Mike Jacobs: Big Sort shows former Rep. Andrews' feelings about Nixon

Mike Jacobs is a Grand Forks Herald columnist.

The Big Sort is under way at our house. This probably happens to every couple. But we’re not trying to sort out our relationship. We’ve been working on that for nearly 50 years. We’re sorting our stuff. We haven’t done anything about that in nearly 50 years.

Suezette probably has accumulated more individual items than I have, but in total volume I’ve got her swamped. While she’s been collecting sheets, I’ve been collecting volumes.

One of the interesting individual items is a letter from Mark Andrews, a Republican who represented the state in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years, and in the U.S. Senate for six. Suezette wrote to him in the summer of 1974.

Here is the text of his reply with the paragraphing removed:

“This is in response to your recent communication urging that I vote to impeach President Nixon. A year ago, this month, I urged the president to cooperate fully with the Watergate investigation in the interest of resolving the matter finally and swiftly. Instead, however, we have seen the evidence extracted piece by painful piece, interspersed by self-serving protests of innocence and noninvolvement by the White House. The effect this has had on the nation has prompted me, in May of this year to observe that the country would be better off if Richard Nixon were no longer President. The most recent acknowledgement by the President, confessing that he is indeed guilty of obstructing justice as accused in the first Article of Impeachment reported by the Judiciary Committee has convinced me further that he should be impeached. While I frankly believe that he will resign before it comes to a vote in the House, if this does not happen, I will of course vote to impeach.”


Nixon was a Republican and so was Andrews. Both had carried the state by large margins; in 1972 Nixon won 67 percent of the vote in North Dakota and Andrews won 73 percent. An off-year election lay ahead, and the outcome was uncertain; Andrews’ opponent was Byron Dorgan, then the state tax commissioner. Andrews won, with 56 percent of the vote. Later, Dorgan replaced Andrews in the House and followed him to the Senate. The point is, nothing was secure in 1974. In fact, the U.S. Senate race that year ended in a recount; incumbent Milton Young won by fewer than 300 votes – the closest congressional result in the state’s history.

Against this background, Andrews’ letter is even more remarkable than it appeared at first reading.

In the letter, Andrews acknowledges that he’s been a critic of President Nixon’s handling of the Watergate investigation for a full year, and several months before his reply was posted, he’d observed “that the country would be better off” if Nixon were no longer president.

Andrews also shared the standard he used to decide that he would “of course, vote to impeach.” His vote was secured by Nixon’s confession “that he is indeed guilty of obstructing justice.” Compelling proof is the standard critics would have to meet in order to impeach the current president.

Andrews showed remarkable prescience. “I frankly believe that he will resign before impeachment comes to a vote in the House,” he wrote.

The letter is dated Aug. 8, 1974. Nixon resigned the next day.

In November, Andrews was re-elected to the House, winning 56 percent of the vote – 17 percentage points and 65,000 votes behind his previous showing. He remained in the House until 1980, when he won election to the Senate. Andrews lost that seat to Kent Conrad in 1986 – by about 2,000 votes.

Andrews foresaw Nixon’s resignation, and he intuited that his own career would be safe, even though he was an early critic among Republican members of Congress.


On social issues, however, his foresight was a bit less acute. His letter was addressed to “Mrs. Suezette Bieri Jacobs,” a name both of us had long forsaken. As far as the law was concerned, however, she was “Mrs. Jacobs.”

Another of those individual items in her collection is a document from the Morton County court declaring that “henceforth her true, correct and legal name is Suezette Bieri and that such name shall be used for all purposes whatsoever.”

The affidavit is dated April 8, 1978.


Last week’s column about how to use earnings from the state’s Legacy Fund drew lots of comments, including one that needs acknowledgement.

The error shorting some of the state’s public school trust funds and a water development fund occurred in the state treasurer’s office. It remained undetected by the state land board, which oversees the funds, for more than a decade.

When it came to light during the most recent legislative session, lawmakers used earnings from the Legacy Fund to repay the school funds. Treasurer Kelly Schmidt blamed “ambiguity” in the law for the misallocations.

Mike Jacobs is a former editor and publisher of the Herald.

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