- - Sunday, July 31, 2011

WHITE HOUSE

Administration opposes release of Nixon testimony

Thirty-six years after Richard Nixon testified to a grand jury about the Watergate break-in that drove him from office, a federal judge on Friday ordered the secret transcript made public.

But the 297 pages of testimony won’t be available immediately, because the government gets time to decide whether to appeal.

The Obama administration opposed the transcript’s release, chiefly to protect the privacy of people discussed during the ex-president’s testimony who are still alive.

Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with historians who sued for release of the documents that the historical significance outweighs arguments for secrecy, because the investigations are long over and Nixon has been dead 17 years.

Nixon was interviewed behind closed doors near his California home for 11 hours over two days in June 1975, 10 months after resigning the presidency. Two grand jurors were flown in, and the transcript was read to the rest of the panel sitting back in Washington. It was the first time a former U.S. president testified before a grand jury. Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to do so during the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

At the time of his testimony, Nixon could not be prosecuted for conduct related to Watergate because he had been pardoned by President Ford. Ten days after Nixon testified, the grand jury was dismissed without making any indictments based on what he told them.

CALIFORNIA

Commission draws lines that strengthen Democrats’ grip

SACRAMENTO — A citizens commission established by voters to independently create California’s legislative and congressional districts delivered its first set of maps Friday, voting to adopt new boundaries that appear to give majority Democrats even more power in the nation’s most populous state.

The 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved final draft versions of district maps for Congress, the state Assembly and Senate, and the state Board of Equalization, which administers sales and use taxes.

Even before the vote, the drafts were being heavily scrutinized by political parties, communities and minority groups because they will be used in state elections for the next decade, helping shape California’s congressional delegation, the nation’s largest, and the composition of the 120-member state Legislature.

Redistricting experts said the new maps are likely to reduce the influence of Republicans even further.

Democrats are hoping the redrawn districts will allow them to achieve the two-thirds majority needed in the Legislature to pass tax increases, while the number of Republicans California sends to Congress — now 19 — could be reduced.

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