The Watergate Scandal was a series of crimes committed by the President and his staff, who were found to have spied on and harassed political opponents, accepted illegal campaign contributions and covered up their own misdeeds.
On June 17, 1972, The Washington Post published a small story. In this story, the reporters stated that five men had been arrested breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The headquarters was located in a Washington, D.C., building complex called Watergate.
These burglars were carrying enough equipment to wiretap telephones and take pictures of papers. The Washington Post had two reporters who researched deeply into the story.
Their names were Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward; they discovered that one of the suspects had an address book with the name and phone number of a White House official who could have been involved in the crime. The reporters suspected that the break-in had been ordered by other White House officials.
In a press conference in August of 1972, President Nixon said that nobody in the White House staff was involved in the crime. Most of the public accepted Nixon’s word and dropped the investigation. But when the burglars went to trial four months later, the story changed rapidly from a small story to a national scandal. It ended only when Richard Nixon was forced to leave office. Watergate was connected to Vietnam; it eventually exposed a long series of illegal activities in the Nixon administration.
Nixon and his staff were found to have spied on and harassed political opponents and to cover-up illegal activities. These crimes were known as the Watergate scandal. For years Nixon was carrying on the crimes and they had not come to light. It all started when the White House staff made up a list called “enemies list”. Nixon had enemies which included 200 liberal politicians, journalists, and actors.
Most of these “enemies” were opponents of the Vietnam War. Nixon’s aides conducted tax audits on these individuals used agents to find information that would harm their credibility. The president’s agents helped him by wiretapping phone lines that belonged to reporters in order to find any revealing material. Nixon was so worried that during the Cambodia bombing he had to wiretap his own staff members.
In June 1971, The New York Times published a story about the history of the Vietnam War; these were known as the Pentagon Papers. They had gotten the information from classified government documents. The papers blamed the policies that were created by the Nixon administration which caused the beginning of the war in Vietnam. Daniel Ellsberg, a former employee, gave the documents to the NYT.
Nixon became very upset by their publication. Nixon tried to charge Ellsberg with treason, but he was not content to take him to court. Instead, he made a secret group of CIA agents; they were called the “plumbers”. This is a name used because they cover-up “leaks”, such as the pentagon papers, that could hurt the White House’s credibility. While they were searching for information, they discovered Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. However, they discovered nothing incriminating.
The plumbers continued to be involved in the next election. Nixon was always worried about having enough votes for the election in 1972. Nixon was concerned that Edmund Muskie of Maine would win because he was the strongest Democratic candidate. Hoping to wipe out Edmund from the competition, the plumbers began to play a bunch of so-called “dirty tricks”. They issued make-believe statements in Muskie’s name and told the press false rumors about him so that they could publish them to the public.
Most of all, they sent a letter to the New Hampshire newspaper stating that Mr. Muskie was making crude remarks about French Canadian ancestry. Overall, the Democratic nomination went to George McGovern, a liberal senator from South Dakota. His supporters included many people who supported the civil rights, anti-war, and environmental movements of the 1960s. McGovern had fought to make the nomination process more open and democratic.
Congress had also passed the 26th amendment to the Constitution allowing eighteen-year-olds to vote. As a result, the 1972 Democratic Convention was the first to include large numbers of women, minorities, and young people among the delegates. McGovern’s campaign ran into trouble early. The press revealed that his running mate, Thomas Eagleton, had once received psychiatric treatment. At first, McGovern stood by Eagleton.
Then he abandoned him, picking a different running mate. In addition, many Democratic voters were attached to Nixon because of his conservative positions on the Vietnam War and law enforcement. Meanwhile, Nixon’s campaign sailed smoothly along, aided by millions of dollars in funds. Nixon campaign officials collected much of the money illegally.
Major corporations were told to contribute at least 100,000 dollars each. The collectors made it clear that the donations could easily buy the company’s influence with the White House. Many large corporations went along. As shipbuilding tycoon George Steinbrenner said “it was a shakedown. A plain old-fashioned shakedown” The final blow to McGovern’s chances came just days before the election when Kissinger announced that peace was at hand in Vietnam.
McGovern had made his political reputation as a critic of the war, and the announcement took the wind out of his sails. Nixon scored an enormous victory. He received over 60 percent of the popular vote and won every state except Massachusetts. Congress, however, remained under Democratic control. In January of 1973, two months after Nixon had won the presidential election, the misdeeds of Watergate began to surface. The Watergate burglars went on trial in Washington D.C. James McCord, one of the burglars, gave shocking evidence.
