Richard Nixon needed a reason.
He’d resolved to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating his involvement in Watergate, more than three months before the Saturday Night Massacre, when Cox was eventually dispatched. It was only a matter of time until Nixon would find a suitable pretext to give him political cover—and soon, Cox gave him one. The investigator refused to accept a so-called compromise on Nixon’s secret White House tapes, whereby Cox would receive summaries of the recordings instead of the tapes themselves. The former president quickly moved to remove Cox from his post, and to dissolve the office of the special prosecutor itself.