An analysis of the White House tape transcripts released Thursday concludes that an ordinary citizen could probably be indicted for conspiracy and obstruction of justice on the evidence against President Nixon contained in the transcripts alone.
Four Harvard law professors reviewed and endorsed the statement, which was published by the Federation of American Scientists, a group which includes many Harvard professors.
The analysis asserts that the tapes contain prima facie evidence of criminal intent on Nixon's part, since a jury in a conspiracy or obstruction of justice case "would be permitted to infer that the president intended those acts which followed from presidential conversations and instructions."
"Judged by the standards of many conspiracy cases, it is a wealth of evidence," the analysis states.
"In short, the implication of the Presidential Counsel that not once does it appear that the President was engaged in a criminal plot is not supported by the transcripts. On the contrary--while only a full trial by jury can ultimately determine guilt--it seems that an ordinary citizen could be indicted on this basis alone," the report concludes.
The report noted that a grand jury had indicted seven presidential associates for a series of 45 overt acts in support of an alleged conspiracy, including a meeting in which the president was a participant. This occurred on the morning of March 21, 1973, and in it John W. Dean III, H.R. Haldeman, and Nixon discussed possible "hush money" payments to E. Howard Hunt.
Signing the statement were Vern Countryman, Royall Professor of Law; Abram J. Chayes '43, Alan M. Dershowitz, and Charles R. Nesson '60, professors of Law; and another law professor from George Washington University.
The group issued its analysis before reports that the federal grand jury investigating the Ellsberg break-in had named the president as a co-conspirator. "What we said was in fact rather mild in light of what happened," Chayes said yesterday.
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