Richard Nixon’s first term as president will always be connected with the Watergate scandal, the biggest political scandal in United States history. Various illegal activities were conducted including burglary, wire tapping, violations of campaign financing laws, sabotage, and attempted use of government agencies to harm political opponents to help Richard Nixon win reelection in the 1972 presidential elections. There were about 40 people charged with crimes related to the scandal. Most of them were convicted by juries or pleaded guilty. Watergate involved more high-level government officials than any previous scandal. It has been etched in the minds of millions and is still being recalled today when faced with the present day scandal of President Clinton. In All The President’s Men, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, former Washington Post reporters, recount, illustrate, and analyze the Watergate scandal time and their work in reporting and revealing these events for the newspaper.
The story begins on “June 17, 1972. Nine o’clock Saturday morning. Early for the telephone (13).” The telephone rings to awaken Bob Woodward. His editor wakes Woodward to inform him about a break-in at the Democratic headquarters that occurred late the previous night.
The authorities arrested five men, one White House employee and four Cuban-American Miami citizens. They were found to be in the possession of high-tech surveillance and communication devices, along with hundreds of dollars, mostly in $100 bills in sequential order. In addition, the authorities also discovered two address books, a telephone number for Howard E. Hunt, consultant to the White House. The listing had small notations W. House and W.H. (22). This was the first indication that the President and his cabinet might be involved in this burglary. Woodward and Bernstein investigated this White House connection. As they delve deeper into this lead, they continuously discover larger crimes where more of the prominent White House staff was involved.
Woodward and Bernstein print all their findings in their articles in the Washington Post. The tremendous pressure on Nixon through their in-depth articles, along with the FBIs investigations of him and his cabinet, ultimately led to the Presidents resignation.
When Bernstein and Woodward were writing this book and their articles, they must have had some idea of the significance of their work. After all, they were printing a series of articles that pointed straight to the President. At this time, only one other impeachment inquiry existed, so Bernstein and Woodwards work had to be as accurate as possible. They made sure of this through a few precautionary measures. First, they agreed never to let an article go to print unless they both fully agreed the article was worthy of printing should. When they were investigating the truth of a fact or statement, they always made sure that they checked it with at least two sources. When they made a large implication, such as that of H.R. Haldeman, Assistant to the President, they investigated with as many as four or five sources. To make sure that they were not overly ambitious or biased, they frequently ran their story ideas, topics, and facts, over with their editors, Sussman and Rosenfeld.
All The President’s Men was fair and detailed, which adds significantly to their credibility, which was the purpose they protected and looked out for. Woodward and Bernstein had a motivation driving their investigation and reporting that was very unlike any that could be found today. They seemed to be enticed by their love for writing and strife for the truth. Today, some journalists seem to be motivated by fame, wealth, or politics. Many people would have written those articles simply to go down in history books or to bring down high officials for personal gain. This aspect did not appear to be present in All The President’s Men. Bernstein and Woodward are acknowledged as being the ones to uncover Nixon’s “dirty tricks.” The authors did not present Watergate as a scandal or an attempt to smear President Nixons image. While they were uncovering these events, they must have been considering the political uproar Watergate would cause as well as the political precedent it set. Comparing today’s investigations of Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon, Woodward and Bernstein must be a little reluctant for immediate removal. In comparison, Nixon covered up his rigging of elections and destruction campaigns. Clinton covered up his inappropriate affair.
Introduction. It led to the conviction of former Attorney General John Mitchell and two of Nixon’s top aides, John Erlichmen and H.R. Haldeman, in 1975. Former Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans, a leader of Nixon’s reelection campaign pleaded guilty to Watergate criminal charges and was fined $5000. Watergate also resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Richard Kleindienst in 1973. The Beginning Watergate really began in 1969 when the White House staff made up a list of enemies. This so-called “enemies list” was kept of people the president’s men wanted retribution on. Nixon had adversaries that included 200 liberal politicians, journalists, and actors. When people made public speeches against Vietnam, agents found out secret information about them that would harm them. The Nixon campaign routinely engaged in unethical “dirty tricks.” These deceptions were led by White House staffers Charles Colson, Special Counsel to the President; Deputy Campaign Director of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) Jeb Magruder; Dwight Chapin, Deputy Assistant to the President; and Donald Segretti, an attorney.
