Geoff Shepard‘s intriguing new book, The Nixon Conspiracy: Watergate and the Plot to Remove the President , is out today. Shepard, a Nixon aide who turned against his former boss during the Watergate hearings after hearing some of the Oval Office tapes, has assembled a large amount of what he calls “irrefutable” evidence that President Nixon was victimized by extreme prosecutorial misconduct in a “deep state” effort to bring him down. He has even set up a website where those documents can be reviewed.
Shepard, who has been obsessed with Watergate for decades and has written three previous books about the scandal, forced the release of a secret prosecutors’ “road map” used to convince a grand jury to indict key Watergate figures and spur the impeachment inquiry. He also claims his research shows that Watergate prosecutors were coordinating with Judge Sirica, which was one reason many of them, included the sainted Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, improperly took documents with them when they left the case. Amusingly (I guess), the Washington Examiner calls this “a big legal no-no.” That’s one way of putting it, I guess—a stupid way. If true, it’s grounds for disbarment for the lawyers and impeachment for the judge.
“Nobody cares.,” Shepard says about the evidence that Nixon was forced out of office by unethical means. “Every Republican you know has made their peace with the Nixon situation decades ago. It’s so obvious that it’s undeniable. But the public doesn’t want to hear it. The politicians don’t want to hear it. The news media doesn’t want to print it.”
That last part is so obvious it didn’t need to be said.
I haven’t reviewed Shepard’s evidence, or, obviously, read his book. Based on what we are learning was done to Donald Trump by the FBI, the Justice Department, Democrats and the news media, and especially with the wave of recent revelations of prosecutorial misconduct from coast to coast in cases stretching back decades, his conclusions certainly seem plausible.
Shepard has asked DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate, hoping the results will lead to reversals of the convictions of key Nixon aides. He believes the situation is similar to the prosecutorial misconduct that forced a court in 2009 to set aside the corruption conviction of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.
That’s an interesting analogy, because Stevens was corrupt as charged and guilty as sin, but his rights were violated, hence the reversal. It is important to find out if Shepard is right and that illicit conduct by prosecutors and a “deep state” conspiracy brought down Nixon, because that represents as great a threat to democracy as what Nixon was accused of. However, I cannot imagine any evidence showing that Nixon was innocent of impeachable offenses, or that he should not have been forced to resign or been impeached.
There is no equivalent of the exclusionary rule for impeachment, and evidence of wrongdoing is going to be weighed and considered no matter how wrongly it was obtained. With all the aides, Nixon henchmen and apologists for Tricky Dick, including members of his own family, who have had ample opportunities to explain how he was framed, none have come forward to make such a claim, except Shepard. Neither did Nixon himself, other than to posit that it is impossible for the President of the United States to break the law. (A belief like that should disqualify anyone from being President.)
However, the fact that Nixon was a dangerous and amoral man cannot justify an extralegal plot to remove him from the White House. If that is what really happened, the public has to know about it, and our government must take steps to make sure it cannot happen again–for the third time.