President Nixon’s Third Watergate Speech (April 29, 1974)


The White House
April , 1974 Good evening. I have asked for this time tonight in order
to announce my answer to the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena
for additional Watergate tapes, and to tell you something about the actions
I shall be taking tomorrow, about what I hope they will mean to you
and about the very difficult choices that were presented to me. These actions will at last, once and for
all, show that what I knew and what I did with regard to the Watergate break-in and
cover-up were just as I have described them to you from the very beginning. I have spent many hours during the past few
weeks thinking about what I would say to the American people if I were to reach
the decision I shall announce tonight; and so, my words have not been lightly chosen.
I can assure you they are deeply felt. It was almost 2 years ago, in June 1972,
that five men broke into the Democratic National Committee
headquarters in Washington. It turned out that they were connected
with my reelection committee, and the Watergate break-in became
a major issue in the campaign. The full resources of the FBI and the
Justice Department were used to investigate the incident thoroughly. I instructed my staff and campaign aides
to cooperate fully with the investigation. The FBI conducted nearly 1,500 interviews. For 9 months, until March 1973, I was
assured by those charged with conducting and monitoring the investigations that no
one in the White House was involved. Nevertheless, for more than a year, there
have been allegations and insinuations that I knew about the planning of
the Watergate break-in and that I was involved in an
extensive plot to cover it up. The House Judiciary Committee is
now investigating these charges. On March 6, I ordered all materials
that I had previously furnished to the Special Prosecutor,
turned over to the committee. These included tape recordings
of 19 Presidential conversations and more than 700 documents from
private White House files. On April 11, the Judiciary Committee
issued a subpoena for 42 additional tapes of conversations which it contended
were necessary for its investigation. I agreed to respond to
that subpoena by tomorrow. In these folders that you see over here
on my left are more than 1,200 pages of transcripts of private conversations
I participated in between September 15, 1972, and
April 27 of 1973 with my principal aides and associates with regard to Watergate. They include all the relevant portions of all
of the subpoenaed conversations that were recorded, that is, all portions that relate
to the question of what I knew about Watergate or the cover-up
and what I did about it. They also include transcripts of other
conversations which were not subpoenaed, but which have a significant bearing on
the question of Presidential actions with regard to Watergate. These will be delivered
to the committee tomorrow. In these transcripts, portions not relevant
to my knowledge or actions with regard to Watergate are not included,
but everything that is relevant is included, the rough as well as the smooth,
the strategy sessions, the exploration of alternatives,
the weighing of human and political costs. As far as what the President
personally knew and did with regard to Watergate and the cover-up
is concerned, these materials, together with those already made available,
will tell it all. I shall invite Chairman Rodino and the
committee’s ranking minority member, Congressman Hutchinson of Michigan, to come
to the White House and listen to the actual, full tapes of these conversations, so that
they can determine for themselves beyond question that the transcripts are
accurate and that everything on the tapes relevant to my knowledge and my actions
on Watergate is included. If there should be any disagreement over
whether omitted material is relevant, I shall meet with them personally
in an effort to settle the matter. I believe this arrangement is fair,
and I think it’s appropriate. For many days now, I have spent many hours
of my own time personally reviewing these materials and personally
deciding questions of relevancy. I believe it is appropriate that the
committee’s review should also be made by its own senior elected officials,
and not by staff employees. The task of Chairman Rodino and Congressman
Hutchinson will be made simpler than was mine by the fact that the work of preparing
the transcripts has been completed. All they will need to do is
to satisfy themselves of their authenticity and their completeness. Ever since the existence of the White House
taping system was first made known last summer, I have tried vigorously
to guard the privacy of the tapes. I have been well aware that my effort to
protect the confidentiality of Presidential conversations has heightened the
sense of mystery about Watergate and, in fact, has caused increased
suspicions of the President. Many people assume that the tapes
must incriminate the President, or that otherwise, he wouldn’t
insist on their privacy. But the problem I confronted was this:
Unless a President can protect the privacy of the advice he gets,
he cannot get the advice he needs. This principle is recognized in the
constitutional doctrine of executive privilege, which has been defended and maintained by
every President since Washington and which has been recognized by the courts, whenever
tested, as inherent in the Presidency. I consider it to be my constitutional
responsibility to defend this principle. Three factors have now combined to persuade