These corrupt antics included following Democratic political candidates, assembling reports on their personal lives, forged letters on candidates’ letterheads, altering schedules of campaign appearances, placing harassing phone calls, and manufacturing false information then leaking it to the press. The goal of these tricks was to help eliminate the strongest candidates from the Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire the campaign of front-runner, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine was ruined. False rumors were circulated to newspapers. The day before election s Muskie lashed out at the press. This damaged Muskie’s even-tempered reputation and contributed to his failure to win the 1972 Democratic nomination for the president. Special Investigations Unit The Special Investigations Unit, better known as the “plumbers unit,” was created as a result of the Pentagon Papers being leaked to the New York Times in June of 1971. The Pentagon Papers were secret defense department documents on the American involvement in the Vietnam War. They revealed a pattern of government deception related to Vietnam. Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on the staff of the National Security Adviser, leaked the Papers to the New York Times Henry Kissinger.
The Nixon administration responded by stopping publication of the papers and charging Ellsberg with espionage. The plumbers were to block news leaks and control public knowledge of Vietnam policy. President Richard Nixon ordered domestic policy advisor, John Erlichman, to streamline leak plugging by creating this plumbers unit. Erlichman’s deputy, Egil Krogh, Jr. and David Young, a member of the National Security Council staff, hired former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy and former CIA operative E. Howard Hunt to run their illegal secret operation. Plumbers set wiretaps, opened mail, and conducted break-ins in order to gain information about leaking. They targeted political enemies of the Nixon administration for harassment. Ellsberg was at the top of that list. In September of 1971, the plumbers unit broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. They wanted to find degrading information about Ellsberg before his espionage trial. The case against Ellsberg was dismissed because of this burglary. The Break-In On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The men were adjusting electronic equipment that they had installed in May. The police apprehended a walkie-talkie, forty rolls of unexposed film, two 35-millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-sized teargas guns, and bugging devices. Four of the men who were arrested came from Miami, Florida. They were Bernard Barker, Frank Sturgis, Virgillio Gonzalez, and Eugenio Martinez.
The other man was James McCord, security coordinator for CRP. The two co-plotters were Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt. Their arrest eventually uncovered a White House-sponsored plan of surveillance of political opponents and a trail of conspiracy that led to many of the highest officials in the land. A secret fund that contained more than $300,000 was designated for sensitive political projects. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, Herbert Porter (Scheduling Director, CRP), H.R. Haldemen (President’s chief of staff), and Herbert Kalmbach (Deputy Finance Chairman, CRP) had control of the fund. All were principal assistants of John Mitchell, Campaign Director, CRP. This money was kept in a special account at CRP. They were funds for Watergate espionage. A $25,000 cashier’s check intended as a contribution to the Nixon reelection effort was deposited into a Miami bank account of Bernard Barker in 1972.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, ordered an immediate audit of the Nixon campaign finances. The audit report concluded that former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, the chief Nixon fund-raiser, had an illegal cash fund of $350,000 in his office safe. The $25,000 from the cashier’s check and another $89,000 from four Mexican checks passed through that fund. This cash supply was used, in part, as an intelligent-gathering fund. Campaign Contributions The Watergate money trail exposed a multitude of Nixon administration financial crimes and illegalities. The serial numbers on the money the Watergate burglars carried (as well as the name of their paymaster, Howard Hunt, found in the address book of one of the burglars) led investigators to a Miami bank and an account set up by the Campaign to Re-elect the President. Eventually investigators would examine the records of the activities of Maurice Stans, former attorney general John Mitchell, and Secretary of the Treasury John Connally. They discovered a host of unethical and allegedly illegal campaign fund-raising operations. Major corporations were told to contribute at least 100,000 dollars each. It was understood that the donations could easily buy the companies influence with the White House. Many large corporations went along. Connally accepted bribes from a dairy organization eager to have the Nixon administration increase price supports.
