I reject ideas of any conspiracy between Jerry Ford and Dick Nixon in the last few days before Nixon's resignation, that Ford would someday pardon him as part of the step-down.
That said, I don't buy Ford's narrative about "national healing," and while accepting Jerry terHorst's line that "national healing" was bullshit when Ford wouldn't pardon Vietnam draft avoiders at the same time, I think that there's still a backstory that ter Hoorst may not have thought about.
It related to a new biography of Nino Scalia, who headed the Ford Administration Office of Legal Counsel. Specifically, it relates to his attempt to hide Nixon's presidential papers from outside purview.
Suppose there is no pardon, and Nixon goes on trial. And, some presidential papers — or White House tapes — somehow come out at trial. Or even without electromagnetic or paper trails available, it still comes out at trial.
What if we find out that Ford, pre-vice presidential nomination, had discussions with Nixon plotting House GOP strategy to spin Watergate? What if, as part of that, we find out that Ford knew more, pre-vice presidency, about Watergate than he told the public — or than he told Congress in his confirmation hearings?
And, what if this comes out before the 1976 general election?
So, without any "deal" with Nixon, Jerry Ford may still have had some "good" reasons to pardon Nixon.
We may never know. I half-read, half-skimmed — and generally disliked — John Dean's new book on the "complete" Nixon tapes. But, again, they don't cover every waking moment of Nixon's presidential life. And, Dean's book ends with July 16, 1973, other than a "summary" chapter beyond that. That's three months before Spiro Agnew resigned.