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- June 1972 – August 1974
- Presidential Resignation, Multiple Arrests and Convictions
The Watergate Scandal:
It was kissed off as a third rate burglary by a White House spokesman but it made history as the crime that eventually toppled America's 37th President. The Watergate scandal was multi-faceted, reflecting official wrong doing on several levels. But the clincher was the cover-up that was steered directly from the top
Watergate's the name of a hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C.
On the night of June 17, 1972, several burglars were caught breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, to plant listening devices and photograph documents.
1972 was a Presidential election year with the White House, one third of the U-S Senate and the entire House of Representatives in play.
The investigation started slowly, no one could seem to tie those arrested to any bigger scheme.
But dogged work by a couple of reporters at the Washington Post, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward…
…started to pick up several pieces of a broader puzzle that tied the break-in to the Committee to Re-Elect President Richard Nixon and a cover-up that was being coordinated by the Justice Department, headed by Attorney General John Mitchell…
…the FBI, CIA and the White House itself.
Predictably, the White House and Nixon campaign denied any involvement. But as the probe continued, some of the President's top White House aides, including HR Haldemann and John Ehrlichman were assisting the President in his effort to thwart the probe.
Those two were forced to resign but it was too late.
In 1973, it was revealed that Nixon had an audio recording system in his office and many of his conversations were on tape. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that he release the tapes and Nixon eventually complied. It implicated him in the attempt to whitewash the whole thing, even though his special White House counsel, John Dean, had told Nixon all about it
A critical mass calling for a full investigation had flowered, and House Judiciary Committee hearings put Nixon, who'd ironically won re-election in a landslide in 1972, on a path to impeachment and removal. The Senate Watergate Committee was also formed to investigate the scandal. Here's part of Dean's testimony before that Senate Committee.
Rather than face a Senate conviction, Nixon resigned….
His Vice President, Gerald Ford – himself a fill-in for Spiro Agnew, a disgraced VP caught up in a separate scandal, replaced Nixon as President on August 10, 1974 and Nixon left town in disgrace, although he tried to go out smiling.
Ford had two years in the Oval Office but lost his own bid for election in 1976 to Jimmy Carter. Many blamed the fact that Ford had given Nixon a full presidential pardon for his Watergate crimes in September, 1974.
In all, 43 people were indicted, tried, convicted and sent to prison for their part in the Watergate misdeeds.
The Watergate story was related in the book by Woodward and Bernstein that was adapted in film -"All the President's Men." In this scene, Robert Redford, as Bob Woodward, gets an important tip from a secret informant nicknamed "Deep Throat".
Thirty one years after Nixon resigned and more than a decade after he died, "Deep Throat" was revealed to be FBI Associate Director Marc Felt.
Richard Nixon – the only President to ever resign from the office -proclaimed his innocence until his death in 1994.