There were also efforts to pressure corporate contributors by threatening investigation by the Internal Revenue Service or Environmental Protection Agency, attempts to avoid contributor disclosure laws, and offers of favorable legislation in return for campaign contributions. Eighteen corporations and twenty-one corporate executives admitted making illegal contributions for the 1972 campaign. Kalmbach acknowledged raising and distributing large sums of money that were later used for illegal purposes. He promised an ambassador a better assignment in return for a $100,000 contribution. The International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation made a $400,000 campaign contribution in return for a settlement of an antitrust suit. Maurice Stans later pleaded guilty to charges relating to illegal handling of campaign funds.
Cover-up Immediately following James McCord’s arrest, members of the Nixon administration began a cover-up of McCord’s connection with the White House. Memos and written files connecting him and his superior, Hunt, to the White House were destroyed. More than $187,000 in bribes – “hush money” – was paid to Hunt, McCord, and the other burglars to keep them from discussing their ties to the White House. Jeb Magruder and John Mitchell denied any association to Hunt and McCord before a grand jury. A cover story was made up by White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, domestic policy assistant John Erlichman, and the president’s lawyer John Dean. They were to say that the burglary was part of a CIA operative, vital to national security. On June 23, 1972, President Nixon authorized the cover-up, but the CIA refused to cooperate. So the Nixon administration successfully applied political pressure to delay several trials and investigations of the burglary until early 1973. Nixon ordered his aides to block any information to investigators. Magruder and others destroyed incriminating documents and testified falsely to official investigators.
L. Patrick Gray, acting director of the FBI, destroyed documents given to him by Ehrlichman and Dean. Collapse of the Cover-up In January of 1973 seven indicted men were tried before Judge John Sirica in the United States District Court in Washington, D.C. Four of the men arrested the night of the burglary plead guilty along with Howard Hunt. James McCord and Gordon Liddy were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping. The United States Senate then voted to conduct an investigation of political espionage. During hearings on his nomination to be permanent director of the FBI, L. Patrick Gray revealed that he had given FBI Watergate files to John Dean. His testimony suggested that other top White House aides were involved in confidential activities. In March and April Nixon met with top aides to plan responses to the Gray announcements and to prepare for investigations. Howard Hunt issued a threat to tell about the plumbers’ activities unless he received hush money. $75,000 was advanced to Hunt that night. White House involvement in the Watergate burglary did not become evident until James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica. In this letter McCord explained that he wanted to disclose the details of Watergate. The letter made charges that witnesses had committed perjury at the trial and that defendants were pressured to plead guilty and remain silent. McCord implicated Dean and Magruder in the break-in. They accused other White House and CRP officials in return. Investigators were told that Mitchell approved the break-in. They also learned that transcripts of conversations taped at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters were given to Gordon Strachan, staff assistant to Haldeman, for delivery to Haldeman. Erlichman ordered the destruction of documents.
On April 30, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and Dean resigned. The White House Tapes Alexander Butterfield, a former White House official, testified in July 1973 that Nixon had taped conversations in his office. Special Prosecutor Alexander Cox immediately subpoenaed tapes relevant to the investigation. Nixon refused to release them. Judge Sirica directed Nixon to let him hear the tapes. Nixon appealed the order, arguing that a president was excused from judicial orders enforcing subpoenas and that under the concept of executive privilege only he could decide which communications could be disclosed. The U.S. court of appeals upheld Sirica’s decision, but Nixon then proposed that Senator John Stennis (Democrat from Mississippi) listen to the tapes and verify an edited version that Nixon would submit to the grand jury and to the Senate committee.
