Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 7, 1974 · Page 51
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 51

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 7, 1974
Page 51
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SMB. July 7,1974 Watergate, Precedents Parade to Court LEON JAWORSKI WASHINGTON-*;*)- Watergate issues will be argued before the Supreme Court for the first time Monday agaust a background of legal precedents ranging from the trial of Aaron Burr to an airplane crash in Georgia. A capacity crowd is expected in the marble and mahogany courtroom to hear lawyers for President Nixon and Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski debate the President's claim that he is entitled to withhold tapes and papers wanted for the Watergate cov- erup trial. Eaefc side has bee* allotted hour. AUowiag time for ojttestioas from the justices, the hearing may Last three hours. Eight justices, three of them appointed by Nixon, are expected to take part. Justice William H. Rehnquist has not participated in the preliminary decisions leading to the hearing. Before his appointment by Nixon, Rehnquist was an assistant to then Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell, one of the defendants in the coverup trial scheduled to start Sept. 9. The justices will reach their RICHARD STROUT Near a Head WASHINGTON - President Nixon normally returns elated from foreign trips with the feeling that he has finally established his image and diminished domestic problems. We assume that that will be his mood after Moscow. He has carried the flag abroad, dominated the news, demonstrated his authority. We ardently hope his trip is successful. We assume he won't belittle his accomplishments. But if he thinks Watergate is abated he has underestimated the public once more, as he did when he fired Archibald Cox and as he did when he released the White House transcripts. He is curious that way; doesn't seem to realize what he is doing. He published the transcripts after a speech explaining that these would put the whole issue of his guilt to rest. How many times he has told the country that he is now finally settling something or other. This lack of comprehension was vividly illustrated in his sessions with Haldeman. Ehrlichman and Dean as they sat around busily composing "scenarios" and figuring how to "PR" the situation. Back there in his subconscious somewhere, Mr. Nixon is always .trying to repeat the Checkers speech. The fact is that Mr. Nixon has troubles in Washington. Various events are finally approaching conjunction. The overture ends; the play starts. The monumental report of the seven-man Ervin committee is about ready and scheduled shortly for the Senate, perhaps for Thursday, July 11. The Ervin committee, you remember, is the body that brought you on television Dean and Mitchell and Stans and Hajdeman and Ehrlichman and all the rest. It was created to propose legislation that.would prevent Water- gates. The report should be a spectacular: it will remind people of the origin of the wretched affair. At about the same time, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday on how far presidential privilege goes and whether Mr. Nixon must give up those tapes of 64 White House conversations. Can he .defy special prosecutor Leon Jaworski? Some think the . high tribunal is unwise to get Into this row. It didn't need to, but it accepted jurisdiction. In Andrew Johnson's impeach- m e n t , only Congress and White House were involved: now all three separate powers of the government are mixed in: it is a "historical first." AS TO THE COURT, Mr. Nixon seems to be caught between scissor blades: he is - taking another of his big gam- State Book On Civil War Due A heretofore unpublished manuscript on the Civil War in West Virginia is scheduled for publication later this summer. Former State Supreme Court Judge Harlan M. Calhoun of Charleston said the manuscript was prepared several years ago by his father. H. M. Calhoun. who died in 1933. The elder Calhoun was a · Pendleton County lawyer and student of the Civil War. H deals largely with guerrilla warfare and other incidents which occurred in Pendlelon and adjoining counties on the Virginia-West Virginia border during the conflict. It will be called "Twixt North and South." Material reveals insight into the hardships which existed and acts · of cruelty which occurred in border areas between the N^Mi and South. 4». · The book will be published by McCoy Publishing Co. bles. On one hand, he is embarrassed, presumably, if the tapes are published; why otherwise would he make the tremendous fight to conceal them? On the other hand, if the court rules against him (as the weight of legal opinion here assumes likely), he will take the final risk if he defies the edict. That would bring immediate impeachment. The court may decide in Mr. Nixon's favor, with consequences considerably transcending the specific issue of publication of the tapes. It would be a psychological victory tor him at a crucial moment. It would set his critics aback and could possibly abort the whole impeachment process. Historically it would also establish a court interpretation of the executive's right to defy other parts of the government that would make us take a new, long look at the whole presidential system. The third key development is, of course, the House impeachment committee itself. It is approaching the climactic stage after seven dreary weeks of methodical behind- the-doors testimony, accompanied by leaks. On the day Mr. Nixon started for Moscow stand. Conviction of 34 individuals and 10 corporations so far, and a dozen more indicted. It isn't all that complicated. Doesn't the Constitution say a president must enforce the laws? ta days foUowug the hearuf. A decisic* is expected with* a couple of weeks, since the court agreed to consider the case on a speeded-up basis. · · * THERE ARE several distinct but related issues, revolving around the claim of Nixon's attorneys that a U. S. president, while not above the law, is "not treated by the law in the same fashion as are others." In briefs filed with the Supreme Court, attorneys cited more than 200 previous court decisions, ranging in time from the early 19th century to last month. One is an 1807 case in which Burr, a prominent political figure of the day, sought a letter written to President Thomas Jefferson which he believed would help him in trials on treason and misdemeanor charges. Although Chief Justice John Marshall held the president subject to the subpoena, Jefferson re- sonded with only an edited version of the letter. Jaworski cited a 1951 decision of the Supreme Court in a case arising out of the death of three civilians in the crash of a B29 bomber near Waycross, Ga., in 1948. The plane was being used to test secret electronic equipment. Families of the three men sought to obtain the Air Force's official accident to- vestigatio* report, but the government argued that "department heads have power to withhold any documents in their custody from judicial view." The court disagreed, saying that "judicial control over the evidence in a case cannot be abdicated to the caprice of executive officers." Nixon said in a case last year he would comply with a "definitive order" of the Supreme Court on production of tapes. Presidential spokesman Gerald L. Warren has declined to clarify this statement while the case is pending in the high court. U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica ordered Nixon on May 20 to surrender tape recordings and documents relating to 64 presidential conversations. The judge intended to study th% material to determine whether it should be handed over to Jaworski for use as evidence. WHITE HOUSE attorneys, who had moved unsuccessfully to quash the subpoena for the potential evidence, appealed to the Court of Appeals in Washington on May 24. About an hour later, Jaworski asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, bypass- ing the appeals court. The court agreed. At the heart of the dispute is the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Nixon contends this doctrine gives him the executive privilege to refuse to supply subpoenaed material relating to internal workings of the executive branch. A similar question came up last year when Sirica ordered Nixon to produce other White House tapes for submission to the grand jury investigating charges that White House officials tried to block investigation of the Watergate burglary. At that time, the Court of Appeals ruled that the doctrine of executive privilege had to be presumed to be valid unless those seeking the material could show a "unique and compelling need" for it. The court also ruled that the then special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, had shown such a need. Instead of appealing this decision further, Nixon set the wheels in motion for the dismissal of Cox. After the special prosecutor was fired, and amid a storm of controversy over this action, the President agreed to respond to the subpoena. White House officials later reported that two of the conversations couid not be found oa the tapes, one definitely had never been made and one had an 18-minute pp in it. Nixon's attorneys contend the appeals court ruling doesn't apply to this case, since it involves a trial instead of grand jury proceedings. They also argue that Jaworski has not shown a "unique and compelling need" and has not satisfied a federal court rule that material can be subpoenaed only if it is known to be useful as evidence. They have gotten the court to consider also whether the grand jury exceeded its authority in naming the President as an unindicted coconspirator in the coverup. In arguments before Sirica. Jaworski relied on the court's decision regarding the grand jury to buttress his claim that the material he wants is relevant as evidence and to overcome the President's claim of executive privilege. THERE IS an additional issue raised by the Supreme Court itself. The court asked the lawyers to a r g u e on whether Sirica's order was subject to appeal at a'l. Both Jaworski and the White House said it was. Ordinarily, such an order would not be appealable. If tbe court should rule it is not appealable in this case either, it would avoid for the time being any need to rule on the executive privilege claim. Such a ruling would reinstate the subpoena as though there had been no appeal. Nixon would then have the choice to comply or risk being held in contempt of court. If he were held in contempt, he could then appeal, raising the additional question of whether contempt procedings against a president are constitutional. Presidential attorney James D. St. Clair injected another issue into the case on June 19 when he asked the court to obtain from the griind jury the evidence it relied-on in naming Nixon a coconspirator. The court deferred action on this, pending Monday's hearing. If it decides to obtain the evidence, it could issue'an order shortly after the hearing and then study the material in making a final decision. St. Clair will present the ttr- gument for the President. Jaworski will handle the main argument for the prosecutor's office, with his counsel. Philip A. Lacovara, presenting the rebuttal. the committee voted to release all 7,200 pages of its impeachment evidence, with the exception of classified material dealing with Mr. Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia. The committee voted 22 to 16, with six Republicans joining 16 Democrats in the majority. Opposing release were 11 Republicans and five Democrats. Finally, of course, the trial began here last week oh Ehrlichman and three others in the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. The antecedent of this episode was the imperious order from Mr. Nixon in June. 1971, described by Chuck Colson, his special counsel; "I don't give a damn how it is done, do whatever has to be done to stop these leaks and prevent further unauthorized disclosures; I don't want to be told why it can't be done." That directive fathered Watergate. * * *· FORTY YEARS from now, looking back at 1974, what will historians say? Contemporary accounts will show .how normal it was. No riots; no bloodshed. The rows of tulips presenting arms in the beds before the White House are replaced by geraniums. Government clerks commute and eat snacks in the hot parks. Tourists climb the Washington Monument and throng the White House. Things seem unchanged. People are more interested in inflation. An election in Canada draws no interest; other democracies change governments easily but so what? Hysteria? There should be -- the very presidency is at stake. There was hysteria during Andrew Johnson's ordeal; not now. The mood is bewilderment, confusion, vast irritation. But efforts to panic the one-quarter to one-third who support the President don't get far. Congress is different. There is a mood that this reporter has never before seen. A kind of gloomy lethargy. Committees mark time. Reporters don't attend. Congress looks down the tunnel at what it may have to do -- and shudders. It affects news commentators. What in God's name is the public thinking? Many who were sure there would be impeachment now begin to wonder. We think the public is out there waiting, far ahead of Congress. H has lost track of details; it has made up its mind; somehow or other we should get another president. The public knows the score, we think. Warrantless wiretaps. White House gestapo. secret bombing, burglarizing for national security, taxless income, a President W» won't say whether be wilt obey the Supreme Court.. .they under- Sears SHOE CLOSEOUT SALE Savings for Women and Children Save from *3 to 8 6 a pair. Hurry in for best selection! Quantities limited. Choose from a wide range of canvas and leather shoes in broken sizes. Save to 12 a pair Women's Shoes Regular^ 99 to S 15°° NOW $/|88 $i to a pair Save to Children's Shoes Regular *5" to *12" NOW J to CHARGE IT on Sears Revolving Charge Shoes Not Exacllv As Pictured SHOP AT SEARS AND SAVE \Satisfcction Guaranteed or Your Money Back Sears · 200 Kanawha Blvd., Charleston, W. 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