Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Vice President Resigns (1973)

Vice President Agnew Resigns
Vice President Agnew at one of his many fundraisers

Type of Activity
 Political Resignation
 Washington DC
Date of Activity
 11 Oct 1973
 38°53'51.2"N 77°02'20.9"W

Vice President Agnew Resigns from Office 11 Oct 1973

The announcement that the Vice President resigned from office came as a shock to me and I was saddened because I had worked with his staff and protection detail on many support trips and got to know everyone quite well! I first worked with them right after his nomination at the 1968 Republication Convention spending many days covering various, fund raisers, special events and even several vacation trips to Palm Springs.  My last involvement was at the 1972 National Republican Convention in Miami when I was with the Key Biscayne Communications Detachment. The NIXON/Agnew ticket achieved a resounding victory in the November 1972 election with a land slide defeat of Senator George McGovern.

Re-election victory for the President and Vice President in 1972
Vice President Agnew is sworn in at 1973 Inaugural Ceremony
The Vice President had very little time to enjoy his landslide victory, as a scandal was brewing in the summer of 1973, involving the Vice President. The United States Attorney's Office in Baltimore, Maryland, was investigating allegations that Vice President Agnew, while Baltimore County executive in 1966, had solicited payoffs from contractors doing county business and that as governor of Maryland and later as Vice President he had accepted kickbacks from engineers whose firms had received state contracts, even accepting several $2,000 payments in the Executive Office Building next to the White House.

On July 31, 1973 Agnew's lawyers were handed a letter written by George Beall, United States attorney for Baltimore, informing them that the Vice President was under investigation for conspiracy, extortion, and bribery. At a meeting with Attorney General Elliot Richardson, Agnew denied all the charges, and on August 6, 1973 as the story broke in the newspapers, the Vice President released a statement saying, "I am innocent of any wrongdoing."

Vice President Agnew meets with reporters in front of the federal Courthouse in Baltimore MD
Although President Nixon called Vice President Agnew into the Oval Office and assured him of his support, the White House chief of staff, Alexander Haig, immediately dropped over to Vice President Agnew's office after that conference and suggested to the Vice President that if he were indicted he should consider how it would affect his performance as Vice President—a not so subtle hint to consider resignation.

The Vice President exits the federal Courthouse in Baltimore MD after pleading "No Contest"
In September of 1973, Vice President Agnew began to plea-bargain with the prosecutors, but negotiations dragged on for more than a month as he sought a deal that would not involve any admission on his part of wrongdoing. He tried desperately to get out of the corner: he made an issue of leaks to the press by the prosecutors; he had a meeting with President Nixon, desperately trying to get the President to put pressure on Richardson to agree to a compromise; he asked the House of Representatives to impeach him so that Congress could conduct an investigation. White House aides refused to pressure Richardson, and the Democratic majority in the House refused to impeach Agnew until judicial proceedings had run their course.

The delay was not to Agnew's advantage. He antagonized Nixon by attacking the Justice Department. His standing in the polls was dropping, a sure sign that he was a political liability. An exhaustive investigation of his finances was completed by the Internal Revenue Service, and the prosecutors now had details about his personal life that conceivably could prove embarrassing if they were revealed.

Vice President Agnew’s letter of resignation to the President
Between October 5 and October 9, 1973 Vice President Agnew's lawyers and justice department lawyers cut a deal, which on October 8, 1973 was agreed to by a federal judge. On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew officially resigned from office.

Vice President Agnew’s letter of resignation 
New York Times Headlines on Oct 11, 1973  
With Vice President Agnew out of the way, President Nixon named Congressman Gerald R. Ford (R-MI) as his nominee for vice president. Two days before the Presidents announcement, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned his office after being convicted of tax evasion charges unrelated to Watergate. Congressman’s Fords nomination was received by Congress with great enthusiasm and strong bipartisan support.

Gerald Ford is sworn in as the new Vice President
 With the resignation and succession crises resolved, attention once again turned to the long-simmering Watergate crisis. It would only take another eight months of intense scrutiny for Watergate to bring down the entire Nixon administration leading to President Nixon’s Resignation in 1974.
After he resigned, Vice President Agnew and Judy moved to a winter home at the Springs Country Club in Rancho Mirage. By then, the Agnew’s had visited the Coachella Valley numerous times and had become friends with Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. They avoided publicity and lived a quiet, reserved country-club style life. He played tennis and golf. Neighbors recall seeing him bicycle around Rancho Mirage, dine at local restaurants and party, often at the Sinatra compound.

The Vice President’s resignation and Gerald Fords swearing in as the new Vice President would be the last major event that I would be a member of WHCA. I was discharged at Andrews AFB on December 10, 1973.

I had experienced so much history of the 1960’s and 1970’s, from the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and the antiwar protests, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the ensuing civil unrest at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the San Clemente Western White House, the historic trip To China, the Florida White House in Key Biscayne, the end of the Vietnam war including the return of the POW/MIA’s, the Watergate break in, the cover up and the resignation of the Vice President!  There are so many details that I have forgotten, but so musch that I can remember to say that I was very proud to have served as a member of the White House Communications Agency for over nine years.           

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