What is Watergate scandal and President Nixon's role in it?

Mahalakshmi P - Infobite  Oct 30, 2019

What is Watergate scandal and President Nixon's role in it?

The Scandal:

  • Watergate scandal (1972-1974) is one of the major scandals in American political history.
  • Five men were responsible for burglarizing the Democratic National committee (DNC) headquartered at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.
  • The political scandal took place in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon. This finished his political career for covering up the same.
  • On June 17, 1972 police arrested five burglars at the Watergate complex. Four of them were active CIA agents. The fifth, James W. McCord, Jr., was the security chief of the committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) which was presided over by Nixon's former attorney general John Mitchell.
  • The situation was actively followed by two young reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward from the Washington post who published an article regarding the arrest. They are responsible for identifying two co-conspirators in the burglary with the help of FBI.
  • E. Howard Hunt, Jr (former CIA turned white house staff) and G. Gordon Liddy (FBI working as a counsel for CREEP) were the two involved. Liddy was in-charge of attempt to break into and surveil the headquarters of George S. McGovern, soon to become the Democratic nominee in 1972 U.S Presidential elections.
  • The White House public relations campaign claimed that there had been no involvement by the Nixon administration in what they called a "third-rate burglary attempt".
  • The conspirators destroyed almost all the evidences involved in the burglary and Nixon's chief-of-staff and close political counsels were trying to divert the issue. The President by himself ordered the FBI to tamp down the investigation which were recorded in Oval Office phone call recordings.
  • Woodward and Bernstein were continuously publishing federal leaks that elaborated things like direct involvement of Nixon's close associates in the scandal, the burglary was financed through illegally laundered campaign contributions, the Watergate bugging incident was a strategical effort to re-elect President Nixon.
  • Despite all the above allegations, Nixon took a dynamic second term mainly with the help of favorable newspapers and huge trust.

The Trial:

  • The trial of the five burglars and two accomplices began before Nixon's second term inauguration. All the defendants were pleaded guilty except Liddy and McCord. The court was scheduled to meet again to hear the sentences.
  • The senate voted to establish a special investigation committee to dig deep into the scandal. The committee was presided over by Samuel J. Ervin, Jr. who was a strict constitutionalist.
  • McCord claimed that the defendants had been pressured to plead guilty. The transnational conglomerate International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation was under investigation for corrupt financial ties with Nixon's re-election campaign.
  • The situation got spiced up during Ervin's hearing who revealed dirty spying and wiretapping by White House employees from the beginning and how they tried to cover it up with innocence.
  • The entire trial was broadcasted and watched by a huge portion of American people. After five days of intense cross examination, it was established that the President was the prime mover and cover-up behind the scandal.
  • The drama was further intensified by inquiring Nixon himself. Ervin committee subpoenaed the tapes of several Oval Office's communications. Nixon refused to submit on the grounds of national security.
  • A storm of public protest pressured Nixon that made him to submit seven out of nine tapes with one tape contained a gap of 18 and half minutes which was clearly not done accidentally.
  • The Supreme court ruled unanimously that Nixon must provide the complete recordings. On August 5, 1974 the President submitted the transcripts of all the tapes which clearly revealed he was the cover-up behind the scandal.
  • Nixon announced his resignation on August 8, 1974 which made him the only President to resign from the office.