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United States v. Nixon

Significance

The president is not immune from judicial process, and must turn over evidence subpoenaed by the courts. The doctrine of executive privilege entitles the president to a high degree of confidentiality from the courts if the evidence involves matters of national security or other sensitive information, but the president cannot withhold evidence.

By the spring of 1974, the government investigation into the Watergate break-in and the subsequent coverup was moving full-steam ahead. Despite President Richard M. Nixon's repeated denials, it was becoming increasingly clear to Congress and the public that senior Nixon administration officials, and probably Nixon himself, had been actively involved in the coverup. On 1 March 1974, a 19-person federal grand jury indicted U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell for conspiracy to obstruct justice in the proceeding in United States v. Mitchell. Six other persons, all senior Nixon administration officials employed in the White House or the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), were indicted as co-conspirators: Charles W. Colson, John D. Ehrlichman, H.R. Haldeman, Robert C. Mardian, Kenneth W. Parkinson, and Gordon Strachan. Nixon also was included, but as an unindicted co-conspirator.

On 18 April 1974, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, charged with the responsibility of conducting the Watergate investigation for the government, went to Judge John Sirica of the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia. In response to Jaworski's request, Sirica issued a subpoena ordering Nixon to produce "certain tapes, memoranda, papers, transcripts, or other writings" related to the specific meetings and conversations detailed in the subpoena. The material was to be turned over by 2 May 1974, for use in the trial, scheduled for 9 September 1974. Jaworski was able to identify the time, place, and persons present at these discussions because he already possessed the White House daily logs and appointment records.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980United States v. Nixon - Significance, Nixon Fights The Subpoena, Nixon Order To Release, Presidential Succession, Further Readings