Right: Sen Sam. Ervin (D-NC), the Committee’s Chairman. His questioning of John Erlichman–which turned into a monologue on rights under the Constitution–dominates most of this excerpt. His solicitousness of these rights would be sorely missed the following year, when the House Impeachment Committee’s legal staff–including Bernard Nussbaum and Hillary Clinton–would construct rules of procedure such as:
- Denying the President representation by legal counsel;
- Prohibiting impeachment committee members from hearing live testimony or cross-examining witnesses (such as took place in these hearings,)
- Obtaining gag orders to prevent committee members from disclosing contents of documentary evidence (leak plugging, which was Nixon’s own obsession and got him into more trouble than anything else);
- Denying committee members the power to draft impeachment articles.
One of the things that Watergate was supposed to be “about” was the need for openness in government as opposed to the secrecy that Nixon, his staff and the “Plumbers” operated in. But already we see that Nixon’s opponents were–and are–not opposed to secrecy when it suits their own purpose.
In the midst of these hearings, the business of the Senate went on, and so the hearings were interrupted by numerous floor votes. To fill the time, excerpts from the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 were played, including Joseph Welch’s famous “if there is a God in heaven” speech.