself, regardless of what happens after the entry? Or how about “trespassing”?

The District of Columbia does have local courts and local laws, but the local courts are established by the power of Congress, and the local law-making power is delegated by Congress. The President has the power to pardon D.C. offences: