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.
16 thoughts on “Was Nixon Brought Down By A Prosecutors’ Conspiracy?”
This falls under the “I’m not surprised” category. In high level politics, the ends justify the means. Everyone was so focused on Nixon’s guilt that no one asked if everything was legal.
If you look at today’s world though, pretty much all presidents are now probably spying on journalists. You don’t need to break in physically anymore. Sharyl Attkinson is still litigating being spied on. And then there’s the IRS going after conservative groups during Obama’s presidency.
Nixon at least resigned. I can’t even imagine a president resigning today over anything.
In part, that’s because the Pelosi’s Democrats eliminated impeachment as anything to be ashamed of, following on the heels of Clinton demonstrating that a President could still be popular after showing that he had no shame or decency.
I don’t know if you have ever read Scott Greenfield’s blog (he’s a lawyer, though definitely on the left but not progressive). But he also believes in rights. After thinking about this post you wrote, I’ve realized one of the divides in this country is between people who believe in rights and people who just don’t. Greenfield has an excellent take on this, though he’s writing about Rittenhouse, the point is the same.
I admire Scott’s analysis and writing, and agree with him most of the time. But he’s a nasty SOB, and along with two equally nasty defense attorney pals ganged up on me right at the start of the blog for suggesting that another defense lawyer blogger was unethical for making a false statement on his blog as an April Fool’s prank.(It was then picked up and reported as news by the NYT.) The thrust of their argument was that it wasn’t a Rules violation, so it wasn’t unethical. I argued, badly, that it was a rules violation but wasn’t one that could or should be grounds for discipline. Technically, I was wrong and they were right: the comments to the relevant rule say that an instance of dishonesty that isn’t sufficiently serious to justify discipline doesn’t violate the rule. I admitted that I was wrong from the Rules standpoint and apologized, and Scott continued to harass me on social media anyway, until I blocked him.
I’d use Simple Justice as a source more often if he hadn’t been such a bully.
(I still think it’s unethical for a lawyer to deliberately be deceptive on a legal blog, even as a joke.)
Those strange situations where a person is intellectually serious but also personally maybe not so great. Your story reminds me of a law professor I had. I personally really liked him, but my cousin’s husband worked for the IT department at the law school, and apparently he had a reputation for being nasty with people when something went wrong.
I agree with you about the lying though. People will sometimes read a lawyer’s blog and take anything they saw as actual law if the lawyer is writing about the law or just seems well informed. Your example about the NYT picking up the joke and reporting it is good evidence in your favor because the misinformation spread quickly. You also admitted your mistake eventually.
I also think that any profession that holds itself out as representative of a system that claims to value facts and law over anything else should be known as being extra careful with facts. Lawyers already have terrible reputations among a large segment of the public, and that was true even before everything went crazy woke.
Your last paragraph summarizes my view as well. Lawyers have to be trusted, so any deliberate lie, even one in jest, harms the profession and all lawyers.
I remember that episode. I also know better than to comment on his blog – he doesn’t want anything off topic or unrelated to the post or specific to law. If he doesn’t like your comment he doesn’t delete it; he posts it with his admonishment. I’m also of the impression he expects you to hit the “tip jar” if you frequent his blog. Anyway, I read some of his posts; but, I read all of your posts.
It’s so much nicer here – I know I can be off topic sometimes or even rant a little. This blog really cultivates an atmosphere where anyone can comment and most of the comments are top quality.
Thanks, Edward. Yes, I am sometimes excessively severe with commenters, but nothing like Scott
Some of us here, myself included, have earned the occasional rap on the knuckles.
Just so you know, you left out the “s” in “prosecutor” in the title.
That was a sneaky typo, wasn’t it? Thanks. Fixed.
Sorry, this is really bugging me. Is that Fred Thompson on the far left?
Yup. The only Law and Order prosecutor who was actually a prosecutor for a while in real life. A no-prize if you can name the actor on that series who played a cop, but also was a cop in real life.
I know! I know! Former Chicago cop Dennis Farina.
Saw the same and was scrolling the comments to see if anyone made the connection. But what else is interesting to me are two things:
1) almost everyone on the panel looks like they could be a character actor through the 60s-90s. Just amazing; and
2) Daniel Inouye is (almost) equally as recognizable. As a non-American of a certain age, to me he is one of the most recognizable US politicians of that era. He had a very long career and rose to great prominence. Only the recent election of one K. Harris has usurped Inouye’s stature as the highest ranking Asian-American in US politics. Maybe because he represented laid-back Hawaii, I never remembered race being an issue with his representation/candidacy.