WASHINGTON -- The House Judiciary Committee voted 27 to 11 Saturday night to recommend that Richard M. Nixon be impeached and removed from the presidency for obstruction of justice in the Watergate cover-up.
In the historic roll call vote in which all 21 Democrats were joined by 6 of the 17 Republicans, the committee declared Nixon violated his oath to uphold the Constitution by making it his course of conduct to "delay, impede and obstruct" the Watergate investigation, and to "cover up, conceal and protect those responsible."
Nixon thus became only the second U.S. president to have to face an impeachment vote by the full House of Representatives. The first, Andrew Johnson more than a century ago, was impeached by the House but cleared by one vote in a Senate trial.
The approval of the article, charging Nixon with obstruction of justice had been widely expected. The committee still must debate and vote on a second article charging him with misuse of presidential powers.
And there may be still other articles introduced before the committee hands its decision officially to the full House. There were indications a key Republican would ask Nixon be impeached for failing to yield subpoenaed evidence to the committee, and there still was some Democratic sentiment to cite Nixon for criminal activity over his income tax returns.
The dramatic moment of the crucial roll call vote came as millions of Americans sat glued to their television sets on a Saturday night, watching history being made in an ornate committee room across from the U.S. Capitol.
It was another milestone in a story that broke on June 17, 1972 when five men wearing rubber gloves and carrying burglary tools were surprised in Democratic national headquarters on the sixth floor of the building that was to lend its name to the most far-reaching political scandal in American history.
For months the White House brushed off the break-in as a 'third rate burglary," but inexorably the trail led Nixon's closest and most trusted aides and associates, and now perils America's 37th president.
In all 32 persons have pleaded guilty or been convicted in Watergate-related cases, and proceedings are pending against others including Nixon's two most trusted aides, H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman; and John N. Mitchell, twice Nixon's campaign manager and for four years his attorney general, the nation's highest law-enforcement officer.
The final vote came after several hours of almost perfunctory debate in which pro-impeachment forces defeated handily a series of efforts to eliminate the charges against Nixon for the Watergate cover-up.
Southern Democrats and pro-impeachment Republicans, making up the swing bloc on the 38-member panel, systematically moved to strike one after another of the nine counts against Nixon in the cover-up impeachment article. Each time, they were soundly defeated.
But their motions seemed intended to put into the public record detailed supporting evidence for each of the nine counts, which the President's diehard GOP supporters demanded in lengthy debate Friday.
First the committee rejected by voice vote a bid to delete a paragraph accusing Nixon of "withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employes of the United States."
Later, the panel defeated 25 to 12 a motion to strike a paragraph accusing the President of approving or encouraging witnesses to commit perjury before federal, grand jury and congressional investigators.
Also defeated on a 26 to 11 roll call was a move to delete a charge Nixon tried to interfere with the Justice Department the FBI and the Watergate special prosecution investigations.
By the same 26 to 11 vote, the panel refused to eliminate a charge that Nixon had passed federal prosecutors' information to targets of their investigation. There were no challenges to paragraphs accusing Nixon of approving hush money payments or misusing the CIA.