Nixon could have qui­eted the scan­dal by fir­ing em­ploy­ees.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

In a re­cent New Yorker ar­ti­cle, Nixon bi­og­ra­pher Evan Thomas said that “there were any num­ber of steps that could have made [Water­gate] go away.” Thomas ar­gued that Nixon “could have cleaned house and fired peo­ple,” for in­stance.

But cut­ting loose the peo­ple di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for in­di­vid­ual crimes cre­ates an in­cen­tive for them to im­pli­cate the high­erups who man­aged the crim­i­nal en­ter­prise — which was ex­actly what hap­pened, ac­cel­er­at­ing news of the scan­dal. Nixon fired White House coun­sel John Dean in April 1973, and that June, Dean tes­ti­fied be­fore the Se­nate Water­gate com­mit­tee about Nixon’s in­volve­ment in the coverup. Like­wise, James McCord, a former CIA of­fi­cer os­ten­si­bly hired to work as a se­cu­rity of­fi­cer for the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, sent a let­ter to Judge John Sir­ica dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing phase of his 1973 trial for the Water­gate bur­glary, ex­plain­ing that his perjury had been bought by the Nixon ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Even if Nixon had at­tempted to leave ev­ery in­di­vid­ual im­pli­cated in Water­gate high and dry, it prob­a­bly wouldn’t have slowed the un­spool­ing of the scan­dal, much less stopped it.

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