The U.S. National Archives has released the last installment of White House conversations secretly recorded by President Richard Nixon in the 1970s.
The conversations cover a three-month period from April 9 to July 12, 1973, the day before the existence of Nixon’s taping system was revealed by presidential aide Alexander Butterfield. He was testifying before a U.S. Senate Select Committee investigating the Watergate affair.
Richard Nixon resigned from office in August 1974, Had he not done so, he would have faced almost certain impeachment over the involvement of his staff and campaign team in the attempt to bug his Democratic party’s offices at the Watergate complex.
By then, the White House taping system had been dismantled, either on the orders of Nixon himself or his then-chief of staff, Alexander Haig.
Most of the material on the newly released tapes relates to such Cold War-era events as the Vietnam peace settlement and the return of prisoners of war. There is also reference to the 1972 superpower summit between Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
Archive officials say that any newly disclosed mentions of Watergate are confined to conversations deemed not to involve government abuses of power.
The bulk of Watergate material was released in four previous batches between May 1980 and November 1996, according to the National Archives.
Nixon’s taping system extended not only to the Oval Office but also to the White House Cabinet Room, the Lincoln Sitting Room, Nixon’s office at the Executive Office Building, and the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland.
Richard Nixon was not the first president to secretly record White House conversations, but was he the last?