On this day – October 20, 1973 – President Richard Nixon had independent Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox dismissed. This action triggered the House Judiciary Committee inquiry into the possible impeachment of President Nixon.
The “Saturday Night Massacre” was the term given by political commentators to President Richard Nixon’s executive dismissal of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the resignations of US Attorney General Elliott Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973 during the infamous Watergate scandal that eventually brought down the Nixon presidency. Both Cox and Richardson had important Massachusetts connections. Cox at the time of his appointment was teaching constitutional law at Harvard University. The distinguished career of Boston-born Elliott Richardson included terms as Attorney General and Lt. Governor of the Commonwealth.
Solicitor General Robert Bork dismisses Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus resign in protest. Cox had conducted a detailed investigation of the Watergate break-in that revealed that the burglary was just one of many possible abuses of power by the Nixon White House. Nixon had ordered Richardson to fire Cox, but he refused and resigned, as did Ruckelshaus when Nixon then asked him to dismiss the special prosecutor. Bork agreed to fire Cox and an immediate uproar ensued. This series of resignations and firings became known as the Saturday Night Massacre and outraged the public and the media. Two days later, the House Judiciary Committee began to look into the possible impeachment of Nixon.