Watergate (1972-1974) was a “third-rate burglary attempt” at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters that brought down US President Richard Nixon.
It was hardly the worst thing Nixon did – just ask Cambodia, Chile, Bangladesh, the Black Panthers or the Socialist Workers Party. But his victim in this case, the Democratic Party, had the power to strike back: they controlled Congress (56% of the Senate and 56% of the House).
The break-in: In the middle of the night on June 17th 1972 a security guard called police about a break-in at the Watergate Hotel office building. Police found five well-dressed middle-age men wearing gloves and holding cameras, walkie-talkies, electronic equipment and burglary tools.
Woodward and Bernstein, two metro desk reporters at the Washington Post, were assigned to cover the story.
The burglars would not give their real names, but one had an address book with the White House address of E. Howard Hunt. It seemed that G. Gordon Liddy, who was working on Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, was part of it too.
No honour among thieves: The White House said there was “absolutely no evidence” that anyone else was involved. But once in prison, James McCord, one of the burglars, started talking. Then John Dean, White House counsel, turned state’s evidence.
Watergate hearings: Congress held hearings. It found out, almost by accident, that Nixon taped everything said in the Oval Office. Now it became a battle for the tapes to find out what the president knew and when he knew it.
The Saturday Night Massacre: Nixon, rather than give up tapes, had two attorneys general and the special prosecutor fired! This made Nixon seem not just guilty, but a threat to the rule of law. Calls for his impeachment rose.
The Watergate tapes: Nixon began turning over tapes. They made him sound like a foul-mouthed crook, not the noble statesman he played on TV. One tape had an 18-minute gap! But other tapes he would not turn over at all, claiming executive privilege.
The smoking gun: The Supreme Court at last forced him to hand over all the tapes. On a tape recorded six days after the break-in he orders the cover-up:
“the way to handle this now is for us to have Walters [CIA] call Pat Gray [FBI] and just say, ‘Stay the hell out of this … this is ah, business here we don’t want you to go any further on it.”
Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment on August 8th 1974.
A mountain of sleaze: because of Watergate it came to light that Nixon:
- Was secretly bombing Cambodia.
- Used the IRS, CIA and FBI against those on his Enemies List.
- Had illegal wiretaps put on the telephones of four reporters and 13 government officials.
- Accepted millions in illegal campaign contributions from Gulf Oil, American Airlines, ITT, Associated Milk Producers and others. (The milk producers got higher prices, ITT got the overthrow of Allende in Chile.)
- Spent over $10 million of government money on the “security” of his houses in Florida and California.
- Forged documents to get a $576,000 tax deduction.
– Abagond, 2017.
- How to remove a US president – impeachment and such
- Death of Outrage – about Bill Clinton’s scandals, but of general use
- Richard Nixon
- conspiracy theory