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In Commuting Roger Stone’s Sentence, Trump Goes Where Nixon Would Not

  • July 11, 2020

One president who dared not use his pardon power to help his friends was Mr. Nixon, although not for lack of thinking about it. Mr. Nixon’s associates paid hush money and dangled the prospect of executive clemency to the Watergate burglars to buy their silence but that was off the table once the Watergate story broke open.

Likewise, Mr. Nixon secretly promised a pardon to H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, on the day after Senate hearings opened. “I don’t give a shit what comes out on you or John, even that poor damn dumb John Mitchell,” he told Mr. Haldeman, in a conversation captured on his Oval Office taping system. “There is going to be a total pardon.”

But he never followed through. Mr. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, another top Nixon White House aide, and John Mitchell, his former attorney general and campaign chairman, were indicted in 1974 and accused of making “offers of leniency, executive clemency, and other benefits” to obstruct justice. All three eventually went to prison.

Mr. Nixon was made an unindicted co-conspirator and resigned that August without ever using his pardon pen. But he received one himself a few months later from President Gerald R. Ford, who wanted to spare the country the spectacle of a former president put on trial.

Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.

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