After two years of bitter public debate over the Watergate scandals, President Nixon bowed to pressures from the public and leaders of his party to become the first President in American history to resign.
“By taking this action,” he said in a subdued yet dramatic television address from the Oval Office, “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”
Vice President Ford, who spoke a short time later in front of his Alexandria home, announced that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger will remain in his Cabinet.
The President-to-be praised Mr. Nixon’s sacrifice for the country and called it “one of the vary saddest incidents that I’ve every witnessed.”
Mr. Nixon said he decided he must resign when he concluded that he no longer had “a strong enough political base in the Congress” to make it possible for him to complete his term of office.
Declaring that he has never been a quitter, Mr. Nixon said that to leave office before the end of his term “ is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.”
But “as President, I must put the interests of America first,” he said.
While the President acknowledged that some of his judgments “were wrong,” he made no confession of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” with which the House Judiciary Committee charged him in its bill of impeachment.
Specifically, he did not refer to Judiciary Committee charges that in the cover-up of Watergate crimes he misused government agencies such as the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.
After the President’s address, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski issued a statement declaring that “there has been no agreement or understanding of any sort between the President or his representatives and the special prosecutor relating in any way to the President’s resignation.”
Jaworski said that his office “was not asked for any such agreement or understanding and offered none.”
His office was informed yesterday afternoon of the President’s decision, Jaworski said, but “my office did not participate in any way in the President’s decision to resign.”
Mr. Nixon’s brief speech was delivered in firm tones and he appeared to be complete control of his emotions. The absence of rancor contrasted sharply with the “farewell” he delivered in 1962 after being defeated for the governorship of California.
An hour before the speech, however, the President broke down during a meeting with old congressional friends and had to leave the room.
He had invited 20 senators and 26 representatives for a farewell meeting in the Cabinet room. Later, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater (R-Ariz.), one of those present, said Mr. Nixon said to them very much what he said in his speech.
“He just told us that the country couldn’t operate with a half-time President,” Goldwater reported. “Then he broke down and cried and he had to leave the room. Then the rest of us broke down and cried.”