The Watergate Scandal
One of the worst political scandals in the United States ended with the resignation of a president. On June 17, 1972 five men were arrested for breaking into Democratic Party offices, and a little more than two years later, on August 9, 1974 President Richard Nixon resigned from office. The name of this political scandal was named Watergate, which was a series of buildings that lie along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. and was the location of the Democratic Party headquarters.
There were several men who were attempting to get Nixon, a Republican, re-elected for a second term and they chose to spy on the Democratic Party to learn about the strategies they were using and other information. They broke into the offices May 11, 1972, placed wire-taps (recording devices) on the phone, and took pictures of secret documents. Initially, they got away with it, but they tried to break in again less than a month later June 17, 1972, the men were arrested. A security guard had noticed the locks on the office doors were taped open.
Nixon and the some of the presidential staff tried to hide the break-in as he denied knowledge of the break-in. In addition, he said his staff was not involved. The people believed him and he was again re-elected president in November of the same year.
However, the Watergate cover-up did not go away. Two reporters from the Washington Post newspaper had been investigating the burglary, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. One of their anonymous sources nicknamed 'Deep Throat' had told the reporters President Nixon was involved in the break-in. (The identity of 'Deep Throat' was not revealed publicly for over 30 years. It was the deputy director of the FBI at the time, William Mark Felt, Sr.) It was learned that several members of Nixon's staff knew about the break-in, and Nixon had provided money ('hush money') to keep the burglars quiet. Nixon also used his power over the CIA to prevent the FBI from investigating the case.
Unfortunately, there was not direct proof of Nixon's involvement in the burglary, but investigators did learn of White House tapes of conversations Nixon had in the Oval Office. Nixon refused to turn over the tapes but was ordered to do so by the Supreme Court. The tapes proved he was involved in the cover-up.
The tapes were released publicly and Nixon's political career and his presidency was over. The Congress was going to impeach him (remove him from office), but instead of impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. He became the first President of the United States to resign from office. Following the resignation, his Vice-President, Gerald Ford, took over the office of president. One of the first things Ford did was pardon Nixon, meaning he took away the criminal charges against him.
Nevertheless, there were many other men prosecuted and a total of 48 government officials were found guilty of crimes, and many of them did serve time in jail. It is said that Nixon most likely did not know about the burglary itself, but was certainly involved in the cover-up of the crime.
At one point during the cover-up, he fired an independent prosecutor, Archibald Cox, to try and stop the investigation. Other attorneys resigned including the Attorney General of the United States. When the firings and resignations took place, it was known as the 'Saturday Night Massacre'.
Finally, several years later a Hollywood movie was made about the scandal and the reporters. The name of the movie was All the President's Men.
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