APG Unit 2 Part 2 -Required SCOTUS United States v. Nixon
United States v. Nixon, 1974
The main question of the case was whether the President of the United States has privileges that place him above the law.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon, a Republican, was running for reelection against Senator George McGovern, a Democrat. Five months before the election, an alert security guard found burglars in the Democratic Party headquarters, which was located in Washington's Watergate apartment complex. Reporters following the story connected the burglars to high-ranking officials in the White House. Nixon denied any connection to the break-in. However, an independent Congressional investigation revealed the existence of audiotapes of the President discussing the break-in with its organizers.
Nixon refused to turn the tapes over to Congress, claiming the tapes were covered by "executive privilege." He claimed that the President had the right to privileged communication that could not be looked at by any other branch of the government. The District Court ruled against Nixon. The President appealed and the case quickly reached the Supreme Court.
The Court's Decision
In July 1974, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that Nixon must hand over the tapes. The Court said that under the Constitution, the judiciary had the final voice, not the Executive branch. As for "executive privilege," the Court acknowledged that the President had a right to privileged communication where certain areas of national security were concerned. However, the Court stated that this case did not meet those conditions. Furthermore, the Court declared that no president is above the law. Nixon handed over the tapes that revealed that he had personally engaged in the cover-up of the burglary. Within a few days, Congress began impeachment proceedings against the President for his actions. Rather than face the impeachment hearings, Nixon resigned from office.