If Donald Trump hoped to understand what he would face upon moving into the White House in 2017, he would have done well to study what happened to Richard Nixon nearly fifty years prior.
Richard Nixon was a staunch anti-communist who came into office opposed by every D.C.-based institution: Not only both Houses of Congress, but by their congressional staffs, the federal bureaucracy, and all of the Washington law firms, think tanks, and lobby firms. The liberal media also opposed him.
They were out to get Nixon from the start — even more so after his landslide re-election in 1972. That’s where Watergate came in. The Deep State fooled millions of people into believing Richard Nixon’s guilt, which even many Republicans believe to this day. For a long time, I was one of them.
During the Nixon Administration, I worked on the President’s defense team as we weathered the storms of criticism stemming from the 1972 Watergate break-in. I lost friends and spent a couple of years trying to refute sensational media claims. We fought unscrupulous prosecutors, reporters and congressional staff. We worked tirelessly to clear the good name of Richard Nixon, a man I’d known and admired since college and whom I was honored to come to Washington to serve.
In 1974, with the release of the so-called “smoking gun” tape, all my work to defend Mr. Nixon came to naught. I had been duped. The tape contained, I was led to believe, irrefutable proof of the President’s guilt. Woodward and Bernstein, those cocky Washington Post reporters, Leon Jaworski and his team of special prosecutors, all the people I’d fought against for so long — they’d all been vindicated.
I was dejected, run down. So much so that I started to think, maybe Nixon really was as bad as the press and liberals, and everyone else had said all along. The whole damned thing was so shameful.
For years I pondered what went wrong until I decided to do my own digging. Ultimately I spent 15 years combing through everything we had been told and uncovering troves of new documents. And, to my surprise, I discovered that so much of what we have been told about the 37th president and the Watergate scandal was wrong. Very, very wrong.
The whole thing was a set-up concocted by a hostile media, partisan Democrats and a deep-state network of operatives across the government to force a popular president from office. Much of the evidence was sitting there right in front of us all along, much of it in the National Archives. But it wasn’t necessarily easy to find. Many of the new documents I uncovered had been purposefully spirited away and improperly hidden by Watergate prosecutors.
We now have a definitive paper trail to show that Mr. Nixon was driven from office — and senior members of his administration imprisoned — through the actions of a cabal of specially-recruited and highly partisan prosecutors, who secretly conspired with vindictive and unethical judges, and Democratic congressional staff members.
We have evidence that these prosecutors held secret meetings with Watergate judges, improperly timed indictments so the chief judge could name himself to preside at the trial, wrongly suppressed evidence favorable to various defendants, and drafted a “prosecutive memo” on Mr. Nixon — not for actual legal purposes, but for the political purpose of supporting his impeachment. This last document, known as the “Road Map,” remained secret for more than forty years until I went to court to get it released.
Once this cabal of conspirators decided to pursue Mr. Nixon’s impeachment instead of criminal prosecution, prosecutors hit upon a way to get grand jury evidence — which had been gathered with an eye toward prosecution — to Congress to use as the basis for the House impeachment proceedings. They met secretly with Judge John Sirica to work out how this might be done. In a secret “presentment” prepared for grand jurors and Congress — the Road Map — prosecutors laid out their evidence of Nixon’s personal involvement in the decision to make the key “hush money” payment to Howard Hunt.
The case was entirely circumstantial. Not a single witness could be found — then or since — to testify to Mr. Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate break-in or any subsequent illegal activity.
Even worse, where a critical piece of evidence was missing, prosecutors simply lied about its existence. These special prosecutors then met secretly with House Judiciary Committee staff to review their case against Mr. Nixon, including sharing a specially-prepared Prosecutive Memo, which — when it surfaced at National Archives — turns out to contain a series of deliberate falsehoods and misrepresentations.
I don’t need my degree from Harvard Law to tell me that this is textbook prosecutorial misconduct.
And it wasn’t just Mr. Nixon himself who was railroaded. My research uncovered flagrant due process violations in the prosecutions of Nixon aides, many of whom went to jail. For instance, key prosecution witness John Dean — who changed his story multiple times — was given a sham sentence of 1-4 years in prison to enhance his credibility as a witness, only to be released immediately after the trial, having spent four months in a witness protection program without having spent a single night in jail.
Prosecutors also made a secret agreement with the chief judge that would enable him to appoint himself to preside over the trial of former White House staff. They also failed to clearly disclose exculpatory evidence to defense counsel regarding the prosecution’s witness testimony changes. And to top it all off, these hyper-partisan prosecutors were involved in stacking appellate judicial panels to ensure there were no reversals based on due process violations in the earlier trials.
The documents I have collected — primary source evidence — are undeniably authentic. After fifty years, they finally shatter the whole myth of Mr. Nixon’s downfall and the Watergate scandal.
• Geoff Shepard served for five years on the Nixon White House staff, rising to associate director of the Domestic Council. He also was deputy counsel on Nixon’s Watergate defense team. He’s the author of the new book The Nixon Conspiracy: Watergate and the Plot to Remove the President.
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