But did he deserve it? The theory of his plea was that he intended to gather (apparently true) information about Ellsberg and leak it at a time when Ellsberg faced criminal charges. How is that obstruction of justice, exactly?Ellsberg was criminally leaking USA military secrets and seeing a psychiatrist. Presumably the Nixon DoJ could have gotten a court order to seize the psychiatrist's files and to release them to the public at Ellsberg's trial.
While Colson may not have followed procedure, I do think that the USA govt should have obtained the Ellsberg files and made them public. Hardly anyone can explain the Watergate crimes. Somehow the Wash. Post tricked the public into thinking that it was a much worse scandal than it was.
The Nixon articles of impeachment included a charge that Nixon deceived the public:
Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office ... has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that: ...If this is a crime, then every other President was a criminal.
8. making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the executive branch of the United States and personnel of the Committee for the Re-election of the President, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct:
Update: The comments below show how some people mistakenly believe that Nixon admitted to illegal acts. It is difficult to understand how Nixon could be guilty of obstruction of justice when he had executive authority over the justice dept.