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An introduction to the Watergate Scandal

Richard Nixon

Former President of the USA, Richard Nixon

The term “Watergate” has come to describe any illicit activity carried out under the Nixon administration in the 1970’s. These activities include the bugging of the offices of the opponents of Richard Nixon and the investigation of groups and figures who were opposed to the ideologies and policies of the Nixon administration. He made extensive use of the FBI, CIA and IRS in order to carry out investigations on selected individuals and groups. Ultimately these activities led to an impeachment process against Nixon which led to his resignation, as well as the indictment of 69 people associated with the numerous scandals. He was the only President to have ever resigned, presiding from 1969 until 1974.

The Watergate Scandal Begins

The scandals were revealed following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee(“DNC”) Watergate office complex in Washington in 1972. The Nixon administration subsequently tried to cover up the conspiracy. However the conspiracy was investigated by Congress and the Supreme Court. Many of Nixon’s top officials were found guilty. Five individuals were arrested for breaking into the DNC headquarters in Washington by the FBI. The FBI discovered a connection between the burglars and the official organization of Nixon’s campaign. By mid 1973 evidence was mounting against the staff within the Nixon administration, including testimonies from former staff members against current staff members. The Senate Watergate Committee also found that Nixon had a tape recording system in his office which taped all conversations.

After a long drawn out legal battle the Supreme Court eventually ordered the President to release the tapes to investigators of the government. The tapes revealed how Nixon had tried to cover up his activities after the break in. He was pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford and resigned facing almost certain impeachment.

What was in the Watergate Scandal Tapes?

Nothing indictable was in the Watergate Tapes that Nixon used in his office. However his general speech and conduct portrayed him as ignorant, vulgar and as somebody with a general disrespect for human beings in general. The editors of The Chicago Tribune, a newspaper once supportive of Nixon, wrote;

“He is humorless to the point of being inhumane. He is devious. He is vacillating. He is profane. He is willing to be led. He displays dismaying gaps in knowledge. He is suspicious of his staff. His loyalty is minimal.”

The Providence Journal wrote;

“Reading the transcripts is an emetic experience; one comes away feeling unclean…., while the transcripts may not have revealed an indictable offense, they showed Nixon contemptuous of the United States, its institutions, and its people”

The tapes revealed several conversations Nixon had with his chief counsel John Dean, where Dean mentioned the subsequent Watergate cover-up, The information included paying a blackmailer to remain silent about the cover up and paying hush money to the five burglars caught in the Watergate Scandal. Many have contended that Nixon’s authorization to pay funds to blackmailers constitutes an obstruction of justice, which is an indictable offense.

The main event- Watergate Scandal break in

Senior members of Nixon’s reelection organization tried to execute a plan to burgle the DNC headquarters in Washington, the Democrats being the opponents of Nixon’s Republican campaign. As it turns out the plan was just as fool hardy as it sounds. The rationale was to photograph campaign documents and install listening devices inside the office. Both former CIA and former FBI agents have been indicted as having a part in the investigation, and the burglars were caught by the”official” FBI. Two phones within the DNC were wiretapped successfully. However in a bizarre twist a second burglary was attempted in order to repair the listening devices which were not functioning correctly. The five burglars were said to have been in the office for over 2 hours and carried on their work after finding that the tape that they put down to keep the doors unlocked. They re-taped the locks and continued to work. The security officer, upon finding the locks re-taped, called the police who caught the five burglars.

Nixon Denies Role Watergate

Nixon was held to have been unaware of the burglary, quoted as saying “Who was the asshole who ordered it?” on one of the released tapes. However he did order the CIA to block the FBI’s investigation into the funding of the operation. It would seem that Nixon did not have a direct hand in the burglary though it was done on his behalf through his funds. He further stated:

“I can say categorically that… no one in the White House staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.”

The Watergate Scandal- The leaks begin to spring

Judge John Sirica

Judge John Sirica

The evidence began to mount up with regard to the break-in. In June 1972 the press reported that one of the Watergate burglars was a republican party security aide. In August a $25,000 check meant for the Nixon re-election campaign was found in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars. Further examination of the bank accounts of the Watergate burglars supported links between the personal finances of the men involved and the funding of the Nixon re-election campaign. All five burglars were tied to the Nixon re-election campaign, causing judge Sirica to suspect involvement from higher Nixon administration officials. The investigation did not end with the conviction of the Five Watergate burglars but instead grew broader.

The “Smoking Gun” tape was revealed in August 1974, where Nixon, Swingle, and Haldeman had conducted a meeting in the Oval Office where they discussed how they will stop the FBI from continuing their investigation of the break-in. Haldeman introduced the topic as follows:

… the Democratic break-in thing, we’re back –in the, the problem area because the FBI is not under control, because Gray doesn’t exactly know how to control them, …their investigation is now leading into some productive areas … and it goes in some directions we don’t want it to go

and continues:

“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.”

Destroyed politically after the smoking gun tape was revealed and it was only a matter of time before he resigned.

Nixon Resigns over Smoking Gun Tape

Watergate scandal Side Conspiracy – John Dean

One conspiracy alleged that the break-in was ordered by White House Counsel John Dean in order to cover up embarrassing information about a call girl who was a friend of Dean’s wife. According to main Watergate figure Gordon Liddy, Watergate was initiated by Dean. This theory is also covered in the book Silent Coup. Dean would go on to spend only four months in prison before emerging without a scratch and wrote a book outlining the disastrous scandals that went on during the Bush administration. Silent Coup and the Gordon Liddy versions of Watergate are regarded as conspiracy theories. But then again, so was Watergate before it was found to be true. And even if the break-in was all Dean’s doing it ultimately served a good purpose – to reveal a grossly incompetent president.

Conclusion to the Watergate Scandal

There are no credible conspiracy theories surrounding the Watergate Scandal. The case and the tapes reveal a grossly incompetent President with no respect for anyone except himself and his agenda. The burglary was carried out in a spectacularly incompetent fashion. Nixon was later caught out on his many attempts to cover up the multiple illicit activities that were carried out on his orders. Even if it was not directly ordered by Nixon there is more than enough to convict Nixon, including wire-tapping and blackmail, not to mention lying on national television multiple times.