The mistrust most Americans feel toward the government officials and political parities of today can be traced back to the Watergate scandal of 1972, which led to the resignation of an American president. The crimes of the Watergate scandal included political burglary, bribery, extortion, wiretapping (phone tapping), conspiracy, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, tax fraud, illegal use of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), illegal campaign contributions, and use of taxpayers’ money for private purposes.
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested at 2:30 a. . They were caught trying to “bug” the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington D. C. When the police caught the men, they were in the office of Larry O’Brien. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, whose job was to aid political candidates in the Democratic party get elected. In 1972, O’Brien’s main priority was to help the Democratic candidate for president, Senator George McGovern.
The five men, who were arrested, were identified the next morning by two lawyers as, James W. McCord, Jr. , Bernard L. Barker, Frank A. Sturgis, Virgilro R. Gonzalez, and Eugenio R. Martinez. Reporters and politicians were interested in this case because they found out that McCord was a former member of the CIA. Its agents are not permitted to spy on Americans. Not only was he a former member of the CIA, but now he worked for the Committee for the Re-election of the president, or CRP. This Republican group was formed to help President Richard M. Nixon win a second term in office. Referring to G.
Gordon Liddy, John Mitchell (the president’s campaign manager and head of his reelection committee) said when reporters asked him about the burglary: We want to emphasize that this man and the other people involved were not operating either on our behalf or with our consent. There is no place in our campaign or in the electoral process for this type of activity, and we will not permit or condone it. ” ( What Was Watergate? by: Pamela Kilian ) Just two weeks after the arrests were made Mitchell resigned from the president’s reelection committee. When the Watergate burglary occurred, President Nixon was in the Bahamas vacationing.
The leaders of the CRP were in Los Angeles and several of Nixon’s top aids were in Key Biscayne, Florida. But no matter where they were, the top officials at the White House and the reelection committee learned about the break-in within forty-eight hours after it occurred. No one suggested admitting that it was a White House operation though. Soon after the break-in, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt Jr. were linked to the break-in. Liddy began to work with the president’s reelection committee after working for the FBI. Liddy put together the plan that led to the break-in.
Hunt did undercover work for Nixon. He was in the Watergate building helping to direct the burglars the night they were caught. On September 15, 1972, Hunt, Liddy, and the Watergate burglars were indicted by a federal grand jury. They were accused of “bugging” telephones and stealing papers from the Democratic National Committee. Just two days after they were indicted, they pled not guilty and were released from jail on bond. On November 7, 1972, Nixon won the election by a landslide. He received over 60% of the vote. The trial began on January 8, 1973, in the courtroom of District Court Judge John J.
Sirica. Howard Hunt, one of the defendants in the Watergate trial, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping on January 10. Four of the five Watergate burglars pled guilty five days after Hunt’s plea. On January 30, The jury found G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord guilty. They were the only two men who were charged that did not plead guilty. Eight days after the trial, the Senate voted to set up a special committee to investigate Watergate. On March 21, John Dean, a White House lawyer, told Nixon that “a cancer is growing on the presidency” because of Watergate. ( What Was Watergate? : Pamela Kilian )
Judge Sirica received a letter, on March 23, from James McCord, one of the Watergate burglars, that said that not everyone involved in the Watergate burglary was identified and that some witnesses lied during the trial. Five days after Judge Sirica received the letter, James McCord testified in a secret session of the Senate Watergate Committee that John Mitchell, John Dean, Charles Colson, and Jeb Magruder (a top aid to Mitchell) knew about the Watergate break-in before it occurred. On April 14, Jeb Magruder told the Watergate prosecutors that he was involved in the Watergate cover-up.
Sixteen days after Magruder confessed, Nixon announced the resignations of John Dean, John Ehrlichman, H. R. Haldeman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. On May 17, the Senate Watergate hearings open. During the trial, Alexander Butterfield, a White House aide, revealed that Nixon had tape-recorded all of his White House conversations since 1970. The head of the Senate Watergate Committee, Senator Sam Ervin, sent Nixon a letter asking to see any tapes that contain Watergate-related conversations. Nixon refused to turn over any tapes to anyone. The Senate issued a subpoena for the tapes.
Judge Sirica ordered Nixon to give him the tapes. Sirica said that he would listen to them and decide if the Watergate grand jury should hear them. On October 23, the White House announced that Nixon would obey Sirica’s order and turn over the tapes that he requested. In the House of Representatives, forty-four Watergate-related bills were introduced. Twenty-two of the bills called for impeachment of the president or for the House to a least look into the idea. Twelve of the bills called for a new special prosecutor. Eight impeachment resolutions were sent to the House Judiciary Committee.
The White House revealed that there was an eighteen-minute, fifteen-second gap on a tape-recorded conversation between Nixon and H. R. Haldeman on June 20, 1972, three days after the Watergate break-in. Leon Jaworski, the new special prosecutor, received the subpoenaed White House tapes from Judge Sirica. In February of 1974, Jaworski said that the White House had refused to give him additional tape recordings and papers he needed for his investigation. The federal grand jury hearing Watergate evidence indicted seven former presidential aides on March 1, including Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Colson.
They were charged with lying to the FBI and the grand jury and making payoffs to the Watergate burglars to keep them from talking. The White House copied sown conversations from the president’s tape recordings and released the transcripts because it was under pressure from the House Judiciary Committee and Jaworski. A White House lawyer claimed that Nixon would not turn over any more tapes to either the House Judiciary Committee or Jaworski. On May 9, the House Judiciary Committee began hearing evidence that would help decide whether or not to impeach the president.
About two weeks after that Jaworski appealed to the supreme Court in order to get White House tapes of sixty-four conversations related to Watergate. After hearing arguments from both Jaworski and the White House, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Nixon must turn over the tapes requested by Jaworski. On July 27, the House Judiciary Committee approved an article of impeachment that accused Nixon of obstructing justice in the Watergate case. Then the House Judiciary Committee approved a second article of impeachment accusing Nixon of abuse of power.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a third article of impeachment accusing Nixon of defying subpoenas for the Watergate tapes. After the House Judiciary Committee approved the articles, Nixon turned over twenty-four of the sixty-four conversations to Judge Sirica. On August 5, Nixon made public transcripts of three conversations he had on June 23, 1972, with H. R. Haldeman. The transcripts showed that Nixon tried to get the CIA to stop the FBI from investigating Watergate. August 8, was a historic day for all of America.
On that day President Nixon announced in a televised speech to the nation that: I shall resign presidency effective at noon tomorrow. ” (What Was Watergate? by: Pamela Kilian ) Gerald Ford was sworn in as president of the United States the next day. Watergate was not just a “third-rate burglary,” as Nixon called it. It was much more. It led to many heinous crimes. It contributed many words and phrases to our present-day vocabulary. Because of this scandal, the suffix “-gate” will now be acquainted with every Washington mishap. Because of this scandal people look at government officials differently today than they did before 1970.