Richard Nixon's statements regarding the famous "18 1/2-minute gap" are part of grand jury testimony about the Watergate scandal released Thursday at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.
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A judge ordered the grand jury records and other documents released months ago after petitions from legal scholars and historians. Some of the materials are available online.
The items include a transcript of an interview Nixon gave to grand jurors near his San Clemente home in 1975, about a year after he resigned from office. Nixon was questioned over two days in June 1975.
In the interview, Nixon told the jurors that a missing segment of a recorded conversation he had with his chief of staff was an accident. The 18 1/2-minute gap was considered critical in assessing Nixon's role in the Watergate scandal that brought down his administration.
Nixon referred to Secretary Rose Mary Woods' story that she erased the portion of the tape by mistake.
"Rose had thought it was four minutes, or something like that,'' Nixon said. "Now the counsel have found that it is 18 1/2 minutes, and I practically blew my stack
"If you are interested in my view as to what happened, it is very simple. It is that it was an accident.''
A pardon protected him from any past crimes, but it marked the first time a former president testified before a grand jury.
The documents include items from White House files, staff members and office files, and telephone conversations with Henry Kissinger, Nixon's National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. A 1970 intelligence briefing from Kissinger includes handwritten notes scribbled in the margin. It mentions a Viet Cong mortar attack southeast of Da Nang that resulted "in the heaviest civilian casualty toll since Tet, 1968."
Some of Nixon's domestic initiatives are addressed in documents from the files of Kenneth Cole, then-director of the White House Domestic Council. They outline the insurance industry's response to the administration's health care initiative, then-Nixon counselor Donald Rumsfeld's views on revenue sharing and the future of school lunch programs.