WASHINGTON (AP) — Richard Nixon's grand jury testimony about the Watergate scandal that destroyed his presidency is finally coming to light.
Four months after a judge ordered the June 1975 records unsealed, the government's Nixon Presidential Library was making them available online and at the California facility Thursday. Historians dared hope that the testimony would form Nixon's most truthful and thorough account of the circumstances that led to his extraordinary resignation 10 months earlier under threat of impeachment.
"This is Nixon unplugged," said historian Stanley Kutler, a principal figure in the lawsuit that pried open the records. Still, he said, "I have no illusions. Richard Nixon knew how to dodge questions with the best of them. I am sure that he danced, skipped, around a number of things."
Nixon was interviewed near his California home for 11 hours over two days, when a pardon granted by his successor, Gerald Ford, protected him from prosecution for any past crimes. Despite that shield, he risked consequences for perjury if he lied under oath.
It was the first time an ex-president had testified before a grand jury and it is rare for any grand jury testimony to be made public. Historians won public access to the transcript over the objections of the Obama administration, which argued in part that too many officials from that era are still alive for secret testimony involving them to be made public.