The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, now part of the National Archives system, posted online the final 340 hours of tapes as well as 140,000 pages of memos and other documents. Among the topics covered by the tapes are Watergate, Vietnam and a summit meeting with the Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev.
Beyond what these specific tapes may reveal about Nixon’s White House, the final release signals the end of an extraordinary chapter in presidential history. Nixon’s tapes were the means to his undoing as they captured his involvement in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal. They were the subject of years of litigation that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
The periodic releases ever since have become moments that confirmed suspicions or shed new light on the private thoughts of the nation’s 37th president. The last release of tapes, in 2010, included conversations in which Nixon made disparaging remarks about Jews (“abrasive and obnoxious”), blacks (“inbred”), Italian-Americans (“don’t have their heads screwed on tight”) and Irish-Americans (“can’t drink” and “get mean”).
The 94 tapes released on Wednesday cover conversations from April 9 to July 12, 1973, after which the secret taping system was dismantled when a Nixon aide, Alexander Butterfield, disclosed its existence to Congress. Among those also heard on the latest tapes are future Republican presidents — Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Gerald R. Ford — as well as Henry A. Kissinger, the Rev. Billy Graham, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Brent Scowcroft, William P. Rogers and George P. Shultz.
The tapes also include meetings or calls with world leaders like Willy Brandt of West Germany, Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Giulio Andreotti of Italy. Nixon’s meeting with Brezhnev in the Oval Office in June 1973 is the only Russian-American summit meeting ever recorded on a presidential taping system, library officials said.
Other topics covered, according to the library, include the Vietnam peace settlement and prisoners of war, energy policy, wage and price controls, campaign finance rules and the Wounded Knee massacre. Some of the documents that were released cover Mr. Kissinger’s meetings with Chinese leaders before Nixon’s landmark trip to Beijing.
Congress passed legislation asserting control over the tapes and other presidential materials after Nixon resigned in 1974 to prevent him from destroying any of them. Nixon challenged the law all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld it in 1977. Shortly after a subsequent lawsuit was settled in 1979, the National Archives released the first tapes related to Watergate.