tv Rufus Edmisten Richard Nixons Impeachment CSPAN January 18, 2020 9:52am-10:06am EST
government go all in they are able to send -- all in. they are able to send orchestras for a number of years until it begins to wane in the mid-to-late 1960's and into the 1970's. thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> american history tv is on social media. follow us at c-span history. >> attorney rufus edmisten was the deputy chief counsel on the
watergate committee. he recalls the day he served president richard nixon with a subpoena. subpoenaed the president 46 years ago on july 23, it was the first time in the history of the country that a committee of congress had ever issued a subpoena to the president. becauselectrified washington was filled with anticipation. the did not know whether president was going to be totally indicted or what was going to happen to him. when those takes were finally revealed, that was the way they removed mr. nixon from office voluntarily. he saw that his own words convicted him. >> what was your role during watergate? >> i was the deputy chief counsel. was the chief operating
officer. i was there to serve as the right-hand man to see that things were working well, the train kept running. coordinate the hearings, who the witnesses would be, how they would be handled. it was a big job to run a committee with competing personalities and a lot of computing staff. it was my job to just see that things work well. i was not that old. i was 31 years old, which nobody should have a job like that at 31 years old. said when they were going to make me a attorney general at 32, no one should have a job like that at 32. it sort of worked out. person onxperienced
capitol hill when watergate came along. i had been there almost 10 years. i began with senator urban in 1964. when the committee was set up, i knew the ropes, the procedures, what you needed to do. just a simple thing like getting office space when you have a committee that has over 100 staff members that we put together in almost a month. imagine putting together a staff of 100 people together in a month. the way the watergate committee the committee was in the senate that was looking into watergate. they knew you could not have fragments here and there. he put all the authority in the senate watergate committee. he made senator baker the cochair. that is one of the marvelous things about watergate. the two of them worked together. in the beginning they said we
are going to make this thing work. we will not disagree about things in public. they did not. no hearing since watergate has ever succeeded like watergate did because you did not have to compatible people that reached across and try to make one another work. that is the primary difference today and the years of watergate. they worked together. you don't find that now. hardly anything of major importance where the parties work together. camen we talk about how it together use of feeding -- you subpoenaed the present. when did it come together and how did you choose to deliver it? the senator met in his office in private with the committee members and said we are going to ask the president
if he will voluntarily turn over the tapes when they discovered there was a taping system because of the revelation of alexander butterfield. rufus,ator said to me, go get the president on the phone. go pick up that loaf of bread. the anteroom and got rosemary on the phone because i knew the number. i said senator urban and senator baker would like to speak to the president. she said, hold on. i will be back with you. you have to remember that during that time, president nixon had been saying for -- committee is out to get me. unknown to me, the president gets on the line and says, senator urban, this is richard nixon. he was not talking to senator
urban. he was talking to me. i said, mr. president, senator urban wants to get you. on the phone. we put the president on with senator urban and senator baker. they said he should honor the subpoena. they did not even talk about the subpoena at that time. that he should turn over the tapes voluntarily. he said no. that is when the committee voted they would have to subpoena the president. since there was no procedure for delivering a subpoena because it had never been done before on president. as the chief operating officer, i chose myself. if you want to know the truth, i chose myself to deliver the subpoena. you have got to have a couple of exciting rings to do. i got in the back of a police
car and went down pennsylvania avenue. 200 press've been people following. there was another crowd of reporters there. we had already called to make arrangements for leonard garment, mr. nixon's current counsel, because he had the habit of having different co unsels because when they would not do what he wanted, he would fire them. thing.his little sneaky i had one of those baby constitutions in the back of my pocket. out, and i said, i have heard you guys need one of these down here. not only did i deliver the subpoena, but i delivered the constitution. just a little impish thing.
it was fun. >> can you explain exactly what is the impeachmentwhen you say - rufus: when you say impeachment, they believe it is removing the president. it is sort of like a grand jury. when you are arrested for a crime, you go before a branch -- a grand jury to find probable cause. it is not the same thing, but almost the same thing. the peaches confers -- the impeachment confers charges, in this case it was president nixon, president clinton, and will be president trump. if they follow through on it. then it is up to the senate entirely to take the charges, sit him like a jury of your peers, although they are not peers, they are provided --
presided over by the supreme justice of the supreme court to decide whether the charges, and they take those charges only, and not other charges. they take the charges from the house of representatives, and they decide like a jury whether or not they are valid enough to remove a president. the impeachment process is not the entire impeachment and removal, but that is what most people think. that is part of removing the president. impeachment is one step, step one of making the charges. and, they are both very important and very unique to their forms of government. there is hardly anything like it anywhere else in the world. the system worked for this one basic reason, senator urban and senator baker said it would work. i'm not sure we are there yet in today's proceedings.
the procedure is not there because you saw the storming of day byret room the other members of the republican party. that is hardly working together. i do not think you can say that is working together. it is not set up institutionally, needed to have -- senator burr of north carolina is doing the hearings the right way. he is conducting the hearings in a very nonpartisan way that everybody should be proud of. both he and the senator from virginia have decided that they were going to have nonpartisan hearings, so it can be done if you have people at the top of agreeing to do it and sticking with it. on the house side, i have seen nothing but acrimony. in watergate you had turmoil in people who did not like what we were doing.
we were receiving over 40,000 pieces of mail a week, that is astounding. mail, not na -- email or texts. horse and buggy of mail. controversial, but at the same time it did not hill, theapitol hatred that we have today. that is another difference between now and the watergate era. in the nixon -- clinton impeachment, there was a lot of acrimony, but still you had a system that was not all furcated, i do tri rafurcated isuad a word, and you did not have the senate judiciary committee. if i were setting this up i
would've had one committee in the senate and the house with input from the others, but now you seem to have a system that is going to funnel everything in the end to the senate judiciary committee, which i find is hard to believe that can work that well because you have people who which is a, tremendously volatile thing on catholic hill. do not mess with my hearings, it is my show. you are getting a lot of shows on capitol hill today. the system is working with ragged edges. give it a little time, be patient, and try not to be partisan. show a little empathy and try to put yourself in their shoes, which is a pretty good guide for life, totally, if you can put yourself in someone else's shoes.
it is hard to do in this political haymaker, because everybody is so mad at one another. but be patient and try to let the system work, and in the end, it will work. >> our cities tour staff recently cap -- traveled to chapel hill, carolina. visitch more video, c-span.org/citiestour. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span three. >> military history scholar mark gerges explores the allied defense of st. vith on the 75th anniversary of the battle of the bulge. american forces surrendered the belgian town, but he argues the fighting caused a delay that frustrated the german counteroffensive. the kansas city public library and u.s. command and general staff college held this event.