September 8

This Day in History

Presidential

Sep 8, 1974:

President Ford pardons former President Nixon

On this day in 1974, President Gerald Ford, who assumed office on the heels of President Richard M. Nixon's resignation, pardons his predecessor for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

Congress had accused Nixon of obstruction of justice during the investigation of the Watergate scandal, which began in 1972. White House tape recordings revealed that Nixon knew about and possibly authorized the illegal break-in and wiretapping of the Democratic National Committee offices, located in the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. Rather than face impeachment and removal from office, Nixon chose to resign on August 8, 1974.

There were no historical or legal precedents to guide Ford in the matter of Nixon's pending indictment. In the end, he decided to give Nixon a full pardon for all offenses against the United States in order to put the tragic and disruptive scandal behind all concerned. Ford justified this decision by claiming that a long, drawn-out trial would only have further polarized the public. Ford's decision to pardon Nixon was condemned by many and is thought to have contributed to Ford's failure to win the 1976 election.

From his home in California, Nixon responded to Ford's pardon, saying he had gained a different perspective on the Watergate affair since his resignation. He admitted that he was "wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal into a national tragedy."

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