WASHINGTON (AP) — Robert Bork says President Richard Nixon promised him the next Supreme Court vacancy after Bork complied with Nixon's order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973.
Bork's recollection of his role in the Saturday Night Massacre that culminated in Cox's firing is at the center of his slim memoir, "Saving Justice," that is being published posthumously by Encounter Books. Bork died in December at age 85.
Bork writes that he didn't know if Nixon actually, though mistakenly, believed he still had the political clout to get someone confirmed to the Supreme Court or was just trying to secure Bork's continued loyalty as his administration crumbled in the Watergate scandal.
President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork to the high court in 1987. The nomination failed in the Senate.
Bork describes a surreal time in Washington as the Watergate scandal began to consume the government and the country, and a sense of paranoia prevailed.
Bork says that soon after his arrival in Washington in 1973, White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig tried to persuade him to resign as Solicitor General to become Nixon's chief defense lawyer. Bork sought out his good friend Alexander Bickel to discuss the offer. Rather than talk inside Bork's home in McLean, Virginia, they walked along a dark, semi-rural road so that no one would overhear them. Bork turned down the offer.
When Bork and Attorney General Eliot Richardson were called to the Oval Office to discuss plans to indict Vice President Spiro Agnew, the two men ducked into a restroom where Richardson turned on all the faucets so their conversation would not be picked up by electronic eavesdropping.
Most details about Bork's role on the tumultuous evening of October 20, 1973, immortalized as the Saturday Night Massacre, are well known.
Nixon ordered Richardson to fire Cox over the prosecutor's subpoena of White House tapes. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. The next in line, William Ruckelshaus, refused to fire Cox and was himself fired. Continued...