Cox rejected this proposal and Nixon’s order that he make no further attempts to obtain tapes. Attorney General Richardson, having assured Congress that the prosecutor would be free to pursue the investigation, resigned rather than obey Nixon’s order to fire Cox. On October 20, Nixon dismissed both Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus and Cox. This “Saturday night massacre” ignited a rush of criticism, and triggered serious moves to impeach Nixon. Nixon then agreed to give the tapes to Sirica, and he appointed Leon Jaworski, a Texas attorney, to succeed Cox. Nixon guaranteed that Jaworski would be free of White House control. One shocking disclosure followed another. The White House said that two of the subpoenaed conversations had never been taped. One tape contained an eighteen-minute gap.
White House officials and Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, gave confusing testimony on how the gap might have occurred. Six court appointed electronics experts said that at least five separate erasures had caused the gap. Many people concluded that someone had deliberately destroyed evidence. On March 1, 1974, seven former aides of the president Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Colson, Strachan, Robert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson were indicted for conspiring to botch the Watergate investigation. Colson later pleaded guilty to charges concerning the Ellsberg case and was dismissed of the cover-up charges. Charges against Strachan were dropped. The remaining five went on trial and all but Parkinson were found guilty. Evidence against Nixon, given to Judge Sirica by the grand jury, was turned over by the judge to the House Judiciary Committee, which had begun its impeachment investigation. When the committee subpoenaed forty-two more tapes, Nixon agreed to release publicly and to the committee the edited transcripts of forty-six conversations. Jaworski asked Sirica to subpoena sixty-four tapes and documents. Nixon refused to honor the subpoena, and Jaworski took the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court rejected Nixon’s claim that he had absolute authority to withhold material from the prosecutor, and ordered him to obey the subpoena.
Nixon finally did. On July 29 and 30 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. The first one said that the president knowingly covered-up the crimes of Watergate. The second said that he used Government Agencies to violate the Constitution of the United States. The third asserted that he would be impeached because of the withholding of evidence from Congress. Nixon’s Resignation Nixon’s support in Congress and popularity nationwide steadily eroded. On August 5, 1974, three tapes revealed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to stop investigation of the Watergate break-in. The tapes also showed that Nixon himself had helped to direct the cover-up of the administration’s involvement in the affair. Rather than face almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, the first United States president to do so. A month later his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him for all crimes he might have committed while in office; Nixon was then immune from federal prosecution.
Conclusion Many Americans expressed relief and exhilaration that the national nightmare was over. Many were relieved to be rid of Richard Nixon, who had lost virtually all the wide popularity that had won him his landslide reelection victory only two years before. And many were also exhilarated that the system had worked. But the wave of good feeling could not obscure the deeper and more lasting damage of the Watergate crisis. The Watergate burglary and the scandals associated with the burglary were about more than Nixon’s fall from power. Watergate was a symptom of the times, an age of war and deep national division. Watergate was about the constitutional balance of power, the limits of power, and the abuse of power. Watergate was about a seamy side of politics that before the scandal most Americans scarcely imagined existed. Watergate was about ambition overriding good judgment and fair play; but it was also about a political culture and political system that often rewarded just such ambition. Watergate was contradictory, controversial, and ultimately, compelling.
The Watergate Scandal Richard Millhouse Nixon was the thirty-seventh President of the United States of America from 1969 until 1974. Nixon completed his first term as President in 1973 and was re-elected for the position for the next four years. However, Nixon would have his time in the White House cut short by the series of events that occurred in the twenty-six months that followed the Watergate burglary. On June 17, 1972 five men, one White House employee and four Cubans, broke into the Watergate Office Building in Washington, DC in an attempt to bug the Democratic National Committee (DNC) office. The break in and the events that took place afterwards led to the resignation of Richard Millhouse Nixon on August 8, 1974. The morning of June 18, Nixon was at his home in Key Biscayne, FL. when he read a headline about the Watergate break in. The idea was out of this world and Nixon did not believe what he was reading. Nixon dismissed the story as a political prank (Nixon 625-626). James McCord, Bernard Barker, Virgilo Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, and Frank Sturgis had been arrested charged with second-degree burglary by the Washington police (WHT 820).