A former CIA agent who had led the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, McCord worked for the Nixon re-election campaign. McCord testified that people in the higher office had paid people “hush money” to the burglars who were involved in Watergate. With the money, they were supposed to conceal White House involvement in the crime. After they investigated for a while, they quickly found out that the break-in was approved by the Attorney General, John Mitchell. Even though John Mitchell was one of the most trusted advisors, Nixon denied knowing anything about the break-in and cover-up of the crime.
The public found out not too soon that Nixon was not telling the truth. The public also found out that Nixon had ordered his aides to block any info to the investigators. The White House also tried to stop the flow of the investigations, because they were afraid that it would uncover very important secrets. Nixon would not appear at the congressional committee, complaining that if he were to testify it would violate the separation of powers.
Even though that idea doesn’t appear in the constitution at all. It was a developing tradition to protect the president. This made people feel that Nixon was abusing executive privileges just to cover-up his crimes. When Nixon had no possible way of protecting the White House staff he fired them. Such as when he fired two of his aides, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman because they were on the line of being charged for the crimes.
But they were still convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. In May of 1973, they broadcasted the hearings on television to millions of people, the public felt that it was very gripping and made them quite distraught. An official told the court that Nixon had tape-recorded all the conversations on tape. Nixon had hoped these tapes would one day be used by historians to document the triumph of his term; instead, they were used to prove that he was guilty.
The president refused to release the tapes, claiming the executive privilege gave him the right to keep his record private. That caused him to go to court, before it was decided, Vice President Agnew was charged with income tax evasion. He was also charged with accepting bribes and exchanging for political favors. Agnew resigned because of the charges in October of 1973.
He was only charged with tax evasion and the others were dropped. This scandal was not connected to Watergate, but it put a lot of stress on Nixon. Nixon nominated Gerald Ford in place of Agnew. Ford did very little to salvage Nixon’s reputation.
A couple of days after Agnew resigned, the federal court made Nixon hand over the tapes. Nixon refused, and Archibald Cox ordered him to, but Nixon had his attorney fire him. Cox was an idol to Richardson because he was his professor in law school. Richardson refused Nixon’s order and resigned. President Nixon then ordered the deputy Attorney General to fire Cox.
This massive event was known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Many people of the nation felt that Nixon’s blocking of the judicial process a proof of guilt. The public mailed Congress many telegrams saying to begin impeaching proceedings against the president. So the House Judiciary Committee did that, and fired him. President Nixon had remained cool and still acted as if he was innocent.
At a press conference in November, his famous quote was “I am not a crook”. He avoided questions and was agitated. People that day who were watching television knew that Nixon was going to be in hot water. Internal Revenue Service’s also discovered something that could harm Nixon. They noticed that in 1970 and 71′ he had only paid $800 in taxes when he earned over $500,000.
The nation found out that he also used public money to fix-up his house in Florida and California. Nixon continued to refuse to give up the Watergate tapes. Then, in April 1974, he gave out the transcripts of the tapes. He edited the transcripts and tried to cover up the crimes, but it did not work and it gave Nixon a bad reputation.
The Committee voted to bring impeachment charges in July against Nixon. The first one said that the president knowingly covered-up the crimes of Watergate. The second said that he used Government Agencies to violate the Constitution of the U.S. The third asserted that he would be impeached because of the withholding of evidence from Congress.
Shortly after the house committee voted to impeach the President, the case wanted the entire House for a final say. Nixon at this point still counted on the public to back him out, because of some that doubted his involvement. A decision came in a couple of days after the vote for Nixon to release the tapes that involved the Watergate. Nixon at this point had to follow through with it and handed over the tapes.
Nixon for a long time claimed that he had no idea of the Watergate scandal until John Dean told him on March 21, 1973. The tapes showed that Nixon was a true liar, and not only knew about it, but ordered it. Because of this Nixon met with a group of Republican leaders and they tried to convince him to resign from office. He did just that on August 9, 1974, Nixon broadcasted that he was resigning to the nation.
This meant that President Richard Nixon was the first president of the United States to resign from office. The nation was shocked after this whole scandal by the way Nixon had lied to the public and abused his own powers. This led most of the public never to trust a president as they did before, because of the massive secrecy in the Government. But the best part is that the country did survive the trauma, which is wonderful. On the day of Nixon’s resignation, Gerald Ford was sworn in as president.
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