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THE STATE OF THE UNION
The President's Address Delivered Before a Joint Session of the Congress.
Mr. Speaker, and Mr. President and my distinguished colleagues and our guests:
I would like to add a personal word with regard to an issue that has been of great concern to all Americans over the past year. I refer, of course, to the investigations of the so-called Watergate affair.
As you know, I have provided to the Special Prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material. I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude his investigations and to proceed to prosecute the guilty and to clear the innocent.
I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.
And the time has come, my colleagues, for not only the executive, the President, but the Members of Congress, for all of us to join together in devoting our full energies to these great issues that I have discussed tonight which involve the welfare of all of the American people in so many different ways as well as the peace of the world.
I recognize that the House Judiciary Committee has a special responsibility in this area, and I want to indicate on this occasion that I will cooperate with the Judiciary Committee in its investigation. I will cooperate so that it can conclude its investigation, make its decision, and I will cooperate in any way that I consider consistent with my responsibilities to the Office of the Presidency of the United States.
There is only one limitation. I will follow the precedent that has been followed by and defended by every President from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson of never doing anything that weakens the Office of the President of the United States or impairs the ability of the Presidents of the future to make the great decisions that are so essential to this Nation and to the world.
Another point I should like to make very briefly. Like every Member of the House and Senate assembled here tonight, I was elected to the office that I hold. And like every Member of the House and Senate, when I was elected to that office, I knew that I was elected for the purpose doing a job and doing it as well as I possibly can. And I want you to know that I have no intention whatever of ever walking away from the job that the people elected me to do for the people of the United States.
Now, needless to say, it would be understatement if I were not to admit that the year 1973 was not a very easy year for me personally or for my family. And as I have already indicated, the year 1974 presents very great and serious problems as very great and serious opportunities are also presented.
But my colleagues, this I believe: With the help of God, who has blessed this land so richly, with the cooperation of the Congress, and with the support of the American people, we can and we will make the year 1974 a year of unprecedented progress toward our goal of building a structure of lasting peace in the world and a new prosperity without in the United States of America.
10 Presidential Documents 113, 121
THE PRESIDENT’S NEWS CONFERENCE OF
FEBRUARY 25, 1974
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Q. Mr. President, to heal the divisions in this country, would you be willing to waive executive privilege to give the Judiciary Committee what it says it needs to end any question of your involvement in Watergate?
THE PRESIDENT. Miss Thomas, as you know, the matter of the Tudiciary Committee's investigation is now being discussed by White House Counsel, Mr. St. Clair, and Mr. Doar. And as I indicated in my State of the Union address, I am prepared to cooperate with the committee in any way consistent with my constitutional responsibility to defend the Office of the Presidency against any action which would weaken that office and the ability of future Presidents to carry out the great responsibilities that any President will have.
Mr. Doar is conducting those negotiations with Mr. St. Clair, and whatever is eventually arranged, which will bring a prompt resolution of this matter, I will cooperate
ested to know what you consider to be an impeachable offense for a President, particularly on the dividing line, whether it requires that the House determine that they believe that the President may have committed a crime or whether dereliction of duty, not upholding the Constitution, is enough in itself to constitute an impeachable offense?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Rather (Dan Rather, CBS News), you don't have to be a constitutional lawyer to know that the Constitution is very precise in defining what is an impeachable offense. And in this respect it is the opinion of White House counsel and a number of other constitutional lawyers, who are perhaps more up to date on this than I am at this time, that a criminal offense on the part of the President is the requirement for impeachment.
This is a matter which will be presented, however, to the committee by Mr. St. Clair in a brief which he presently is preparing.
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Q. Mr. President, to follow up Miss Thomas' question, you say you will cooperate with the Judiciary Committee, but you can't say yet precisely to what extent. Can you tell us if you anticipate you will be able to cooperate at least to the extent you cooperated with Mr. Jaworski in terms of turning over to the Judiciary Committee roughly the same tapes and documents that Mr. Jaworski has?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is a matter, Mr. Jarriel (Tom Jarriel, ABC News), that has been discussed by Mr. St. Clair with Mr. Doar, and the decision will be made based on what arrangements are developed between the two for the confidentiality of those particular items where they must remain confidential, and also based on whether or not turning over to the committee will, in any way, jeopardize the rights of defendants or impair the ability of the prosecution to carry on its proper functions in the cases that may develop. It is a matter that we are talking about, and it is a matter where we will be cooperative within those guidelines.
Q. Mr. President, has the Special Prosecutor requested your testimony in any form, and, if asked, would you testify?
The President. Well, I believe it is a matter of record that the Special Prosecutor transmitted a request that I testify before the grand jury, and on constitutional grounds, I respectfully declined to do so.
