The Nixon Library has released a number of never-before-heard tapes and documents from Richard Nixon’s time in the White House. The most anticipated part of the release is Nixon’s grand jury testimony about the Watergate scandal, recorded after he left office.
Historians do not expect any grand secrets about the Watergate scandal to be revealed in the newly released documents, but they do expect it to shine some light on one of the most extraordinary political scandals in U.S. history.
Here are three items that jumped out at us in the new documents:
1. The president’s worst day
There are 26 folders regarding Nixon’s grand jury testimony, which can be viewed as PDF files here. They contain all sorts of information on the trial, such as the notes jotted down by the special prosecutors to prepare for questioning the president about the 18-and-a-half minute gap in the phone records.
What will really interest historians, of course, are the transcripts of Nixon’s testimony. In one section, he says that the worst day of his presidency, aside from the day he resigned, had to be April 15, 1973 when the Justice Department informed him that White House Counsel John Dean implicated Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman in the Watergate coverup.
2. Nixon really did not like the Washington Post
During Nixon’s testimony, the special prosecutor refers to a column that appeared in the Washington Post. Nixon bristles at the reference and says the writers slandered and libeled him for 25 years. “I don’t mean to seem irate, but perhaps you would feel the same,” he says.
3. Nixon’s advice to anti-war protesters
The released documents also included a trove of recorded transcripts that Nixon made as memos detailing his requests to staff and recapping his days. For instance, one night, Nixon stopped by the Lincoln Memorial and went out to speak with the young protesters, surprising them with his presence. He reported the visit in a recorded memo, talking about how he spoke to them about visiting the U.S.S.R. He said the students didn’t seem interested in the conversation. “Perhaps because they were over-awed by the whole incident. Then another spoke up and said, we’re not interested in what Prague looks like; we’re interested in a life we can build in the United States,” Nixon said. He told the students that it was vitally important to know and appreciate and understand people all over the world, because the world was only going to get smaller.
Let us know any more information you find in the transcripts. And we’ll keep looking as well.