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Alexander P. Butterfield

John Simkin

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Alexander Porter Butterfield, the son of a United States Navy pilot, was born at Pensacola, Florida, on 6th April, 1926. Butterfield studied at the University of California but during the Second World War he left to join the United States Air Force and flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Pacific War.

Butterfield remained in the USAF and took part in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where he won the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also served in Australia as a senior Defense Department representative. Later he was project officer for the General Dynamics F-111.

In 1968 Richard Nixon was elected as president of the United States. Nixon's chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, had studied with Butterfield at the University of California. Butterfield later claimed that Haldeman contacted him and suggested that he became Deputy Assistant to the President. However, Haldeman claimed that it was Butterfield who asked him for a job.

Butterfield retired from the USAF and took up the post. Butterfield supervised internal security. This meant he had to work closely with the Secret Service. Butterfield also helped to organize the installation of the secret taping system in the White House.

In December, 1972, Nixon appointed Butterfield as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. However, Butterfield was drawn into the Watergate Scandal after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had interviewed Hugh Sloan. During the interview Sloan admitted that Butterfield had been in charge of "internal security". Woodward passed this information to a member of the Senate Committee headed by Sam Ervin.

On 25th June, 1973, John Dean testified that at a meeting with Richard Nixon on 15th April, the president had remarked that he had probably been foolish to have discussed his attempts to get clemency for E. Howard Hunt with Charles Colson. Dean concluded from this that Nixon's office might be bugged. On Friday, 13th July, Butterfield appeared before the committee and was asked about if he knew whether Nixon was recording meetings he was having in the White House. Butterfield reluctantly admitted details of the tape system which monitored Nixon's conversations.

Butterfield also said that he knew "it was probably the one thing that the President would not want revealed". This information did indeed interest Archibald Cox and Sam Ervin demand that Richard Nixon hand over the White House tapes. Nixon refused and so Cox appealed to the Supreme Court.

On 20th October, 1973, Nixon ordered his Attorney-General, Elliot Richardson, to fire Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered the deputy Attorney-General, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and he was sacked. Eventually, Robert Bork, the Solicitor-General, fired Cox.

Nixon was unable to resist the pressure and on 23rd October he agreed to comply with the subpoena and began releasing some of the tapes. The following month a gap of over 18 minutes was discovered on the tape of the conversation between Richard Nixon and H. R. Haldeman on June 20, 1972. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, denied deliberately erasing the tape.

On 27th July, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee adopts the first Article of Impeachment by a vote of 27-11. The Article charged Nixon with the obstruction of the investigation of the Watergate break-in. Two weeks later three senior Republican congressmen, Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott, John Rhodes visited Nixon to tell him that they are going to vote for his impeachment. Nixon, convinced that he will lose the vote, decides to resign as president of the United States.

Butterfield Butterfield remained as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration under Gerald Ford. He resigned on 31st March, 1975, and became a business executive.

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