me that a major unprecedented exception to that principle is now necessary. First, in the present circumstances, the
House of Representatives must be able to reach an informed judgment about the
President’s role in Watergate. Second, I am making a major exception to
the principle of confidentiality because I believe such action is now necessary
in order to restore the principle itself, by clearing the air of the central question
that has brought such pressures upon it, and also to provide the evidence
which will allow this matter to be brought to a prompt conclusion. Third, in the context of the current
impeachment climate, I believe all the American people,
as well as their representatives in Congress, are entitled to have not only the facts but also
the evidence that demonstrates those facts. I want there to be no question remaining
about the fact that the President has nothing to hide
in this matter. The impeachment of a President
is a remedy of last resort; it is the most solemn act of our
entire constitutional process. Now, regardless of whether or not it
succeeded, the action of the House, in voting a formal accusation requiring trial by the
Senate, would put the Nation through a wrenching ordeal it has endured only once
in its lifetime, a century ago, and never since America has become a
world power with global responsibilities. The impact of such an ordeal would be felt
throughout the world, and it would have its effect on the lives of all Americans
for many years to come. Because this is an issue that profoundly
affects all the American people, in addition to turning over these transcripts
to the House Judiciary Committee, I have directed that they should all be
made public, all of these that you see here. To complete the record, I shall also release
to the public, transcripts of all those portions of the tapes already turned over to
the Special Prosecutor and to the committee that relate to Presidential actions or
knowledge of the Watergate affair. During the past year, the wildest accusations
have been given banner headlines and ready credence as well. Rumor, gossip, innuendo, accounts from
unnamed sources of what a prospective witness might testify to,
have filled the morning newspapers and then are repeated on the evening
newscasts day after day. Time and again, a familiar
pattern repeated itself. A charge would be reported the first day
as what it was, just an allegation. But it would then be referred back to the
next day and thereafter as if it were true. The distinction between fact
and speculation grew blurred. Eventually, all seeped into the public
consciousness as a vague general impression of massive wrongdoing, implicating everybody,
gaining credibility by its endless repetition. The basic question at issue today is whether
the President personally acted improperly in the Watergate matter. Month after month of rumor, insinuation,
and charges by just one Watergate witness, John Dean, suggested that the
President did act improperly. This sparked the demands
for an impeachment inquiry. This is the question that must be answered. And this is the question that will be answered
by these transcripts that I have ordered published tomorrow. These transcripts cover hour upon hour of
discussions that I held with Mr. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John Dean, John Mitchell,
former Attorney General Kleindienst, Assistant Attorney General Petersen,
and others with regard to Watergate. They were discussions in which I was
probing to find out what had happened, who was responsible, what were the
various degrees of responsibilities, what were the legal culpabilities,
what were the political ramifications, and what actions were necessary and
appropriate on the part of the President. I realize that these transcripts
will provide grist for many sensational stories in the press. Parts will seem to be contradictory with one
another, and parts will be in conflict with some of the testimony given in the
Senate Watergate committee hearings. I have been reluctant to release these tapes,
not just because they will embarrass me and those with whom I have talked,
which they will; and not just because they will become the
subject of speculation and even ridicule, which they will; and not just because certain parts of them
will be seized upon by political and journalistic opponents, which they will. I have been reluctant because, in these
and in all the other conversations in this office, people have spoken
their minds freely, never dreaming that specific sentences or even parts of
sentences would be picked out as the subjects of national
attention and controversy. I have been reluctant because the principle
of confidentiality is absolutely essential to the conduct of the Presidency. In reading the raw transcripts of these
conversations, I believe it will be more readily apparent why that principle is essential
and must be maintained in the future. These conversations are unusual in their
subject matter, but the same kind of uninhibited discussion, and it is that,
the same brutal candor is necessary in discussing how to bring
warring factions to the peace table or how to move necessary legislation
through the Congress. Names are named in these transcripts. Therefore, it is important to remember that
much that appears in them is no more than hearsay or speculation, exchanged as I was
trying to find out what really had happened, while my principal aides were reporting to
me on rumors and reports that they had heard, while we discussed the various,
