Members of the House and Senate -- from both parties -- expressed dismay at the President’s moves. One member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerome R. Waldie (D-Calif.), said flatly that he will introduce an impeachment resolution when the House reconvenes, probably Tuesday. So did Rep. Ogden R. Reid (D-N.Y.), a one-time Republican.
Waldie charged that Mr. Nixon “in one wild move has removed the few remaining men of demonstrable integrity in the administration.”
The action, he said, leaves no doubt that release of the Watergate tapes in Mr. Nixon’s possession “would prove the President’s complicity in the crime of obstructing justice and would make him impeachable.”
The President would rather withhold the tapes and make the matter of impeachment a test of “the guts of the members of Congress, which he considers a better bet,” Waldie said.
Three of the most prestigious Democrats in the Senate -- Stuart Symington of Missouri, Edmund S. Muskie of Maine and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts -- all indicated their belief that Mr. Nixon’s actions made impeachment proceedings more likely.
Muskie said the President’s actions “are of such gravity and consequence to our form of government” that the House should consider impeachment proceedings. “What the President has done,” he said, “threatens to destroy our system of law. It smacks of dictatorship. Unless Congress responds in the only way provided in the Constitution for resisting such a usurpation of authority, we endanger our country’s future.”
Kennedy called the firing of Cox “a reckless act of desperation by a President who is afraid of the Supreme Court, who has no respect for law and no regard for men of conscience.
“It is obvious,” he said, “that Mr. Nixon is bent on maintaining the Watergate cover-up at any cost. The burden is now on Congress and the courts to nullify this historic insult to the rule of law and to the nation’s system of justice.”
Symington charged that the President “has now violated his solemn obligation to the Senate” on Richardson’s independence, and said “there is no question that whatever the chances for impeachment were before, they have been materially increased.”
Republicans also saw impeachment down the road for Mr. Nixon. Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Republican Conference, said “the President has precipitated a constitutional crisis” and he predicted impeachment resolutions would be introduced this week.
Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) said, “This act on the part of the President, under the circumstances, is sufficient evidence which the House of Representatives should consider to begin impeachment proceedings.”