By now the juggernaut bearing down on Nixon was unstoppable. Between July 27 and 30, the House Judiciary Committee passed three impeachment articles (obstruction of justice, abuse of power and defying subpoenas). I could not bear the righteous moralizing of the commentators or the self-serving comments of some Congressmen, even as I realized that had I been on that committee my duty would have been to vote with the majority. On July 31, Ehrlichman was sentenced to 20 months to five years for conspiracy and perjury. In destroying himself, Nixon wrecked the lives of many who had come into contact with him.
The President had returned to Washington on July 28. On July 31, Haig called me. The "smoking gun" had been found; one of the tapes given to the Special Prosecutorconversations be tween Nixon and Haldeman less than a week after the Water gate break-inleft no doubt that Nixon was familiar with the coverup; he may in fact have ordered it. Impeachment was now certain, conviction highly probable. Haig's role nowand to some extent minewas to ease Nixon's decision to resign, to give him the psychological support to do the necessary.
Haig was in touch with me every day thereafter. On Thursday, Aug. 1, he said matters were heading toward resignation, though the Nixon family was violently opposed. On Friday, Aug. 2, he told me that Nixon was digging in his heels; it might be necessary to put the 82nd Airborne Division around the White House to protect the President. This I said was nonsense; a presidency could not be conducted from a White House ringed with bayonets. Haig said he agreed completely; as a military man it made him heartsick to think of the Army in that role; he simply wanted me to have a feel for the kinds of ideas being canvassed. A big meeting was taking place over the weekend at Camp David, including Nixon's closest confidants (which clearly did not include me), to chart the course. Whatever the decision, the damaging tape would be released on Monday, Aug. 5.
I was somewhat at a loss to judge whether months of harassment had caused Haig to overreact, or whether we really were at the end of the line. Those who had been working on Watergate matters full time had seen so many climaxes by now that they could not believe any single revelation could be the final one. Haig, it turned out, had a good sense of proportion.
On Monday, Aug. 5, the tape transcript was released from the White House. It covered three conversations the President had with Haldeman on June 23, 1972, in which he tried to halt the FBI investigation at least partly to protect people connected with his re-election committee. The transcript was released with a statement admitting that in concealing this conversation from his lawyers Nixon was responsible for a serious omission. But he went on to say that when the facts were brought to his attention he insisted on a full investigation and prosecution of those guilty: "The record does not justify the extreme step of impeachment and removal of a President. I trust that as the constitutional process goes forward, this perspective will prevail."