often conflicting stories, that different persons were telling. As the transcripts will demonstrate,
my concerns during this period covered a wide range. The first and obvious one was
to find out just exactly what had happened and who was involved. A second concern was for the people
who had been, or might become, involved in Watergate. Some were close advisers, valued
friends, others whom I had trusted. And I was also concerned about
the human impact on others, especially some of the young people and their
families who had come to Washington to work in my Administration, whose lives
might be suddenly ruined by something they had done in an excess of loyalty
or in the mistaken belief that it would serve the interests of the President. And then I was quite frankly concerned
about the political implications. This represented potentially a devastating
blow to the Administration and to its programs, one which I knew would
be exploited for all it was worth by hostile elements in the Congress
as well as in the media. I wanted to do what was right, but I wanted
to do it in a way that would cause the least unnecessary damage in a highly charged
political atmosphere to the Administration. And fourth, as a lawyer, I felt very strongly
that I had to conduct myself in a way that would not prejudice the
rights of potential defendants. And fifth, I was striving to sort out a
complex tangle, not only of facts but also questions of legal
and moral responsibility. I wanted, above all, to be fair. I wanted to draw distinctions, where those
were appropriate, between persons who were active and willing participants
on the one hand, and on the other, those who might have gotten inadvertently
caught up in the web and be technically indictable
but morally innocent. Despite the confusions and contradictions,
what does come through clearly is this: John Dean charged in sworn Senate testimony
that I was “fully aware of the cover-up” at the time of our first meeting
on September 15, 1972. These transcripts show clearly that I first
learned of it when Mr. Dean himself told me about it in this office on March 21,
some 6 months later. Incidentally, these transcripts covering
hours upon hours of conversations should place in somewhat better perspective the
controversy over the 18 1/2 minute gap in the tape of a conversation I had with
Mr. Haldeman back in June of 1972. Now how it was caused is still
a mystery to me, and I think, to many of the experts as well. But I am absolutely certain, however, of one
thing: that it was not caused intentionally by my secretary, Rose Mary Woods,
or any of my White House assistants. And certainly, if the theory were true that
during those 18 1/2 minutes, Mr. Haldeman and I cooked up some sort
of a Watergate cover-up scheme, as so many have been quick to surmise,
it hardly seems likely that in all of our subsequent conversations,
many of them are here, which neither of us ever expected
would see the light of day, there is nothing remotely indicating such a
scheme; indeed, quite the contrary. From the beginning, I have said that in many
places on the tapes there were ambiguities, statements and comments that different
people with different perspectives might interpret in drastically different ways,
but although the words may be ambiguous, though the discussions may have explored
many alternatives, the record of my actions is totally clear now, and I still
believe it was totally correct then. A prime example is one of the most
controversial discussions, that with Mr. Dean on March 21, the one
in which he first told me of the cover-up, with Mr. Haldeman joining us
midway through the conversation. His revelations to me on March 21 were a
sharp surprise, even though the report he gave to me was far from complete,
especially since he did not reveal, at that time, the extent of his own
criminal involvement. I was particularly concerned by his report
that one of the Watergate defendants, Howard Hunt, was threatening blackmail unless
he and his lawyer were immediately given $120,000 for legal fees and family support,
and that he was attempting to blackmail the White House, not by threatening exposure
on the Watergate matter, but by threatening to reveal activities that
would expose extremely sensitive, highly secret, national security matters
that he had worked on before Watergate. I probed, questioned, tried to learn all
Mr. Dean knew about who was involved, what was involved. I asked more than 150 questions of
Mr. Dean in the course of that conversation. He said to me, and I quote
from the transcripts directly, “I can just tell from our conversation that these are things that you
have no knowledge of.” It was only considerably later that I learned
how much there was that he did not tell me then, for example, that he himself
had authorized promises of clemency, that he had personally handled money
for the Watergate defendants, and that he had suborned
perjury of a witness. I knew that I needed more facts. I knew that I needed the
judgments of more people. I knew the facts about the Watergate cover-up
would have to be made public, but I had to find out more about
what they were before I could decide how they could
best be made public. I returned several times to the immediate
problem posed by Mr. Hunt’s blackmail threat, which to me was not a Watergate problem,
but one which I regarded, rightly or wrongly, as a potential national security
problem of very serious proportions. I considered long and hard whether it might
