With those thoughts in mind, we present the ever popular Constitutional Calendar by that noted Constitutional Historian the right and honourable Judge M Hirsch.
In mid-July, 1973, Senate Watergate-committee staffers found evidence that President Nixon had been taping conversations in the oval office. Committee lawyers Scott Armstrong and Don Sanders confirmed the discovery during their secret pre-testimony interview on Friday, July 13, with a very unwilling Alexander Butterfield, former deputy assistant to the president. Armstrong and Sanders handed Butterfield a transcript. Looking at the document, Butterfield understood immediately that they knew this was the transcript of a conversation that had been taped. “I thought to myself that this had to come from the tapes – the very thing I’m worrying so much about. So, I just hemmed and hawed,” Butterfield later remembered. Sanders then asked Butterfield directly if there were any listening devices in the Oval Office. Butterfield did not feel comfortable lying to them and feared ending up in jail. “I’m sorry you asked that question,” he told them. “Yes, there was, and that’s where this document had to come from.” On July 16, Butterfield repeated his testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee.
The committee chief legal counsel Samuel Dash – my first criminal procedure professor at Georgetown Law School, whose autographed photo still hangs in my chambers – announced to the press: “We now know there are records of those meetings. I don’t have to draw the line underneath and add it up.”
On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled 8–0 (Justice William Rehnquist recused himself) that the president had to turn over the tapes. Despite an intense investigation that had lasted for over a year, it was the ability of members of Congress to hear Nixon asking the CIA to stop the FBI investigation that had an impact unlike anything else. It had not actually been clear before then that the constitutional system would work. Fifteen days later, Nixon left office.