tv Life and Career of Peter Rodino CSPAN December 14, 2019 11:35am-11:50am EST
and burn? 200 billion dollars of research gone? why are we not finding better ways of treating cancer? >> sunday night on q&a. coming up next, an interview with congressman peter oh dino, a democrat from new jersey. he discusses his experience as committee chair during the impeachment inquiry of richard nixon in 1973. he begins by explaining how he was chosen to lead the inquiry. rep. rodino: there were those who were a little concerned that speaker albert, who had not made up his mind, but who realize d that impeachment was in the offing, certainly was considering, thinking about it, and there were those who felt,
my god, if it goes to congressman rodino, congressman rodino is one who has been working in the background, has never got out front, you know and then out there. there were those who wanted to create an ad hoc committee and have the speaker designate at that time had the ad hoc committee to conduct the inquiry. speaker albert talked to me on a number of occasions. he had great confidence in me
and he placed his confidence in me. and notwithstanding that fact, there were those who, even after a became the chairman who were intent on taking another course of action. i remember the attempt on the part of some to delay the confirmation of jerry ford to be vice president, thinking that possibly, you know, we might delay the confirmation of jerry ford to be vice president and maybe we would proceed with the impeachment of richard nixon. impeach richard nixon and then there would be a vacancy in the vice president seasons spiro agnew had been compelled to
resign as well and carl albert would succeed to the presidency, which was a thought. so alien to albert, and i made certain, along with him, that the process went along. and at the time, as you may not know, we run a double track. i was conducting a confirmation proceeding, or investigation and at the same time were putting together all of the machinery for impeachment. bruce: you were widely acknowledged to have done a pretty good job. is there anything you would have done different? rep. rodino: no, i don't think so. at the time i wondered why it was considered extraordinary. was just what i believed in.
bruce: you said you would not treat it like a grand jury. you would allow the president to have his counsel present. was that the fundamental decision for you? rep. rodino: that was the decision i consider to be fair. i felt it was tremendously important that the american people perceive the process to be fair. i have been studying impeachment and whatever scholarship, research i had done demonstrated clearly it was cumbersome and there is no actual formal procedure to follow. there was only the impeachment of andrew johnson in the 1860's, which was something i wanted to avoid because it was political. i wanted to do something and i knew the american public considering this was the , impeachment of a president of the united states, a man who is
going to be tried, if you will, and the determination would be made whether he was fit to continue in that office and if not, this has happened once in the history of our country and as i say, it was a bad precedent. i wanted to ensure that the american people would view what we did is something fair, grounded in decent and justice and something we can look at and say, by golly, this is what the constitution ordains. >> were you prepared for the media attention? rep. rodino: no. certainly not. as a matter of fact, when i was designated in speaker albert's press conference, there was this
new world focusing in on me and first of all, i was me as i am and said i had hoped this was something that never might have happened, but it was a responsibility and responsibility i was prepared to discharge, as awesome as that task was. bruce: you became a household word. how did that change your life? rep. rodino: on the outside, i suppose, knowing people rodino, who had always been more or less in the background, i was in the shadow righting the civil rights laws, but i was content to because i am interested in achieving goals, not being out there, out front. that's my style and i feel very
confident about it being the right way to go in comfortable about it. so when suddenly all of this developed, it was something new and novel to me. i'm pretty much a private person. i don't go looking for the limelight. i don't go saying things i believe are unnecessary to say. this was going to be the style i was going to pursue. when the media wanted me i was available, so long as i felt it was in the public interest. bruce: what is your feeling at the time of president ford's pardon of richard nixon. rep. rodino: one sunday morning i was back in new jersey with my wife at that time, who has since passed away, and my
mother-in-law told me the white house had just called. i immediately called back. i forget who i was in touch with. president'sf the assistance who said the president did want to talk with you. the president wanted to advise you he was going to issue a pardon. as soon as i heard that, i thought to myself, my god. president ford has lost his mind or lost his cool or maybe richard nixon is about ready to die or something has occurred that has caused him to make this decision. i recall that president ford, who is a dear friend of mine,
he had come to congress with me. earlier on he had stated he would wait until the process went down the line. there was this complete investigation -- as you know, the special prosecutor, leon jaworski, still investigating at that time and i thought that was what he was going to do. he was asked whether he would issue a pardon and he stated he knew it was within his absolute power to do so, but he was going to wait, and i interpreted that to mean he would wait for the process, and wait for the prosecutor to proceed against richard nixon, who had been an unindicted co-conspirator at that time. but president ford, when i spoke
with him later and confronted him with this and told him about my disappointment, he said, he felt the country had been traumatized already, had undergone a very, very serious and difficult time and i said, well, i know. but the people felt the system worked. the confidence in the people had been restored in our system of government. and that government was equal and just for everyone and that no one was above the law and i said, i think this is going to dampen that feeling and i think it's a terrible mistake. he felt otherwise. bruce: have you painted a scenario in your mind about what might have happened had there been no pardon? rep. rodino: that's stretching the imagination, but you've got to remember richard nixon did resign.
he resigned because he recognized that the committee on the judiciary had issued these articles of impeachment and if people will remember, and scholars, i am sure do know in the report all of the report was unanimous that richard nixon had obstructed justice. this was a violation of the criminal code. all of the republicans said joined in writing this report, which was a pretty severe indictment. i felt that would have been a strong enough indictment that presented to a jury that they might have found that richard nixon was indeed guilty of those offenses and found him guilty.
whereas history may wonder, was he guilty, president nixon continued to say all he did was make a mistake and known can say he had violated the law as such, but he did, nonetheless. he did resign from office under a terrible cloud. scenario, what it might have looked like we were preparing to , go to the house of representatives with the articles of impeachment. we were preparing to assure that the public would know what richard nixon was all about and what he had done, prepare them so the whole world would've known once those tapes were played over the air as well, not only for the congress, but for all the people. >> what is your view -- last
question on watergate. what is your view of the rehabilitation of richard nixon? rep. rodino: i am all for rehabilitation. i believe a man does penance and i believe in redemption. i still, however have to wonder whether or not we don't paint the wrong picture. i think all of us have got to remember it was an unfortunate and very, very tragic episode where a president did abuse his power, did shame that office -- that's why we wrote the articles of impeachment. he misused that office. sure. rehabilitation, fine. i would not even have wanted to see richard nixon found guilty,
of violating the law and go to jail. but it's another thing, however to try to repaint history. i think that while he has every right to do what he has been doing and i applaud him, nonetheless, i do not think we should repaint history. >> this is american history tv where each weekend we feature 48 hours exploring our nation's past. >>