Nixon Declines to Obey Subpoena (1973)

John Joseph Sirica was a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He presided over the trial of Watergate burglars and used provisional sentencing to encourage the burglars to provide information about higher-ups before final sentencing. When one defendant, James W. McCord Jr. described a broader scheme of involvement by the Nixon administration, Judge Sirica ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over his tape recordings of his White House conversations. 

In the letter below from President Nixon to Judge Sirica, Nixon states he refusal to obey the subpoena and turn over his tapes. Nixon cites the long historical precedent of U.S. Presidents not adhering to court orders, noting that official communications between government department heads and their subordinate officers are "privileged communications."

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About the Author

Ari Siegel is the founder and CEO of and After growing up hearing WWII stories from both of his
grandfathers, he studied history at the University of Michigan. While working
in Washington D.C. and giving tours of the U.S. Capitol building, he was
inspired to take some of the thousands of historic documents that belong to the
American people, and make them more accessible.