On the morning of June 17, 1972, one of the biggest political scandals in American history began, changing politics and the trust that Americans place on their leaders forever. The Watergate Scandal lasted from 1972 to 1974 and ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon, whose administration was the center of the scandal.
This marks an important date in American history but is not a federal holiday.
In 1972 the United States was in the middle of the Vietnam War and was a deeply divided country. At the same time, Richard Nixon was campaigning to be reelected during what was a very aggressive political climate. Because of this, Nixon and his team resorted to illegal espionage and wiretapping to aid in their campaign. They devised plans to break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters, which were inserted in the Watergate Complex, to install listening devices on phones and take photos of key campaign documents.
The first attempt to carry out this plan was unsuccessful, and on June 17, a group of five men was spotted by a security guard trying to break into Watergate, and found by the police inside the DNC, wiretapping the phones. While searching the group's belongings, the police found the phone number for the White House reelection committee among them, which originated the suspicions that these burglars had been sent by President Nixon. However, Nixon swore during a speech that he had no involvement with the illegal espionage efforts and was reelected in November 1972.
It was soon made clear that Nixon was lying about his involvement when investigators began uncovering things such as the hush money in the sum of $25,000 that he offered the burglars just days after the break-in. The money came from donations to the Republican Party, money that was also used to fund espionage operations. It was also found out that one of the burglars was a security aide for the Republican Party.
As the FBI got closer to uncovering the crimes of the Nixon administration, Nixon planned to order the CIA to hinder the investigation of the FBI, in a blatant abuse of power and, more seriously, obstruction of justice.
Washington Post Reporters and Trials
All these connections between the break-in to the Democratic headquarters and the reelection committee were too many to ignore, and investigative reporters were particularly interested in this case. Reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, aided by an anonymous whistleblower known only as "Deep Throat" began uncovering the lies and key information in the Watergate Scandal. It was this coverage that led to all the legal and political repercussions.
People involved in the crimes began to crack, and some of Nixon's aides testified against the President in court, telling about the crimes he committed while in office. There was talk of some tapes recorded at the Oval Office that would incriminate the President and prove him guilty. The effort now was to get access to these tapes, that Nixon was struggling to protect.
After a mass resignation protest of Justice of Department officials, Nixon agreed to hand some of the tapes to investigators. In March of 1974, seven of Nixon's aides were charged due to their connection to the Watergate Scandal.
In July, there was a vote ruling that Nixon should be impeached for his crimes of cover-up, obstruction of justice, abuse of power and violating the Constitution.
In August of 1974 Nixon released the tapes that contained irrefutable proof of his involvement in the Watergate Scandal, and he resigned on August 8. He was later pardoned by new President Gerland Ford.
The Watergate Scandal severely affected Americans' view of their Presidents, and caused distrust in the political system, at a time where morale was already down.