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Government released new Watergate documents

The National Archives released a central set of documents from the Watergate scandal on Wednesday, including a would-be indictment against President Richard Nixon, following a lawsuit pointing to its relevance in the current era.

Posted: Nov 1, 2018 3:51 PM
Updated: Nov 1, 2018 4:18 PM

The National Archives released a central set of documents from the Watergate scandal on Wednesday, including a would-be indictment against President Richard Nixon, following a lawsuit pointing to its relevance in the current era.

The documents, known as the Watergate Road Map, as released Wednesday contained redactions and never-before-seen remnants of the investigation into Nixon but largely contained information previously made public, according to the Archives.

The group that petitioned for Wednesday's release had said in a September post that should special counsel Robert Mueller decide to issue a report to Congress, the Road Map would be one example to follow.

"If Mueller decides to send a report to Congress, perhaps through (Deputy Attorney General Rod) Rosenstein, the Road Map would be a vital touchstone for the public and Congress to assess his actions," the group wrote.

One document released Wednesday showed a series of charges drawn up against Nixon, who was never formally charged for crimes in the Watergate scandal and was pardoned by President Gerald Ford after he resigned.

The document is a draft, as noted in handwriting in the upper right-hand corner of the first page, dated February 1, 1974, a month before Nixon's co-conspirators were indicted.

The draft indictment showed that a grand jury planned to charge Nixon with bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and obstruction of a criminal investigation. A month later, seven of Nixon's aides were charged with conspiracy and six were charged with obstruction of justice, but none were charged with bribery.

In September of this year, Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes -- a pair of writers for the prominent legal blog Lawfare -- and Stephen Bates, who worked for independent counsel Ken Starr, announced they were petitioning for the documents that Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski sent to Congress as Nixon faced impeachment.

The group noted at Lawfare that while the Starr report during President Bill Clinton's tenure was made public, the analogous document during the Nixon administration had remained confidential for decades.

Protect Democracy, the legal group that brought the suit on the trio's behalf, said in a statement Wednesday that the Road Map "is a critical historical precedent for ensuring that the facts uncovered in special counsel Mueller's investigation become public and serve as the basis for whatever accountability is necessary."

Mueller is tasked with investigating potential coordination between Russia and President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign along with other relevant information that arises from the investigation. The former FBI director has rarely telegraphed his intentions, and it is unclear what form his final conclusions might take. Moreover, if there are any potentially criminal findings on Trump himself, Mueller may believe he is unable to indict the sitting President and would instead defer to Congress, which could initiate impeachment proceedings.

Wednesday's release highlighted the issue the legal system faced in the case of Nixon, where ultimately investigators were able to submit their grand jury's report through a judge to Congress.

Wittes, Goldsmith and Bates noted in October, when a judge called on the Archives to release the document, that "Geoffrey Shepard, a California lawyer who worked for Nixon, sought the Road Map's release some time back" as well.

As the Archives noted in a statement Wednesday morning, much of the information in the release was already in the public domain. But some of the documents themselves had not been in the public eye.

During the trial of Nixon's aides, the hush money and offer of pardons were treated as instances of obstruction of justice, according to Ken Hughes, a historian at the University of Virginia Miller Center who studies the White House tapes and Watergate.

Hughes said that while it was public knowledge that the grand jury wanted to indict Nixon, the charges themselves were never made public.

"The grand jury was able to discern that Nixon himself was a criminal, and the only reason that they did not indict him is because there was a question of whether or not a sitting President could be indicted," Hughes said.

The question that prevented the grand jury from issuing this indictment remains unanswered. A pair of opinions by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 1973 and 2000 concluded against indicting a sitting President.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 265146

Reported Deaths: 5777
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17741191
Hinds16891332
Harrison14279204
Rankin11239220
Jackson10917190
Lee9071145
Madison8599169
Jones6731118
Forrest6208124
Lauderdale6121192
Lowndes5544120
Lafayette520598
Lamar505865
Washington4933125
Bolivar4126109
Oktibbeha408382
Panola386981
Pontotoc377460
Monroe3686110
Warren3685103
Marshall357170
Union356864
Pearl River3495106
Neshoba3490154
Leflore3118109
Lincoln306788
Hancock294262
Sunflower291975
Tate280662
Alcorn273154
Pike270181
Itawamba269363
Scott260048
Yazoo256756
Prentiss253754
Coahoma249755
Copiah249749
Tippah249750
Simpson242872
Leake238167
Marion224273
Grenada223972
Covington221073
Adams215171
Wayne213734
Winston207671
George204739
Newton199946
Attala197064
Tishomingo194961
Chickasaw189344
Jasper181138
Holmes172068
Clay166837
Tallahatchie157235
Stone152525
Clarke148162
Calhoun141322
Smith130026
Yalobusha123335
Walthall114537
Greene113729
Noxubee113026
Montgomery112036
Carroll106822
Lawrence106817
Perry105131
Amite102126
Webster96824
Tunica89021
Claiborne88825
Jefferson Davis88430
Benton85823
Humphreys84724
Kemper80920
Quitman7139
Franklin70617
Choctaw63713
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 441170

Reported Deaths: 6660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson646811007
Mobile31620572
Madison28310217
Tuscaloosa21525275
Montgomery19954332
Shelby19335132
Baldwin17256189
Lee13205107
Morgan12639142
Etowah12107181
Calhoun11521206
Marshall10471123
Houston9009164
Limestone834981
Cullman8274124
Elmore8214110
DeKalb7894107
Lauderdale7871107
St. Clair7854130
Talladega6481112
Walker6036183
Jackson601545
Colbert549994
Blount547386
Autauga537662
Coffee462464
Dale410785
Franklin374950
Russell357515
Chilton345473
Covington339680
Escambia335444
Tallapoosa3149109
Dallas313296
Chambers304270
Clarke300236
Pike262531
Lawrence254155
Marion253761
Winston233642
Bibb222348
Geneva211547
Marengo209331
Pickens199631
Hale185244
Barbour182738
Fayette178629
Butler174460
Cherokee165731
Henry159925
Monroe152421
Randolph146436
Washington142327
Clay130546
Crenshaw124045
Macon122337
Cleburne121825
Lamar120222
Lowndes115536
Wilcox107922
Bullock103528
Perry100018
Conecuh97922
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63618
Choctaw51924
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