Senate hearings revealed that President Nixon had an extensive taperecording system throughout the White House. After the President refused to turn the tapes over voluntarily, Special Prosecutor Cox obtained a subpoena for them. The President agreed to turn over everything except the tapes, invoking executive privilege.

Judge Sirica rejected the claim of privilege, and ordered the President to produce the tapes. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The President did not at that point seek Supreme Court review. Instead, he ordered that Cox be fired. When Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus refused, President Nixon fired them. The new Acting Attorney General, Robert Bork, then fired Cox.