in fact be better to let the payment go forward, at least temporarily, in the hope
that this national security matter would not be exposed in the course of
uncovering the Watergate cover-up. I believed then, and I believe today,
that I had a responsibility as President to consider every option, including this one,
where production of sensitive national security matters was at issue,
protection of such matters. In the course of considering it and of
“just thinking out loud,” as I put it at one point, I several times suggested that
meeting Hunt’s demands might be necessary. But then, I also traced through
where that would lead. The money could be raised. But money demands would lead inescapably
to clemency demands, and clemency could not be granted. I said, and I quote directly from the tape,
“It is wrong, that’s for sure.” I pointed out, and I quote again from the tape, “But in the end we are going
to be bled to death. And in the end it is all going
to come out anyway. And then you get the worst of both worlds. We are going to lose,
and people are going to…” And Mr. Haldeman interrupts me
and says: “And look like dopes!” And I responded, “And in effect,
look like a cover-up. So that we cannot do.” Now, I recognize that this tape of March 21
is one which different meanings could be read in by different people. But by the end of the meeting, as the tape
shows, my decision was to convene a new grand jury and to send everyone before the
grand jury with instructions to testify. Whatever the potential for misinterpretation
there may be as a result of the different options that were
discussed at different times during the meeting, my conclusion at the end
of the meeting was clear. And my actions and reactions as demonstrated
on the tapes that follow that date, show clearly that I did not intend the further
payment to Hunt or anyone else be made. These are some of the actions that I took
in the weeks that followed in my effort to find the truth, to carry out my
responsibilities to enforce the law. As a tape of our meeting on March 22,
the next day, indicates, I directed Mr. Dean to go to Camp David with
instructions to put together a written report. I learned 5 days later, on March 26,
that he was unable to complete it. And so on March 27, I assigned John Ehrlichman
to try to find out what had happened, who was at fault, and in what ways,
and to what degree. One of the transcripts I am making public
is a call that Mr. Ehrlichman made to the Attorney General on March 28, in which he
asked the Attorney General to report to me, the President, directly, any information he
might find indicating possible involvement of John Mitchell or by anyone
in the White House. I had Mr. Haldeman separately pursue
other, independent lines of inquiry. Throughout, I was trying to reach
determinations on matters of both substance and procedure on what the facts were and what
was the best way to move the case forward. I concluded that I wanted everyone
to go before the grand jury and testify freely and fully. This decision, as you will recall, was
publicly announced on March 30, 1973. I waived executive privilege in order
to permit everybody to testify. I specifically waived executive privilege with
regard to conversations with the President, and I waived the attorney-client privilege
with John Dean in order to permit him to testify
fully and, I hope truthfully. Finally, on April 14, three weeks after I
learned of the cover-up from Mr. Dean, Mr. Ehrlichman reported to me on
the results of his investigation. As he acknowledged, much of what he had
gathered was hearsay, but he had gathered enough to make it clear
that the next step was to make his findings completely available to the Attorney General,
which I instructed him to do. And the next day, Sunday, April 15, Attorney
General Kleindienst asked to see me, and he reported new information which had
come to his attention on this matter. And although he was in no way whatever
involved in Watergate, because of his close personal ties, not only to John Mitchell
but to other potential people who might be involved, he quite properly
removed himself from the case. We agreed that Assistant Attorney General
Henry Petersen, the head of the Criminal Division,
a Democrat and career prosecutor, should be placed in complete charge
of the investigation. Later that day, I met with Mr. Petersen. I continued to meet with him, to talk with
him, to consult with him, to offer him the full cooperation of the White House,
as you will see from these transcripts, even to the point of retaining John Dean on
the White House Staff for an extra 2 weeks after he admitted his criminal involvement,
because Mr. Petersen thought that would make it easier for the prosecutor to get his
cooperation in breaking the case if it should become necessary to grant Mr. Dean’s
demand for immunity. On April 15, when I heard that one of the
obstacles to breaking the case was Gordon Liddy’s refusal to talk,
I telephoned Mr. Petersen and directed that he should make clear not only
to Mr. Liddy but to everyone that, and now I quote directly from
the tape of that telephone call, “As far as the President is concerned,
everybody in this case is to talk and to tell the truth.” I told him if
necessary I would personally meet with Mr. Liddy’s lawyer to assure him that
I wanted Liddy to talk and to tell the truth. From the time Mr. Petersen took charge, the
case was solidly within the criminal justice system, pursued personally by the Nation’s
top professional prosecutor with the active, personal assistance of the
