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The Watergate Scandal

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The Watergate Scandal

The Watergate Affair, is the worst political scandal in U.S. history. It led to the resignation of the president, Richard M. Nixon, after he became implicated in an attempt to cover up the scandal. "The Watergate Affair" refers to the break-in and electronic bugging

in 1972, of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate apartment, and office building complex in Washington D.C. The term was applied to several related scandals. More than thirty administration officials, campaign officials, and financial contributors pleaded guilty or were found guilty of breaking the law. Nixon faced possible indictment after his resignation, received from his successor, Gerald Ford, a full pardon for all of his offenses he may or had committed (Branford 2).

In 1971, Nixon created the Special Investigation Unit, know as the "plumbers", their job was to plug all new leaks. Later that year, his agents broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Feilding, and Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who had given copies of the Pentagon Papers, a secret account of U.S. involvement in Indochina, to newspapers. After Nixon learned of the break-in, he and his top advisors decided to say that the break-in had been carried out for naitonal security reasons(Watergate 3). Later in 1971, H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, was notified by an assistant, Gordon Stachan, that the U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell and John Dean, counsel to the president, had discussed the need to develop a "political intelligence capability" at the Committee for Reelection of the President(CRP). Some of the personnel and tactics identified with the activities became associated with efforts aimed at the Democrats. In early 1972, Mitchell assumed a new position as director of the CRP and discussed political espionage plans with Dean. Mitchell also provided the proposal to break-in to the Watergate(Branford 3). On June 17, 1972, police arrested five men at the DNC headquarters. The men were adjusting electronic equipment that they had installed in May. One of the men arrested was James McCord, security coordinator for the CRP(Watergate 3). Ehrlichman was ordered to destroy incriminating documents and tapes. Then L. Patrick Gray resigned as acting director of the FBI, later admitting he had destroyed documents given to him by Ehrlichman and Dean. On June 23, 1972, Nixon learned about Mitchell's possible link with the operation, and Nixon instructed the FBI to stop the inquiry into the source of money used by the men who tapped the building. He said that "the investigation would endanger the CIA operations." Dean and the others subsequently sought to induce CIA officials to cooperate with this plan. On July 1, Mitchell left the CRP, citing personal reasons. On August 29, Nixon declared that no one in the administration, then employed, was involved in the Watergate. Although money found in the possession of the wire tappers was traced to the CRP, such evidence was insufficient to implicate high officials. On September 15, only the five men first arrested, plus Liddy and E. Howard Hunt , one of the plumbers, were indicted (Carson 2).

In January 1973, two months after Nixon's reelection, the seven indicted men were tried before Judge John Sirica in the U.S. district court in Washington D.C. Five pleaded guilty, and McCord and Liddy were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping. Meanwhile, suspicions grew that the break-in was part of the broad program of political espionage. The U.S. Senate voted to conduct an investigation, and the Grand Jury, continued to hear witnesses. During hearings of his nomination to be permanent director of the FBI, Gray revealed that he had given FBI Watergate files to Dean. His testimony suggested that other top White House aides were involved in the clandestine activities. In March and April, Nixon met often with top aides to plan responses to the Gray revelations and to prepare for the investigations. On March 23, Judge Sirica read a letter from McCord charging that witnesses had committed perjury at the trial and that the defendants had been pressured to plead guilty for them to remain silent. McCord, hoping to



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