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Archives for 1999

Elliot Richardson, Watergate Hero, Dies, 79

Elliot RichardsonElliot Richardson, the Attorney-General who refused to comply with Richard Nixon’s order to sack the Watergate Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox, triggering a constitutional crisis known as the “Saturday Night Massacre”, has died in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 79.

Richardson was summoned to the White House on Saturday 20 October 1973 and instructed to dismiss Cox. The Special Prosecutor was seeking the release of secret White House tape recordings of conversations in the Oval Office.

Richardson refused to dismiss Cox and resigned on the spot. His deputy, William Ruckelshaus, also refused to carry out the order and was fired. Eventually, Cox was dismissed by Robert Bork.

The Saturday Night Massacre became a crucial turning point in the Watergate scandal. It turned public and press opinion against Nixon. Three days later Nixon released some tape recordings, one of which was found to have an 18 and a half minute gap on it.

Richardson’s stand on that night ranks as one of the great assertions of the independence of the judiciary and the sanctity of the separation of powers. In his book, “Reflections of a Radical Moderate”, Richardson wrote:

“The more I thought about it, the clearer it seemed to me that public confidence in the investigation would depend on its being independent not only in fact but in appearance.”

John Ehrlichman, Watergate Conspirator, Dead At 73

John EhrlichmanJohn D. Ehrlichman, jailed for his role in the Watergate scandal, has died, aged 73.

Ehrlichman died in Atlanta, Georgia, of natural causes.

Ehrlichman was President Richard Nixon’s Domestic Affairs Advisor from the start of Nixon’s term in 1969. Together with H. R. Haldeman, who died some years ago, Ehrlichman formed part of the “Berlin Wall” that protected Nixon.

Ehrlichman and Haldeman were both sacked by Nixon in April 1973. They had been summoned to the presidential retreat at Camp David after Nixon’s counsel, John Dean, implicated them in the cover-up of the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic Party’s National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel in Washington.

Nixon sacked Dean and called on Ehrlichman and Haldeman to resign.

Ehrlichman was convicted of obstruction of justice, conspiracy and perjury, and was jailed for four to eight years in October 1976. He spent 18 months behind bars.

Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, following the passage of 3 articles of impeachment by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Ehrlichman’s conviction arose from his false testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee and through his involvement in the burglary of the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, the psychiatrist who treated Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg was the Defence Department official who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.