They called it the Saturday Night Massacre.
Deep into the earth-shattering Watergate fiasco, and long after end-stage cancer, as then-White House counsel John Dean called it, had already infected the Richard Nixon administration, an event occurred which, today, would’ve literally made the internet explode.
Months earlier, roughly a year since Nixon’s “plumbers” broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate hotel, the president’s freshly confirmed attorney general, Elliot Richardson, promised Congress that he wouldn’t fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox other than for gross malfeasance and the like.
Meanwhile, as Nixon crashed and burned, John Dean and another White House official confirmed to Congress the existence of a secret recording system used by Nixon and previous administrations, and, therefore, the existence of tapes that could prove whether Nixon authorized the Watergate break-in, as well as the break-in at Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Consequently, special prosecutor Cox subpoenaed the tapes, prompting Nixon to engage in an obvious de facto admission of guilt by refusing to release the tapes, knowing the damning nature of what was on them.
On Saturday, October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Richardson to summarily fire the special prosecutor. Imagine, for a moment, if Bill Clinton had ordered the firing of Ken Starr during the most harrowing stages of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
That’s exactly what Nixon did. Only much, much worse.
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