Nixon resigned before the House could take action against him. If that is the case, he walked away a free man, correct? If so, then why did Ford pardon Nixon…if we are presumed innocent until proved guilty? And, does Ford’s “pardoning” action imply a President could still be convicted in absentia? I mean, a crime IS a crime, right? So, finally, how exactly does a President just walk away scot free by simply resigning? (Looking for facts to better understand than opinions; hence, posting here.)
from a biography I read of ford … he did it so there wouldn’t be any continuing legal problems once Nixon left office and the desire for it and Nixon to be out of sight and mind and he often regretted doing so …
Even after resigning, Nixon could still have been criminally prosecuted, and if I recall correctly criminal investigations were ongoing. The pardon precluded any prosecution and rendered criminal investigations pointless, so they were all stopped.
There also exists the possibility that Nixon was guilty and he didn’t want the guy to go to jail.
The House could only have started the impeachment process. Then the Senate could decide to remove him from office. But it’s not a criminal trial, whether or not the impeachment proceeded, whether or not he was removed from office, Nixon could still be prosecuted for any crimes he committed, until Ford pardoned him.
The Constitution, Article I, Section 3
Even if Nixon had been impeached and convicted, he still could have been arrested, tried and convicted in a criminal court.
And the power of the President to pardon is absolute. And by absolute, that means there doesn’t even have to be an accusation of a crime. The President could give me a full, free and absolute pardon for any federal crime I might have ever committed, even though I’ve never been accused of one.
That’s your legal, technical answer. Here’s the practical answer:
Watergate was a festering sore and would have continued to be as long as there was even a chance Nixon would go to trial. Ford figured a pardon for anything Nixon might have ever done would be the fastest, easiest way to make that problem go away.
Need proof? Bill Clinton was impeached and acquitted, and people are still fighting over what he did or didn’t do.
Cite, please. I followed that mess as it unfolded. ISTR a lot of republicans did call for his impeachment, but the formal process was never started, let alone pass both houses.
…It didn’t pass both houses. That’s why he finished his term. But he was definitely impeached. It was widely understood to be for show (there was never any expectation of a conviction) but it was still kind of a big deal at the time.
Here you go. It’s Wikipedia, but an accurate overall summary.
He was impeached on 2 of 4 charges by the House of Representatives and acquitted on all charges in the trial by the Senate.
You do understand that impeachment means “being made to stand on trial before the Senate,” and not “removed from office,” right? If you really followed it, you must recall CJ Rehnquist’s Gilbert and Sullivan-esque enhancements to his robes, right?
Ford also pointed out that while not wanting to put the country through the process of a Nixon trial, the pardon was also an admission of guilt by Nixon. This last part is rarely remembered though.
ETA: This was in the Douglas Brinkley book Gerald R. Ford.
But did Nixon actually accept the pardon, officially? Is it still an admission of guilt if prosecutors never bother charging you because they know you have a pardon you’ll probably use? (My understanding is that the way you reject a pardon is by just not using it for anything.)
Alternatives to the “Quid pro quo” conspiracy theory:
Yom Kippor war
South Asia war
Maybe President Ford was a tiny bit too busy at the time …
To accept that reasoning you have to believe that Ford didn’t make a deal with Nixon ahead of time to issue the pardon.
Didn’t have the answer, so I had to dig a little. According to the NY Times he did indeed accept the pardon.
I’m sure he personally accepted the pardon. Did he officially accept the pardon? AFAIK, the way you accept a pardon from the President is by taking it to some federal authority and telling them to stop doing some thing to you (trying you for a crime, imprisoning you, whatever) because the President has issued a pardon that removes their authority to do that thing. If Nixon never had to do that, do any of the cases talking about what it means to accept a pardon even apply?
I guess my question is, was Gerald Ford’s belief that Nixon had admitted guilt based in any real law, or was he stretching and squinting in hopes of finding something in the pardon that made it look like justice had been done?
Well Lord Feldon, why don’t you do a little research and find out. It appears he accepted the pardon officially. I think you are mistaken in thinking he did not officially accept it. I’m satisfied with the NY Times reprint I found.
Accepting a pardon is not always an admission of guilt. Innocent people can be pardoned as well.
From what I recall from the Gerald Ford book, “The Pardon” included an admission of guilt.
Ford felt that the Watergate debate had gone long enough (almost two years) and it was time to end it and move on to other things, such as inflation. This may sound hard to believe but in an era of three channels, in October 1974 two of them broadcast presidential meetings on ways to fight inflation (NBC was broadcasting the baseball playoffs while several times telling people they were on ABC and NBC). The infamous WIN (whip inflation now) button was one result, although inflation did begin to decline.
Ford granted the pardon several weeks before the November election (which didn’t help the Republicans any), he didn’t pardon any of the subordinates like Haldeman, Ehrlichman or Mitchell and he took the virtually unprecedented step of appearing before a Congressional committee to answer questions about why he did it (denying there was a deal with Nixon that he would get a pardon if he resigned; Nixon’s nose counting found there were not enough votes in the Senate to keep him in office).
As to whether he should have pardoned Nixon, well you can debate them. Some like Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill felt it was the right move: what matters is how high you fall he said. Others felt it set a double standard. The guys who ended up with the longest prison sentences were the low level guys who did the actual break in; even though most of them had clean records.