Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: May 9, 1972

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

5/9/1972: Resolution to impeach President Nixon introduced in the House of Representatives. On 7/24/1974, the Supreme Court would decide U.S. v. Nixon.

President Richard Nixon

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  1. I think you meant July 24. I remember that things happened pretty quickly after the Court’s decision: Nixon released the tapes; the smoking gun was revealed; Senators Goldwater and (I think) Hugh Scott and Congressman Rhodes went to the White House to tell Nixon the game was up; Nixon gave his speech about how America needs a full-time president, and a full-time Congress; the resignation took effect; and suddenly our long national nightmare was over. It wasn’t a leisurely month-long process.

    1. Another mistake in this risibly error-prone series.

      We are told here that on Independence Day, nine guys wiped the rib sauce off their lips, took off their corn-on-the-cob bibs and their foam Statue of Liberty crowns, ordered their limos to the Supreme Court building, and rushed past the surprised holiday-shift guards to sign off on that opinion.

  2. Interesting. The resolution to impeach Nixon was introduced one month before the Watergate break-in even occurred?

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing — and that Lyndon Johnson made Nixon look like an angel.

    2. The Watergate impeachment resolution was first introduced in October of ’73, and passed February of ’74. The Watergate break in was June 17, ’72.

      Doing some quick searching, there WERE three impeachment resolutions against Nixon in ’72, one on this date. None of them had anything to do with the Plumbers, and none of them went anywhere.

      Today’s was introduced by Rep. Ryan of New York, and cited no cause for impeaching him, just proposed to do it.

      The next day John Conyers proposed impeaching him over his conduct of the war in Viet Nam, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. A week later he reintroduced it.

      I guess this demonstrates a similarity between the Nixon and Trump impeachment efforts that I hadn’t been aware of: In the case of both Presidents, the Democrats had already decided they wanted to impeach him, and were just groping around for a good excuse. The difference being Nixon actually gave them one.

      1. Nixon had been in office for one term already, unlike Trump. Trump’s impeachers had been looking for an excuse since election night, much like the Confederate states began seceding before Lincoln even came to office.

        1. Don’t forget the occasional mention of using the 25th amendment to support a coup against Trump. Those were always fun times (and one liberal journalist dusted off the old trick to say Trump should be removed if he tests positive for Covid. And you wonder why he doesn’t want to get tested…)

      2. It was reported out of committee, scheduled for a vote and expected to pass — but Nixon resigned first and hence was never actually Impeached.

      3. Did Nixon give them one? Or did secret policeman Mark “Deep Throat” Felt, a man who wanted to be FBI Director, manufacture one because Nixon passed him over in favor of an agency outsider?

        (A secret policeman is as secret policeman does. Anyone who wants to claim the head of Operation COINTELPRO wasn’t a “secret policeman” is free to do so, but I certainly won’t take them seriously.)

        1. You raise a good issue with Felt, along with his compromising what was a criminal investigation.

    3. Such resolutions, by one Congressperson or another, are introduced during pretty much every presidency. Given his spotty knowledge of history, I don’t know if Josh is aware of this.

      After the May 1972 resolution nothing happened for months. Even after the Watergate incident, with the lonely exceptions of Woodward and Bernstein, the press rolled over for Nixon. The break in the case came in January 1973 when Judge Sirica, threatening maximum prison terms, got one of the burglars to admit to a connection in the White House. Only after that did Democrats seriously get into gear.

      1. Nixon had won a 49-state landslide, losing only MA & DC. He was wildly popular, particularly after ending the Vietnam war, and had he taken Barry Goldwater’s advice the first time, he’d passed the baton directly to Reagan.

        Goldwater said to ask the 3 networks for an hour of TV time, which they would have given him, and “tell everyone what the hell happened.” Nixon was to honorable to sell out his staff.

        Personally, I think that Nixon ought to have just burnt all the tapes and cited “National Security” — this was in the midst of the Cold War and people like Sam Nunn (D-GA) would have believed him. Better, Nixon could say that it was necessary to keep US troops out of Vietnam and much of America would have said “well, for that, OK.”

        1. And while I don’t know when the media is going to start reporting this time, but look how long it has taken for the Flynn stuff to have come out.

        2. Nixon was to [sic] honorable to sell out his staff.

          You are kidding, right?

          1. No, Nixon hadn’t done anything, and he should have fired every one of them that was involved.

              1. The smoking gun tape came LATER, and if he had instead said “you did WHAT?!? — you c***heads are fired!!!” what could the Democrats have done?

                1. The smoking gun tape conversation took place six days after the break in. Although I could find no reference to Goldwater recommending to Nixon that he “tell everyone what the hell happened,” I’m guessing it didn’t happen within six days of the break in.

                  But even if that advice was given within six days, Nixon didn’t follow it because he honorably didn’t sell out his staff. Nixon liked the White House plumbers because he wanted to destroy his enemies.

            1. I think Mr. Fantastic would find that too much of a stretch.

        3. The War in Vietnam ended before Nixon was re-elected? As a 19-year-old draft-classified 1-A in 1972, I remember it differently.

          1. The peace treaty was signed in January 1973 but it was the same deal Johnson would have gotten in the spring of 1968 before Nixon’s people interfered. And of course things started up again soon after.

            1. War started up because Congress would not let Ford send Saigon the promised aid.

              1. Bob and Ray did a bit about the book you evidently learned history from.

                https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bcsIJqhGkB4

                1. Probably more accurate than Zinn’s history.

                  1. You ever read it, or just heard about it?

                    1. If you believe Zinn’s history, you either haven’t read it, or haven’t read history.

                    2. I read it in middle school, along side quite a few other sources. (re-upped in law school)

                      It’s not a good sole source, but a pretty vital perspective.

                  2. Zinn is factually correct as far as he goes.

          2. War had ended by summer of 1973.

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