Supreme Court Hears Case of United States v. Nixon

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NBC Nightly News
Tom Brokaw/Carl Stern
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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The Supreme Court hears the landmark case United States v. Nixon that could determine President Richard Nixon's chances of serving out his full term.



"Supreme Court Hears Case of United States v. Nixon." Carl Stern, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 8 July 1974. NBC Learn. Web. 2 April 2016.


Stern, C. (Reporter), & Brokaw, T. (Anchor). (1974, July 8). Supreme Court Hears Case of United States v. Nixon. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Supreme Court Hears Case of United States v. Nixon" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 07/08/1974. Accessed Sat Apr 2 2016 from NBC Learn:


Supreme Court Hears Case of United States v. Nixon

TOM BROKAW, anchor:

Good evening. The Supreme Court of the United States today heard three hours of arguments that could very well determine President Nixon’s chances of staying in office for a full term. There were two principle questions before the Court: whether Mr. Nixon can be forced to give up an additional 64 White House tapes to the special prosecutor, and whether the federal grand jury was within its jurisdiction when it named the President an unindicted co-conspirator. The thrust of the argument centered on the release of the additional tapes, and Carl Stern has a report.

CARL STERN reporting:

By daybreak, 250 people were already waiting to get into the Court. 80 had spent the night there; one woman waited two days. Some would get to stay in the courtroom only five minutes, but all agreed it was worth it to be present at a moment in history. St. Clair dominated the action inside. He said the President would decide what evidence Jaworski would get and indicated the Court’s decision on that would only be considered advisory. He warned the court against being drawn into the impeachment battle and complained that Jaworski would just give whatever he got to the House Impeachment Inquiry.

For his part, Jaworski refuted that and said it’s up to the Court, not the President, to say what the law is. If the President is wrong, said Jaworski, who is to tell him so. The answer came from Justice Stewart, one of the so-called swing votes. He said, “If the President is wrong, this court will tell him so, that’s what this case is about.”

Chief Justice Burger: “This is not a case of military secrets, or diplomatic secrets, or state secrets.” He indicated that was important to him in deciding whether or not the President could withhold evidence.

Justice Louis Powell: “A question for St. Clair. Assuming the President was involved in a criminal conspiracy, would he still assert executive privilege?”

St. Clair: “Yes he would.”

Powell: “The privilege exists in the public interest. What public interest is there in preserving secrecy as to a criminal conspiracy?”

Justice White, another swing vote: “Does executive privilege pertain to all presidential conversations?”

St. Clair: “No.”

White: “Do you say automatically every Watergate conversation was privileged?”

St. Clair: “Yes. All pertain to the President’s official duties to execute the laws.”

Justice Marshall: “The President has made no effort to comply with the subpoena, he has just ignored it. Are you submitting this case to the Court for our decision?”

St. Clair: “We want your guidance and judgment, but it’s up to the President to protect his office. The President is not above the law, but he is different, he can only be impeached, the Court should not be drawn into it. And St. Clair said the whole country would feel better if the President’s name was removed from the case as a co-conspirator.

A decision is expected in a week or two. Even before this morning’s argument, one justice was writing and circulating his ideas. Another had his clerk prepare a draft opinion. But there is no guarantee that when the decision comes, it will end the matter. It may just set the stage for the next legal wrangle over compliance with the Court’s decision. Carl Stern, NBC News, Washington.