Final Nixon tapes reveal toll of Watergate, support from Reagan
White House tapes released Wednesday capture President Richard Nixon grappling with the growing Watergate scandal while continuing to press forward on major foreign-affairs initiatives, including a historic meeting with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
The 340 hours of recordings released by the National Archives and Records Administration cover about three months in 1973, from April 9 through July 12. They include excerpts from Nixon’s meetings with several heads of state and discussions about Watergate, the implementation of the Vietnam peace settlement, and Washington’s relationships with the U.S.S.R. and China.
Tens of thousands of documents were also declassified and released.
The tapes capture the days and hours after an April 30 speech by Nixon in which he discussed the resignations of Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman and Chief Domestic Advisor John Daniel Ehrlichman amid the growing Watergate scandal.
Soon after the speech, Nixon, expressing a strong desire to know the public’s reaction to the address, sympathetic and encouraging calls from Haldeman, Billy Graham, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
Reagan, then governor of California, called late at night.
“My heart was with you,” he is heard saying. “You can count on us. We’re still behind you out here. And I wanted you to know that you’re in our prayers.”
Bush tells Nixon: “I really am proud of you. My golly, I know it was tough.”
In a conversation with Ford, Nixon says forcing the resignations of two of his top staffers was “the most painful thing I’ve ever done, to take two totally innocent men and sack ‘em. But they had to be sacked.”
Later Nixon says, “It had to be done, and they should have done it themselves.”
“We’ll stand by you,” Ford responds.
The recordings released Wednesday marked the final installment of thousands of hours of recordings released since Nixon’s death in 1994.
Officials, however, have withheld hundreds of hours of Nixon’s White House tapes, citing national security and privacy concerns.
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