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Archive for Friday, July 29, 2011

Judge: Time to unseal Nixon’s Watergate testimony

July 29, 2011

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— Thirty-six years after Richard Nixon testified to a grand jury about the Watergate break-in that drove him from office, a federal judge on Friday ordered the secret transcript made public.

But the 297 pages of testimony won’t be available immediately because the government gets time to decide whether to appeal.

The Obama administration opposed the transcript’s release, chiefly to protect the privacy of people discussed during the ex-president’s testimony who are still alive.

Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with historians who sued for release of the documents that the historical significance outweighs arguments for secrecy, because the investigations are long over and Nixon has been dead 17 years.

Nixon was interviewed behind closed doors near his California home for 11 hours over two days in June 1975, 10 months after resigning the presidency. Two grand jurors were flown in and the transcript was read to the rest of the panel sitting back in Washington. It was the first time a former U.S. president testified before a grand jury — Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to do so during the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

At the time of his testimony, Nixon could not be prosecuted for conduct related to Watergate because he had been pardoned by President Gerald Ford. Ten days after Nixon testified, the grand jury was dismissed without making any indictments based on what he told them.

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