Posted Sep 16, 2010 05:24 pm CDT
A group of historians is seeking the release of former President Richard Nixon’s secret grand jury testimony in connection with the 1972 Watergate break-in that drove him from office.
Nixon testified before a grand jury investigating Watergate in June 1975—about 10 months after he resigned the presidency under the threat of impeachment—but the 297-page transcript remains sealed from the public.
Historians filed a petition this week for the release of the ex-president’s testimony with Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, the Associated Press and Washington Post reported, saying the historical significance of the testimony outweighs any arguments for secrecy. They argue that unsealing the interview could help address the ongoing debate over Nixon’s knowledge of the break-in at Democratic party headquarters and his role in the cover-up that followed.
The testimony is especially important because Nixon, who died in 1994, was speaking under the threat of perjury, said Stanley Kutler, the historian who filed the petition along with four historians’ organizations. Kutler, author of Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes, successfully sued to force the release of audio recordings Nixon secretly made in the Oval Office.
Several Watergate figures filed declarations in support of the petition, including former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who went to prison for his role in the scandal. Dean said the release of the late president’s testimony would help stop “those wanting to twist and distort” history.
But not all Nixon historians were on board with the request. James Rosen, author of The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate, says the court should wait until all of the Watergate participants are dead before releasing the transcript.
A Justice Department spokesman said officials are reviewing the petition.