Wikimedia Commons / Ollie Atkins, White House photographer
Richard Nixon says his goodbyes to the White House staff on Aug. 9, 1974.
After nearly 35 years, the American public finally gets to hear Richard Nixon’s claims about some of his administration’s shadier practices, Watergate figuring most notoriously among them, after the National Archives’ release Thursday of transcripts of his grand jury testimony.
You can read through his commentary in full here, but for those who prefer the condensed version, the San Francisco Chronicle offers some ready-made analysis below about one of the most persistent mysteries of Nixon’s presidency: What happened to those 18½ missing minutes from the Watergate tapes? —KA
The tape gap spurred suspicions that incriminating conversations about the break-in and subsequent cover-up among administration members had been intentionally erased. Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, said at the time that as she had been transcribing the conversation she accidentally erased a few minutes by hitting the wrong button on the tape recorder when she answered the phone.
Woods “always denied that the buzz that she heard” after her mistake “was no more than four-and-a-half to five minutes, and she cannot explain how 18 minutes could have occurred,” Nixon testified under oath. “If you are interested in my view as to what happened, it is very simple. It is that it was an accident.”
He said an investigation led by White House aide Alexander Haig, who later served as secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, found no one purposely erased the tapes. “As far as some third person, another person getting to it and erasing it, I, first, I know of no such person, I haven’t heard of any person, and, second, I know of no motive,” Nixon said.