We will soon find out what Richard Nixon said he knew about the break-in at the Watergate Building and the cover-up that eventually led to his resignation.
On Thursday at 1 p.m., the National Archives will release transcripts of Nixon’s grand jury testimony from June 1975, four months after a judge ordered the records unsealed.
The government's Nixon Presidential Library will make them available online and at the California facility Thursday.
Nixon was interviewed near his California home for 11 hours over two days, when a pardon granted by his successor, Gerald Ford, protecting 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.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth sided with the historians in his ruling in July. He decided that with the investigation long over, Nixon dead for 17 years, and most of the surviving Watergate figures having written or talked about the scandal at length, the historical importance of the transcript outweighed arguments for secrecy. ``The court is confident that disclosure will greatly benefit the public and its understanding of Watergate without compromising the tradition and objectives of grand jury secrecy,'' he wrote.
One of the topics covered with Nixon in the grand jury probe was the famous 18-minute gap in a tape recording of a June 20, 1972, meeting between the president and his chief of staff, H.R.
Haldeman. The meeting came three days after the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex by burglars linked to Nixon’s re-election committee.
The questions of what Nixon knew and when were at the core of the investigation of the Watergate cover-up that ultimately implicated the president and brought him down.