McCord, a former CIA officer, was employed by the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) as a security consultant. Ironically McCord was supposed to prevent the very things he was doing to the DNC. Nixon telephoned Charles Colson, a special counsel to President Nixon, that evening to discuss the Watergate break in. Colson said, he was so furious…he threw an ashtray across the room and was outraged that anybody even remotely connected with the campaign would have anything to do with a thing like Watergate. (White 161) Nixon did not understand why anyone would try to bug the DNC, because no useful information could be rendered from anything recorded there. What started out as a prank in the eyes of President Nixon had now become a possible issue in the re-election campaign (Nixon 629). John Dean served as a special counsel to President Nixon during his term of office. When Dean learned of the break in he wrote it was somewhat sickening and did not want to learn more about Watergate (Colondy and Gettlin 164).
Dean did however learn more about Watergate because John Erlichman, chief domestic affairs advisor to President Nixon, ordered Dean to find out the entire story by any means Teague 2 possible (White 161). Dean was the best choice to head up a cover-up scandal because he had worked in Congress and for the Justice Department. Dean subsequently held a meeting with Gordon Liddy, counsel member to the CRP, in a park where Liddy informed Dean of all the ins and outs of the Watergate burglary. Dean learned that Bob Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff, had received transcripts from wiretaps in the DNC. Dean later testified to Watergate investigators that he spoke to Richard Kleindiest, U.S. Attorney General, that the investigation could lead to the White House and cause problems in an election year for President Nixon. He realized that if Haldeman was drawn into the picture Nixon also would be put in the spotlight after a short period. Nixon began to focus on what the people involved could say to hurt the Re-election campaign.
It is here where Nixon first begins to become involved in the cover-up of the Watergate Scandal. Nixon first reacted in a way that would lead to larger problems for him. Nixon tried figure out how Watergate could be used for a political advantage instead of trying to sort out the problem and deal with it the correct and legal way (Colondy and Gettlin 205-211) The Watergate Operation would be focused on the Democratic view of Castro. McCord was reportedly telling officials that the Cubans were putting in the bug for their own reasons. Haldeman reported to Nixon that Howard Hunt, White House consultant, was found to be in the address book of one of the arrested Watergate Burglars. This concerned Nixon because know the conspiracy was getting higher and higher into the White House ranks.
Haldeman then told Nixon that Hunt was involved in the Bay of Pigs Operation and had worked with one of the Cubans before. Soon after the conversation with Haldeman, Nixon found out that Hunt was the largest conspirator in the Watergate Burglary and Colson had nothing to do with it. He decided to try and shift the attention to the Cubans (White 149-155). Nixon saw advantages in this idea because it would take the heat off of the CRP, and make it appear as if Cuban nationalists were scared of the Democrats. During an August 29, 1972 press conference, his first in three months, President Nixon stated, Within our own staff, under my direction, the counsel to the president, Mr. Dean, has conducted a complete investigation of all leads which might involve any present members of the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed was involved in this bizarre Teague 3 incident…what really hurts is if you try to cover things like this up. (WHT 828) Dean was surprised at this statement because it was the first time he heard of his inquiries publicly and also not bit of it was true.
Dean knew that Nixon knew of the involvement of Liddy, Hunt, and several other White House employees. President Nixon all the while was becoming more upset at the situation and was looking for answers from his staff. Haldeman held a senior meeting trying to find something he could tell the president. Haldeman told Nixon that Liddy was responsible for the Watergate break in and Nixon immediately focused on John Mitchell, director of the CRP, who was the employer of Liddy. Nixon did not believe that Mitchell was involved but there was a possibility and if he were that would mean trouble for the White House (Nixon 635-637). Nixon ordered the use of the CIA to put an end to the investigations of the FBI. This was the first personal crime that Nixon committed. Nixon knew that this would work because the FBI and the CIA had a long-standing agreement that neither one would interfere with another ones secret operations.
