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Sept. 30, 2011

Public Citizen Succeeds in Unsealing Nixon Grand Jury Testimony

1975 Transcript Could Shed Light on Watergate Scandal, Will Be Available This Fall

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The transcript of former President Richard Nixon’s grand jury testimony from 36 years ago will be unsealed soon, thanks to a successful lawsuit by Public Citizen.

In 1975, Nixon gave two days of testimony to a grand jury investigating the Watergate scandal and related matters. Last year, Public Citizen filed a petition asking the court to unseal the transcript of that testimony so that historians and the public can read this important piece of history.

In July, the court granted the petition, over the government’s objection. The court’s order became final this week when the government did not file an appeal.

Now, the transcript of Nixon’s testimony will be made public. The National Archives and Records Administration will process it for release, a process should be completed this fall.

“The release of this testimony is great news for historians and anyone interested in the history of the Nixon administration,” said Allison Zieve, director of the Public Citizen Litigation Group and lead counsel for the petitioners. “This key piece of history will be a valuable addition to the historical record.”

Public Citizen petitioned the court on behalf of Watergate historian Stanley Kutler, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians and the Society of American Archivists.
In 11 hours of testimony taken over two days in June 1975, Nixon answered questions about the infamous 18.5-minute gap in the tape recording of a conversation between Nixon and H.R. Halderman, Nixon’s involvement in altering transcripts of tape recordings that were turned over to the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment inquiry, the use of the IRS to harass political enemies and a $100,000 contribution from Howard Hughes.

Although grand jury records are routinely sealed, Public Citizen told the court that Nixon’s testimony should be unsealed because of the extraordinary historical interest in Watergate and Nixon’s legacy, and because the concerns that support secrecy of grand jury records no longer apply to this decades-old material.

The petition and the court’s decision are available here.

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