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Robert L. Knudsen
In 1973, Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev (left) began an official visit to the United States to visit with President Richard Nixon.
The Watergate scandal, tension involving the Soviet Union and the return of Vietnam prisoners of war are some of the topics discussed by President Richard Nixon in the final installment of White House recordings released Wednesday by the Nixon Library.
Listen: White House Recordings
The 340 hours of audio recordings provide insight into discussions during a key period of Nixon's presidency as the investigation into the Watergate scandal intensified and moved closer to the Oval Office. The tapes cover three months from April to July 1973 amid the resignations of top administration officials and the formation of the Senate committee that investigated Watergate.
They also include phone calls from two future presidents after Nixon's historic public address regarding Watergate.
"This is a really big release in volume and importance, because of the time period it covers,'' Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen, who runs a website cataloging Nixon's secret recordings, told the Associated Press. "This is the end of taping, and this is Watergate really beginning."
They are part of 3,700 hours of recorded phone calls and meetings between February 1971 and July 1973 involving Nixon and top officials. The release by the Yorba Linda, Calif. library includes 140,000 pages of text documents and marks the final chapter of Nixon's secretly recorded White House discussions.
The recordings ended July 12, 1973 -- the day before the existence of the covert recording system was revealed to a Senate committee probing Watergate. The president and his advisers can be heard discussing reports of witness testimony, indictments and accusations surrounding the White House.
Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974. He returned to his native California, where he was pardoned a month later by President Gerald Ford.
The tapes provide a glimpse at some of the other issues that were overshadowed by the scandal, which occurred after a June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. The recordings include Nixon's conversations with Henry Kissinger, the Rev. Billy Graham and Brazilian soccer superstar Pele.
Three future presidents -- Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Gerald R. Ford -- also were recorded during visits with Nixon. Reagan and Bush called Nixon in the hours after his public address about the Watergate scandal.
"I just want you to know, we watched and my heart was with you. I know what this must have been and what this must have been in all these days and what you've been through," Reagan said. "You can count on us, we're still behind you out here and I wanted you to know that you're in our prayers."
During his conversation with Bush, who had just been appointed chair of the Republican National Committee, Nixon can be heard saying, "The folks may understand. To hell with the commentators."
Nixon also can be heard talking about peace talks with the Soviet Union and improving relations with China. The tapes also include material on the Vietnam peace settlement and the return of hundreds of POWs to U.S. soil.
Domestic issues discussed on the recordings presidential appointments, energy police, wage and price controls and campaign finance.