President of the United States. I made clear there was to be no cover-up. Let me quote just a few lines from the
transcripts, you can read them to verify them, so that you can hear for yourself the
orders I was giving in this period. Speaking to Haldeman
and Ehrlichman, I said, “…it is ridiculous to talk about clemency.
They all knew that.” Speaking to Ehrlichman, I said,
“We all have to do the right thing… We just cannot have this
kind of a business…” Speaking to Haldeman and Ehrlichman,
I said, “The boil had to be pricked … We have to prick the boil and take the heat. Now that’s what we are doing here.” Speaking to Henry Petersen, I said,
“I want you to be sure to understand that you know we are going to get
to the bottom of this thing.” Speaking to John Dean,
I said, “Tell the truth. That is the thing I have told
everybody around here.” And then speaking to Haldeman,
“And you tell Magruder, ‘now Jeb, this evidence is coming in,
you ought to go to the grand jury. Purge yourself if you’re perjured
and tell this whole story.'” I am confident that the American people
will see these transcripts for what they are, fragmentary records from a time more than
a year ago that now seems very distant, the records of a President, and of a man,
suddenly being confronted and having to cope with information which, if true, would have
the most far-reaching consequences, not only for his personal reputation but,
more important, for his hopes, his plans, his goals for the people who had
elected him as their leader. If read with an open and a fair mind and read together with the record
of the actions I took, these transcripts will show that what I have
stated from the beginning to be the truth, has been the truth: that I personally had no
knowledge of the break-in before it occurred, that I had no knowledge of the cover-up
until I was informed of it by John Dean on March 21, that I never offered clemency
for the defendants, and that after March 21, my actions were directed toward finding the
facts and seeing that justice was done, fairly and according to the law. The facts are there. The conversations are there. The record of actions is there. To anyone who reads his way through this
mass of materials I have provided, it will be totally, abundantly clear
that as far as the President’s role with regard to Watergate is concerned,
the entire story is there. As you will see, now that you also will
have this mass of evidence I have provided, I have tried to cooperate with
the House Judiciary Committee. And I repeat tonight the offer that I
have made previously: to answer written interrogatories under oath
and, if there are then issues still unresolved, to meet personally with
the chairman of the committee and with Congressman Hutchinson to
answer their questions under oath. As the committee conducts its inquiry,
I also consider it only essential and fair that my counsel, Mr. St. Clair,
should be present to cross-examine witnesses and introduce
evidence in an effort to establish the truth. I am confident that for the overwhelming
majority of those who study the evidence that I shall release tomorrow, those who
are willing to look at it fully, fairly, and objectively, the evidence will be
persuasive and, I hope, conclusive. We live in a time of very great challenge
and great opportunity for America. We live at a time when peace may become
possible in the Middle East for the first time in a generation. We are at last in the process of fulfilling
the hope of mankind for a limitation on nuclear arms, a process that will continue
when I meet with the Soviet leaders in Moscow in a few weeks. We are well on the way toward
building a peace that can last, not just for this but for other
generations as well. And here at home, there is vital work to
be done in moving to control inflation, to develop our energy resources,
to strengthen our economy, so that Americans can enjoy what
they have not had since 1956: full prosperity without war
and without inflation. Every day absorbed by Watergate
is a day lost from the work that must be done, by your President
and by your Congress, work that must be done in dealing with the
great problems that affect your prosperity, affect your security,
that could affect your lives. The materials I make public tomorrow will
provide all the additional evidence needed to get Watergate behind us
and to get it behind us now. Never before in the history of the Presidency
have records that are so private been made so public. In giving you these records, blemishes
and all , I am placing my trust in the basic fairness of the American people. I know in my own heart that through the
long, painful, and difficult process revealed in these transcripts, I was trying
in that period to discover what was right and to do what was right. I hope and I trust that when you have seen
the evidence in its entirety, you will see the truth of that statement. As for myself, I intend to go forward,
to the best of my ability, with the work that you elected me to do. I shall do so in a spirit perhaps best summed
up a century ago by another President when he was being subjected
to unmerciful attack. Abraham Lincoln said, I do the very best I know how,
the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is
said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong,
ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference. Thank you and good evening. CC Zone
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40 thoughts on “President Nixon’s Third Watergate Speech (April 29, 1974)