The FBI became convinced that it there was CIA involvement. Before this the FBI had no grounds on which to stop the investigation of Watergate but now they did. Dean explained the theory introduced by the Cuban lawyers as an attempt to quiet the Watergate investigations. They would simply find something that the Democrats did and did not want it made public. Then to transfer attention away from the Watergate investigation, the CRP would release the material and prove the Democrats were trying to hide it (White 194-196). Nixon wanted to know what the Senate was planning since the cover-up evidence began to point directly to him. This set the stage for numerous Oval Office meetings between Dean and President Nixon in February and March of 1973. Now President Nixon realized that his re-election was in jeopardy and decided to deal with Watergate as best as he could.
Nixon asked Dean to tell him the entire story and the truth. He needed this to be able to stay one step ahead of everybody. Until now he had been able to sort of avoid the pressure of Watergate but it was exploding and he had to take a stand, publicly. The first problem Nixon had to worry about is the fact that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was asking for records of Herb Kalmbach, personal attorney to Nixon. Nixon was not too worried but what he did not know and Dean did not tell him was that Kalmbach was used to raise and deliver hush money for McCord Teague 4 and the Cubans. If Kalmbach was exposed, Dean knew his role in the cover-up would be exposed as well and destroys his life (Kutler 433-434). As Nixon became more and more worried about the indictments reaching him, he got deeper and deeper into the cover-up. Nixon made it clear to Dean that the White House had no actual involvement in the burglaries and the CRP orchestrated it all.
Nixon explained all of this so that Dean could tell Kleindiest who was actually responsible and to divert attention from the higher ranks of the White House. Nixon truly believed that not anyone believed he had a part in Watergate, however, Dean was not telling Nixon the entire story, particularly his involvement in the ordeal. Dean was all but making Nixon cover-up Watergate without him even knowing about it. In the meetings, Dean is often taking the focus away from him by discussing Mitchell and Haldeman continually. Several times throughout the ordeal Nixon wondered if was too late to cut the losses and have everybody admit to their own involvement. Dean never allowed this to happen due to the fact that he would have to tell of his participation and would be in trouble with the White House and the Law. April 30, 1973, four high-ranking White House executives resign their positions. Erlichman, Kleindiest, Haldeman, and Dean do so.
Dean had been asked to resign before yet he refused by stating, I will not be made a scapegoat…. I will only resign with the two presidential advisors. (WHT 847) The involvement of the CIA and FBI to help the cover-up are also made known to investigators. Archibald Cox was named to prosecute the Watergate case before a grand jury on May 18 (White 248-250). John Dean was enjoying a visit at Camp David when he found out the news. Understanding that he could no longer cover-up for himself or others he decided to play his trump card to prosecutors. Dean had cooperated with the investigation all along but had been denied immunity for his help. Dean reportedly told prosecutors that he could deliver the P. Dean was the chief witness against Nixon during the trials that started in May 1973. Dean testified that he was deeply involved in the cover-up and Nixon knew everything that Dean did to cover-up the incident. Richard Nixon kept recordings of all his meetings in his office and this led to events that would remove him from the Presidency.
These tapes tragically affected Nixon after they were released. Nixon tried to keep them from court but a United States Supreme Court ruling made it clear that not even the Teague 5 President can withhold information in a criminal case. On June 23, 1972 the smoking gun was recorded in the Oval Office. Many say that this tape almost single handedly caused the end of the Nixon era as President of the US. This tape is referred to as the smoking gun because it is direct evidence of criminal guilt. On this tape President Nixon told Bob Haldeman to obstruct justice by having the CIA impede the FBIs investigation of the Watergate break in (Nixon 848-851). In July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that Richard Nixon be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.
The committee claimed that Nixon had obstructed justice, abused presidential powers, and withheld evidence in a criminal case. Nixon was forced to release the smoking gun on August 5, 1974. On August 8, Richard Nixon issued a statement that he would be resigning as the President of the United States effective at noon on August 9, 1974. Therefore on August 9, Gerald Rudolph Ford became the thirty-eighth President of the United States. Ford immediately pardoned Richard Nixon of any and all federal crimes he may have committed while in office. Richard Milhous Nixon died on April 22, 1994 leaving behind his wife and two daughters.