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The Watergate Scandal

By Iman Kagimu

Edited by Eman Hamed

Richard Nixon was elected as the 37th President of the United States, he was a member of the Republican Party. He served from 1969-1974, and his notable achievements were improving relations with China and the Soviet Union and ending the Vietnam War. In 1972, Nixon visited China and Moscow where he reduced tensions as Russian leader Leonid I. Brezhnev created a treaty to reduce nuclear weapons for strategic reasons. In 1973, Nixon announced an accord with North Vietnam which ended the US involvement in the war. On June 17, 1972 five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. It occurred the same year Nixon was running for re-election. The men wore surgical gloves, carried walkie-talkies, police scanners, rolls of unexposed film, listening devices, and $2,300 in cash. The burglars were James McCord, a former CIA officer and FBI agent, Virgilio Gonzalez, a locksmith, Bernard L. Baker, a former CIA operative, Eugenio Martinez an anti-Castro Cuban exile, and Frank Sturgis who had connections in anti-Castro activities.

A month before the incident, members of Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) had broken into the same headquarters and stole top-secret documents and bugged phones in the offices of the opposing party. The purpose was to be able to know the Democratic Party’s strategy that was not public, and to use that to their advantage to help Nixon win. However, their wiretaps failed so they orchestrated the new operation which led to the Watergate Scandal. In August, Nixon gave a speech and declared that the White House was not involved in the incident. The people believed him and elected him again. However, information came to light that Nixon was not truthful. After the break-in, Nixon gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the burglars to keep them quiet. Nixon and his aides also created a plan to let the CIA intervene with the FBI’s investigation, it was obstruction of justice.

Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and members of the Senate investigating Committee started to suspect that there was more information and secrecy. A whistleblower named “Deep Throat” gave the reporters the most crucial information. It was told that G. Gordon Liddy, the Finance Counsel for the Committee for the Re-election of Nixon created the idea to tap phones and break into the DNC. Liddy along with White House Counsel John Dean and Attorney General John Mithcell orchestrated the operation. Once the burglars were arrested, Liddy started to destroy evidence and created Nixon propaganda. “Deep Throat” was revealed as former FBI Deputy Director, William Mark Felt Sr. in 2005. Felt and his staff had interviewed multiple CRP members and he thought that the interview transcripts were being sent to the White House Counsel. He knew that Nixon was involved but due to an uncooperative White House, he knew that Nixon would be protected so he started leaking information to Woodward and Bernstein.

In October, the FBI concluded that the operation was a setup of spying and sabotage by Nixon’s aides to support his re-election. John Dean and Nixon’s other aides finally testified that Nixon ordered the CIA to hinder and intervene with the FBI’s investigation. It was also revealed that Nixon recorded all conversations in the Oval Office throughout his presidency and that his tapes would have the proof that he obstructed justice. For months, there was a legal battle over the tapes between Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and Nixon’s lawyers and Nixon gave over a few of the tapes. In July 1973, a court order was issued which forced him to turn over all of his recordings.

By this point, Nixon was on the verge of an impeachment as the tapes would tie him to Watergate, so on August 8, he became the first president to resign. Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as President, and he pardoned Nixon for any crimes he committed in office. Although Nixon was free from his crimes, a number of his aides weren’t as lucky. Mitchell served 19 months, Liddy served four and a half years, Nixon’s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman served 19 months and John Ehrlichman served 18 months. The Watergate Scandal still has some effects today, as there are some similarities between the incident and President Donald Trump’s current position in power.

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