Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 4 weeks ago

Can someone explain to me the Saturday Night Massacre 1973?

So Nixon ordered attorney general to fire someone? For what reason and who was Nixon wanting to fire?

And after this incident, Nixon ordered the FBI to seal off offices in the White House. What was the reason for that as well?

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  • Anonymous
    4 weeks ago
    Favourite answer

    This was part of the Watergate scandal which eventually lead, in 1974, to Nixon resigning. 

    During the 1972 election a group of men, one of whom had worked for a pro-Nixon SuperPAC, were caught breaking into and bugging the Democratic National Committees headquarters in the Watergate hotel and office complex.  The White House initially dismissed this as a "third rate burglary" by some Nixon fans who had gone off the deep end and acted on their own accord, a story that most of the press initially bought.  Over the next two years more and more information would come out which would definitively link the Nixon White House, including high level aides and Nixon himself, to the burglary and to financial crimes which they had committed to cover up their connection with it. 

    Over the course of the unfolding scandal there were a number of investigations into it, including a Congressional investigation.  In May of 1973, Nixon's Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, appointed Archibald Cox, a Democratic lawyer who had served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, to be Special Prosecutor and oversee the federal executive branch's investigation into Watergate.  The point of a Special Prosecutor is to have someone within the executive branch who is independent of the President's authority, in order to investigate potential wrongdoing which might involve the President.  We have had them since, including notably Kenneth Starr in the 1990s who was appointed to look into possible financial crimes involving the Clintons, and Robert Mueller, who was appointed in 2017 to look into whether President Trump colluded with Russia to undermine the 2016 election.  Nixon and his allies felt that, under mounting pressure over the case, they had to do something to show that they were taking it seriously.  Appointing Cox would hopefully satisfy that. 

    In October of 1973, however, Cox issued a subpoena for transcripts of conversations held in the oval office between Nixon and his subordinates.  Nixon had had a voice activated audio tape system installed in the oval office to preserve his conversations for posterity. Nixon didn't want to give over the transcripts because he knew that he and aides had discussed incriminating matters on them, including how to go about buying the silence of the Watergate burglars.  Nixon proposed allowing John C Stennis, an elderly Senator who was known to be hard of hearing, to listen to the tapes and summarize them for Cox's team.  Cox refused.  So there was a showdown. 

    The next day, a Saturday, Nixon ordered Elliot Richardson to fire Cox (to preserve their independence, Special Prosecutors cannot be directly fired by the President).  Richardson refused to do so and resigned.  Nixon then ordered the Justice Department second in command, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus, to fire Cox.  Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned.  Ruckleshaus and Richardson had both said in testimony before Congress that they would not interfere in the Special Prosecutors investigation and so they felt they had no option but to resign.  Nixon then turned to Solicitor General Robert Bork.  They swore him in as acting Attorney General and he fired Cox.  The offices which you talk about are the Special Prosecutor's offices, which were temporarily closed down. 

    The reaction was swift and damning.  Congress was outraged and so were the American people.  They saw this as Nixon interfering in an investigation into his own administration.  This was one of the important steps in the Watergate scandal which helped convince a lot of people that Nixon must have done something wrong.  If he had nothing to hide then why would he go to such lengths to fire the Special Counsel.  The fact that the top two people at the Department of Justice had resigned just made it look even more corrupt.  Nixon had hoped that the reputation of Elliot Richardson, who was widely regarded as honest, would make the firing seem above board.  But the fact that Nixon had to basically force out Richardson and his Deputy made it all seem fishy.  Why was Nixon so dramatically determined to remove Cox that he would force out his AG and Deputy AG?  It could only be because he had something to hide. 

  • 4 weeks ago

    In the fall of 1973, Congressional investigation of the June 1972 break-in at the Watergate off ice complex  had resulted in the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. That man, who was appointed by Attorney General Elliot Richardson, was Archibald Cox.  Cox subpoenaed the White House for the tapes that are always recorded in the Oval Office.  Nixon refused to comply.

    That Saturday, Nixon ordered Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson, having sworn before Congress during the hearings that created the position of Special Prosecutor that he would not interfere, refused Nixon's order and resigned effective immediately. Nixon then ordered the Deputy AG, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox.  Ruckelshaus, also having made the same promise to Congress, refused and resigned.

    Thus the power of the AG fell to the Solicitor General, Robert Bork.  Bork had never been pressed by Congress for an answer on how he might respond to a situation and so did not make any promises. He complied with Nixon's order and fired the Special Prosecutor.

    The reaction was swift.  Within days, Articles of Impeachment were drafted in the House and public support for Nixon plummeted. About three weeks later, a federal judge ruled that the firing was illegal.

    No offices in the White House were sealed off. The offices of the AG and Deputy AG at the Justice Department, and Cox's office in another building, were 'sealed' by the FBI to 'prevent documents from being removed'.

    Bork later claimed that he intended to resign after writing the letter that dismissed Cox, to avoid looking like a 'yes man' who acted only to save his job, but that both Richardson and Ruckelshaus persuaded him to stay, for the good of the Justice Department (and presumably because he had never made the promises to Congress that they had).

  • 4 weeks ago

    Night Massacre refers to a series of events that took place in the United States on the evening of Saturday, October 20, 1973, during the Watergate scandal. ... 7 when an 18½-minute portion of one tape was found to have been erased. ... public opinion messages to Washington, D.C.

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