Rep. Charles Wiggins (R-CA) served on the House Judiciary Committee. From his 2000 obituary:

Judge Charles E. Wiggins, a Republican congressman from California who was influential in the Watergate hearings and switched from defending President Richard M. Nixon to supporting impeachment, died on Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 72 and had lived in Las Vegas…Mr. Wiggins was elected to the House in 1967 from a district in Southern California and served until 1978 when he retired to resume practicing law. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was a senior judge at the time of his death.


As a congressman, Mr. Wiggins was considered one of Nixon’s staunchest defenders. Along with two other members of the House Judiciary Committee, he led the president’s defense when the Watergate hearings began in the summer of 1974. The strategy was to construe the evidence as narrowly as possible, require ironclad proof and propose benign explanations of information damaging to the president. At the time, The New York Times described Mr. Wiggins as ”a silky Southern Californian who would feel at home in the pages of a Ross Macdonald detective novel.” In weeks of closed Judiciary Committee hearings and in six days of televised debate in July, Mr. Wiggins argued that none of the evidence linked Nixon directly to a crime. But his view changed abruptly on Aug. 5, 1974 when Nixon conceded that he had helped conceal the Watergate break-in. The next morning, a front-page headline on The New York Times noted Mr. Wiggins’s change of heart: ”Wiggins for Impeachment; Others in G.O.P. Join Him.”

The Times reported that ”Representative Charles E. Wiggins, President Nixon’s strongest defender during the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings, and many other influential House Republicans” had announced that ”they would vote for impeachment,” and that Mr. Wiggins and members of the House Republican leadership had expressed what The Times called ”a deep sense of disillusionment.” In a statement outlining his new position, Mr. Wiggins said there was no longer any doubt that the president had agreed to a ”plan of action” to obstruct the Watergate investigation. ”These facts standing alone are legally sufficient in my opinion to sustain at least one count against the president of conspiracy to obstruct justice,” he said. Because of that, Mr. Wiggins said, he had reached the ”painful conclusion” that it was in the national interest for Nixon to resign.


Nixon did so on Aug. 9, 1974. Afterward, Mr. Wiggins wrote that it had been the right decision. ”Such a conclusion was a sad and personally wrenching one for me to reach, because I regarded — and still do regard — myself as a friend of the president and his family and one still willing, proudly, to claim his achievements,” Mr. Wiggins wrote.