Historical Highlights

Impeachment Inquiries into President Richard Nixon

October 23, 1973
Impeachment Inquiries into President Richard Nixon Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Majority Leader Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill of Massachusetts became the face of impeachment hearings in late 1973, as the House of Representatives and the Nixon administration came into dramatic conflict in the midst of the Watergate scandal.
On this date, 84 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives co-sponsored 17 separate resolutions calling for impeachment inquiries into President Richard M. Nixon following the “Saturday Night Massacre” in which a handful of the nation’s top government lawyers either resigned or were fired during the Watergate scandal. A few days earlier, on October 19, Nixon had defied an appellate-court judgment requiring him to turn over tape recordings of various White House meetings to investigators. Instead, Nixon announced he would submit written summaries of the tapes. Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been appointed to oversee the Watergate probe, refused the transcripts and demanded the original audio. A day later, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliott Richardson to remove Cox, which Richardson had promised Congress he would not do. In protest over Nixon’s order, Richardson and the deputy attorney general resigned. The solicitor general then removed Cox, and the FBI seized his offices and files. In what the President’s chief of staff called a “firestorm,” public opposition to Nixon’s action exploded across the nation. More than 30,000 telegrams calling for impeachment proceedings began pouring daily into the Capitol. When the House met on Tuesday, October 23, and impeachment proceedings seemed increasingly likely, Majority Leader Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill of Massachusetts stated the leadership’s position: “In their anger and exasperation, the people have turned to the House of Representatives,” he said in a floor speech. “The case must be referred to the Judiciary Committee for speedy and expeditious consideration.” The subsequent investigation eventually led the committee to recommend three articles of impeachment in late July 1974. Nixon resigned on August 9 before the full House had an opportunity to vote on the articles.

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