Historians Urge Court to Unseal Nixon’s 1975 Grand Jury Testimony

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Historians Urge Court to Unseal Nixon’s 1975 Grand Jury Testimony

Former President’s Testimony Would Complete the Public Record About Watergate Saga, Missing 18.5 Minutes of Tape, More

WASHINGTON - A key piece of Watergate history that remains shrouded in secrecy –
former President Richard Nixon’s grand jury testimony of 1975 – should
be made public, historical experts have told a court.

 In documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia, history professor Stanley Kutler, the American Historical
Association, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of
American Historians and the Society of American Archivists explained
the importance of the grand jury testimony to the historical record.
Public Citizen is representing Mr. Kutler and four the groups.

 “Although Watergate and all that word has come to represent has been
extensively studied and debated, President Nixon’s knowledge of the
events and role in the cover-up remains a subject of speculation for
historians, journalists, and others,” said Allison Zieve, director of
the Public Citizen Litigation Group and lead attorney for the
petitioners. “After 35 years, the reasons for releasing Mr. Nixon’s
sworn testimony far outweigh any grounds for keeping sealed this
important piece of history.”

 The request for the testimony to be made public is supported by a
wide range of people, including John W. Dean III, former White House
Counsel; David Dorsen, former assistant chief counsel to the Senate
Watergate Committee; Barry Sussman, former D.C. editor of The Washington
Post; Raymond Smock, former historian of the U.S. House of
Representatives; Richard J. Davis, former assistant special prosecutor
with the Watergate Special Prosecution Force; and several prominent
historians.

During his testimony, Nixon answered questions about: 1) the infamous
18.5-minutes gap in the tape recording of his conversation with H.R.
Haldeman three days after the Watergate break-in; 2) the extent of his
involvement in altering transcripts of tape recordings that were turned
over to the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment inquiry; 3)
his use of the IRS to harass political enemies; and 4) a $100,000
contribution from Howard Hughes.

In their papers, Kutler and the other petitioners explain that
Nixon’s testimony should be made public because of the ongoing
historical interest in Watergate and Nixon’s legacy. Courts in the past
have opened grand jury testimony based on historical interest. Further,
the concerns that support secrecy of grand jury records no longer apply
to this 35-year-old material. The various Watergate investigations ended
decades ago; Nixon and many other key players in the Watergate scandal
are deceased; most of the key players in the scandal testified publicly
under oath; and some information about the Watergate grand jury
testimony has already been disclosed.

Watergate ignited a crisis of confidence in government and raised
constitutional questions that tested the limits of executive power and
the mettle of the democratic process itself. After leaving office, Nixon
was called before a grand jury. He testified in California on June 23
and 24, 1975, before two members of a federal grand jury. His testimony
was presented in Washington, D.C., to a full grand jury that was
convened to investigate political espionage, illegal campaign
contributions and other wrongdoing.

 “Without this transcript, the public record remains incomplete,” Zieve said.

The petition and the memorandum in support of it are available at http://www.citizen.org/litigation/forms/cases/getlinkforcase.cfm?cID=616.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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