July 27, 1974 – the end of a week that made history. The night before, a vote of 27-11 by the House Judiciary Committee, the first vote in over 100 years, to impeach a President. It was a serious-minded committee who cast the votes, a “sobering, awesome moment” as one member put it, a “sick and empty feeling” as Congresswoman Barbara Jordan put it. The initial charge was an Obstruction of Justice. Other charges would be taken up for vote the following morning, with indications that a complete charge of Impeachment would go to the full House by the end of the week. The four days of debate in the Committee on the Judiciary had established two things: first; that the leaders of the impeachment forces could win the support of Republican Congressmen who had studied, examined and lived with the evidence. Second; that Impeachment is a legal no-man’s land, somewhere in between proceedings in a court of law and Gerald Ford’s dictum that impeachment was whatever the Congress said it was. Those who still supported Richard Nixon sought to pin down the proceedings to the narrow limits of a court case. Those who favored his impeachment had sought to keep all options open, since they have to please, not a judge and a jury but to members of Political bodies; the House of Representatives and The Senate. And the supporters of President Nixon were seeking to make these proceedings look like a steamroller; “bullies with votes”, as one put it.
Additionally, earlier in the week, the Supreme Court ruled, telling President Nixon, in no uncertain terms, that he must turn over tapes of 64 subpoenaed conversations. The argument was that the President had absolute Executive Privilege to withhold information whenever they concluded to be in the public interest to do so. But the Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Nixon-appointee Chief Justice Warren Berger said no; quoting that it was the emphatically the product and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law was. That the need for the tapes as evidence was more important than the benefit to the Presidency of keeping White House communications confidential and it rejected President Nixon’s claim of Executive Privilege.
And that was just a sample of the goings-on, this week ending July 27, 1974 as reported by The World This Week from CBS News.