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Nixon Tapes


NIXON TAPES. Although several presidents tape recorded White House conversations, none did so as extensively, or with such consequences, as Richard Nixon. In February 1971, Nixon installed tape machines in the Oval Office and elsewhere to record his conversations. In July 1973, one of his aides, Alexander Butterfield, told the Senate committee investigating the burgeoning Watergate scandal about the recordings. Butterfield's bomb-shell led the Senate committee and the Watergate special prosecutor to subpoena tapes pertaining to Nixon's role in covering up the June 1972 Watergate burglary. For nine months, Nixon refused, harming his cause, which suffered further when the White House revealed in November 1973 that someone had erased eighteen and one-half minutes of one key tape. In April 1974, Nixon finally made public edited transcripts of selected tapes, which failed to satisfy the special prosecutor. In July 1974, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over more tapes, including the "smoking gun" tape of 23 June 1972 on which Nixon explicitly plotted the cover-up. Days later, he resigned. In 1974, Congress mandated the release of all tapes relating to Watergate. It gave Nixon control of tapes deemed personal. The National Archives planned to make available the remainder of the tapes, which ran to almost 4,000 hours, but Nixon fought the release in court. After a lawsuit, the National Archives agreed to make those tapes public starting in late 1996.


Kutler, Stanley I. Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.


See alsoNixon, Resignation of .

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