I did offer, of course, to respond to any interrogatories that the Special Prosecutor might want to submit or to meet with him personally and answer questions, and he indicated that he did not want to proceed in that way.
Q. Mr. President, however an impeachable offense is defined, under the system, the impeachment proceeding is the courtroom of the President. You have said many times that these matters belong in the courts. So, wouldn't it be in your best interests and in the best interest of the country to have this matter finally resolved in a proper judicial forum, that is, a full impeachment trial in the Senate?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, a full impeachment trial in the Senate, under our Constitution, comes only when the House determines that there is an impeachable offense. It is my belief that the House, after it conducts its inquiry, will not reach that determination. I do not expect to be impeached.
10 Presidential Documents 250-53
Q. Mr. President, your lawyer announced today that you will turn over to the House Judiciary Committee all of the materials that you made available to the Special Prosecutor. I am wondering, sir, what about other materials that the committee might want to see that the Prosecutor didn't sce?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Cormier, that matter has been under discussion, as you probably know, between Mr. St. Clair, White House Counsel, and Mr. Doar, the counsel for the committee. And Mr. St. Clair has made, I think, a very forthcoming offer. He has indicated that we will respond to any written interrogatories under oath that the committee may have on matters that they do not think are covered adequately by the materials that have been submitted to Mr. Jaworski. And, in addition, he has indicated that in the event that that is not satisfactory, in order to bring the matter to a complete and, we hope, early conclusion, that the President will be glad to meet with members of the committee, perhaps the Chairman and the ranking minority member of the committee, at the White House to answer any further questions under oath that they may have.
As far as other materials are concerned, those matters will continue to be under discussion between White House counsel and Mr. Doar. It is the goal for all of us, I think, the goal of the committee—I think it would be theirs, it certainly is mine-to get a prompt conclusion to this matter as soon as possible.
And I would say further that, as far as the materials we have turned over, they include not only the famous subpoenaed tapes, which were turned over to Mr. Jaworski, but they include, in addition to that, 11 additional tapes, a total of 19 tapes, over 700 documents, and enough material that Mr. Jaworski was able to say that he knew all, and that the grand jury had all, the information that it needed in order to bring to a conclusion its Watergate investigation.
possible—it turned out that they could not meet until the next day so that we could find what would be the best way to get the whole story out.
I also know what I did with regard to clemency and with regard to the payment of money. I never at any time
I authorized clemency for any of the defendants. I never at any time authorized the payment money to any
of the defendants. And after we had met on the 22d, I sent Mr. Dean to Camp David to write a full report of everything that he knew.
That report was not forthcoming, and, consequently, on the 30th of August (March), a week later, I directed Mr. Ehrlichman to conduct an independent investigation, which he did conduct, and presented to me on the 14th of April
And also on the 30th, on that same day-Mr. Ziegler announced this to the press corps, after I had issued the direction—I directed that all members of the White House Staff who were called by the grand jury should appear before the grand jury and testify fully with regard to any knowledge whatever they had with regard to their involvement, if they were involved, or anybody else's involvement.
In other words, the policy was one of full disclosure, and that was the decision that was made at the conclusion of the meeting.
Q. Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Theis (J. William Theis, Hearst Newspapers and Hearst Headline Service).
Q. Mr. President, Mr. Haldeman, your former top aide in the White House, has been charged with perjury because he testified that you said it would be wrong to pay hush money to silence the Watergate defendants, and last August you said that was accurate. Can you, and will you, provide proof that you did indeed say it would be wrong?
THE PRESIDENT. Miss Thomas, it would be improper, as, of course, you know, for me to comment on the substance of any charges or indictment that have been made against any of the defendants in this matter. However, it is proper for me to comment on what I said and what I did on the 21st of March, which is the date in question.
On that occasion, Mr. Dean asked to see me, and when he came into the office, soon after his arrival he said that he wanted to tell me some things that he had not told me about the Watergate matter. And for the first time, on March 21, he told me that payments had been made to defendants for the purpose of keeping them quiet, not simply for their defense.
If it had been simply for their defense, that would have been proper, I understand. But if it was for the purpose of keeping them quiet—you describe it as "hush money”—that, of course, would have been an obstruction of justice.
I examined him at great length. We examined all of the options at great length during our discussion, and we considered them on a tentative basis-every option as to what the defendants would do, as to who in the White House might be involved, and other information that up to that time had not been disclosed to me by Mr. Dean.
Then we came to what I considered to be the bottom line. I pointed out that raising the money, paying the money, was something that could be done, but I pointed out that that was linked to clemency, that no individual is simply going to stay in jail because people are taking care of his family or his counsel, as the case might be, and that unless a promise of clemency was made, that the objective of so-called “hush money” would not be achieved.
I am paraphrasing what was a relatively long conversation.
