What Happens if a President Resigns? Richard Nixon Cried, Drank and Joked With Reporters

On August 8, 1974, as Richard Nixon faced impeachment for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, he announced he was stepping down the next day as the 37th president of the United States.

"I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body," Nixon said during a live broadcast from the Oval Office. "But as president, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time president and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.... Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow."

Related: The end of Trump? How resignations and firings brought down President Nixon

Accused of helping to cover up and impede the investigation into a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel, Nixon was in the national spotlight that day—but he didn't act like it. Video taken minutes before his speech shows the then-president asking about a reporter's hair color, joking about his own age and worrying that a photographer would "catch me picking my nose."

Over the past 43 years, a number of weird details about Nixon's exit have leaked to the press. And now, as speculation mounts about President Donald Trump's future—given the ongoing investigations into his campaign's possible connections with Russia—we're revisiting them on the anniversary of Nixon's resignation.

For example, a few days before Nixon announced his decision to leave the White House, his son-in-law, Edward Cox, told a senator the president had been "up walking the halls…giving speeches and talking to the pictures on the wall," according to a book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Final Days.

The day Nixon gave his speech about stepping down, he got a haircut. He also ate a meal of cottage cheese, pineapple and a glass of milk, according to NPR. When he spoke to some members of Congress, he cried and almost fell over a chair, according to The Washington Post. After he gave his resignation speech, he told the media to "have a Merry Christmas," despite it being summer.

The next day, when he woke up for his final few hours in the White House, his watch was dead.

"I looked at my watch," Nixon said years later. "The battery had run out, worn out, at 4 o’clock the last day I was in office. By that day, I was worn out too."

Whether he was exhausted, anxious or relieved, Nixon's unusual behavior continued. He signed his letter of resignation while sitting in a velvet chair. Afterward, he boarded a helicopter to take him to Andrews Air Force Base, where he got on a plane to California. Nixon and his press aide Ron Ziegler drank martinis on board, the Post reported, and remarked that the plane smelled better than when the press traveled with him.

Meanwhile, Gerald Ford was sworn in as president and spoke at 12:05 p.m. on August 9, 1974.

"In all my public and private acts as your president, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end," he said. "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."

We can only imagine what Trump—and his vice president, Mike Pence—might do in a similar situation.

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