  1. this creep did a lot of damage to the world.. even now the effects are still active…

    oil in $, forces contracts with the producers, only iran and iraq didnt participate in the plans.. well.. we know what happened to get that oil anyway !!!

    USA = Capitalism.. ritch become more ritch, the poor are screwed. remove the power from the people and they follow you like blind rabbits..

    Nixon was one of the biggest hypocrits ever.. maybe only the 2 Bushes were worse

  2. we need another man, a quaker, like this. Bless him. Yes he lied, but it is small potates to what is going on now. People, he is admitting he lied. What politician is doing thatr now. Also, Mrs. Nixon and Dick din't die wealthy… Americans. WAKE UP!… People…your loosing your wealth…….to your ancient enemies. END COMMUNICATION

  3. this is wonderful…femminists must be dancig in the streets…what a wonderful country we've built for ourselves, greed, and no regrad for scripture…..the book…

  4. Yeah Hitler also. Pol Pot. Idi Amin. Nixon is in there with them because he accepted leadership of the most powerful office in the world and did not abide by its responsibilities. Was he all bad? No he was not. But you cannot be President and use the power for personal vengence, lie to the citizens, tie up the country with all his bullshit leaving us vulnerable to G-d knows what etc. etc. Nixon was a paranoid psychopath–detached from reality believing his own lies.

  5. amazing !!!!!! listen dude named oliver north high ranking army and regen sold guns to iran then they got cought and oliver took the blame so regen wouldent get in trouble and north got let go look up the movie called lord of war with cage in it 🙂 and check me out

  6. So much better than Reagan. He tried to show his strategy in regards to Government management reduction. Reagan unfortunately actually wanted to kill something and understood that you don't leave records when you kill.

  7. Through all that mumbo jumbo, I still don't understand what Watergate actually is. I've heard of it and what a great scandal it was, but what actually happened?

  8. Republican presidents = Watergate, Iran-Contra, WMD. Lies, illegal acts, & cheat-to-win. Actual & factual dishonesty and crimes, not rhetoric nor propaganda. Fuck republicans, then & now. Unworthy & unfit to govern.

  9. I remember when all this happened. It doesn't seem like it's been that long ago. I voted for Nixon & thought he was a good President until all this occurred. I'm glad he was smart enough to resign before being impeached. Donald Trump is not nearly as smart as Nixon was so he's not going to resign. He's a con, liar, bully, & knows nothing about running this country. He will be impeached much sooner than the Trump supporters think. Trump has turned most republicans on the hill against him & it's only been 11 days. Come on Congress! Start the impeachment proceedings now! Got to get this mentally unfit idiot out of office!

  10. A brilliant man but knowing you are being taped, why would you say those things about the Jews and blacks. I know the recording system was set up prior to Nixon, but had I been Nixon, I would of disconnected all the recording devices day one and then, there would be no smoking gun.

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