I then said that to pay clemency was wrong. In fact, I think I can quote it directly. I said, “It is wrong; that is for sure.” Mr. Haldeman was present when I said that. Mr. Dean was present. Both agreed with my conclusion.
Now, when individuals read the entire transcript of the 21st meeting or hear the entire tape where we discussed all of these options, they may reach different interpretations, but I know what I meant, and I know also what I did.
I meant that the whole transaction was wrong, the transaction for the purpose of keeping this whole matter covered up. That was why I directed that Mr. Haldeman, Vír. Ehrlichman, Mr. Dean, and Mr. Mitchell, who was then in New York, meet in Washington that evening, if
Q. Without regard to past events or hush money or anything like that, would you now consider granting clemency to any former assistants who might ultimately be convicted?
The President. The matter of clemency, Mr. Theis, is something that can only be granted and only be considered on an individual basis, depending upon the circumstances involved.
I can only say that under no circumstances has any defendant or potential defendant been offered clemency and none will be offered clemency. That would be improper, and I will not engage in that activity.
Tue PRESIDENT. No, Mr. Schram (Martin J. Schram, Newsday), I am simply saying that I am not ruling out granting clemency to any individual depending upon a personal tragedy or something of that sort.
What I am saying, that I am not going to grant clemency because they happen to be involved in Watergatethat I am ruling out.
Q. Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. You had one last week, Clark, now (Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune).
Mr. Healy (Paul F. Healy, New York Daily News). In fact you had two.
Q. Mr. President, in your answer to Mr. Cormier's question, you spoke of an expeditious conclusion of the impeachment hearings in the House. Would it not serve the purpose of a speedy conclusion of these hearings for you to give the committee whatever materials, tapes, and documents they consider pertinent to their investigation?
THE PRESIDENT. It would not lead to a speedy conclusion; it would delay it in my opinion. Because if all that is really involved in this instance is to cart everything that is in the White House down to a committee and to have them paw through it on a fishing expedition, it will take them not a matter of months, so that they can complete their investigation and, we trust, their decision by the first of May, which I understand is Mr. Rodino's object, but it would take them months and perhaps even as long as a year.
We will furnish the information we furnished Mr. Jaworski, the Special Prosecutor, all of which he considered to be relevant. We will fumish, as I have indicated, written interrogatories on any other relevant material. And we will also agree to meet with the Chairman, the ranking member, as designated by the committee, to answer any other questions they may have. I believe that that will serve the purpose.
Q. Mr. President, many people are saying that Watergate played a prominent role in the election of a Democrat in the Congressional district in Cincinnati yesterday. What is your opinion of that?
THE PRESIDENT. It might have. In fact, it was said also it may have had an effect on the election in Michigan.
But reflecting for a moment on off-year elections and I know you are somewhat of an expert on this; of course, all of you are experts on off-year elections—a first point is that we have had six since the 1972 elections. The Republicans have won three, and we have lost three. In fact, yesterday we won in California, as you know, and when one Republican can beat eight Democrats in one race, that is a pretty good showing.
The other point is that as far as off-year elections, as distinguished from the British system where they seem to point as to what will happen in the general election, they seem to have exactly the reverse effect in this country.
For example, I found that between 1964 and 1966 the Republicans won five and the Democrats won seven Congressional seats, and yet the Republicans won 47 seats in 1966.
Also, reflecting to the past, after General Eisenhower's landslide victory in 1956, we lost 47 seats in the House just 2 years later in 1958, because of a recession. And after President Johnson's landslide victory in 1964, his party lost 47 seats in the House, just 2 years later, because
2 of a war.
This year we are not going to have a war. We are going to be making further progress toward peace—at least that is our goal, and I think we will achieve it--and we are not going to have a recession.
So I believe that the dire predictions that are made as to what is going to happen in November because of what has been happening this spring will be proved to be wrong.
Q. Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Kempster (Norman Kempster, Washington Star-News).
Q. Mr. President, your attorneys have taken what is seen as the narrow view on impeachment, saying that impeachment should be limited to very serious crimes committed in one's official capacity. My question is, would you consider the crimes returned in the indictments last week, those of perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy, to be impeachable crimes if they did apply to you?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have also quit beating my wife. (Laughter]
Of course, the crime of perjury is a serious crime, and, of course, the crime of obstruction of justice is a serious crime and would be an impeachable offense, and I do not expect that the House committee will find that the President is guilty of any of these crimes to which you have referred.
When you refer to a narrow view of what is an impeachable crime, I would say that might leave in the minds of some of our viewers and listeners, a connotation which would be inaccurate. It is the constitutional view. The Constitution is very precise. Even Senator Ervin agrees that that view is the right one, and if Senator Ervin agrees, it must be the right one.
Q. Mr. President, Attomey General Saxbe has expressed the opinion that at some point in the impeach