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"Watergate" redirects here. For the buildings, see . For other uses, see .

For a chronological guide to this subject, see .

The Watergate scandal was a major that occurred in the United States during the early 1970s, following a break-in by five men at the (DNC) headquarters at the in on June 17, 1972, and 's administration's subsequent attempt to cover up its involvement. After the five burglars were caught and the conspiracy was discovered—chiefly through the work of a few journalists, Congressional staffers and an election-finance watchdog official —Watergate was investigated by the . Meanwhile, Nixon's administration resisted its probes, which led to a .

The term Watergate, by , has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. Those activities included such as the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious. Nixon and his close aides also ordered investigations of activist groups and political figures, using the (FBI), the (CIA), and the (IRS) as political weapons.[]

The scandal led to the discovery of multiple abuses of power by members of the Nixon administration, that led to , and Nixon's resignation. The scandal also resulted in the of 69 people, with trials or resulting in 48 being found guilty, many of whom were top Nixon officials.

The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex on Saturday, June 17, 1972. The FBI investigated and discovered a connection between cash found on the burglars and a used by the (CRP), the official organization of Nixon's campaign. In July 1973, evidence mounted against the president's staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the The investigation revealed that Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and that he had many conversations.

After a series of court battles, the unanimously ruled that the president was obliged to release the tapes to government investigators (). The tapes revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and to use federal officials to deflect the investigation. Facing virtually certain in the and equally certain conviction by the , Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, preventing the House from impeaching him. On September 8, 1974, his successor, , .

The name "Watergate" and the "" have since become synonymous with political and non-political scandals in the United States, and some other parts of the world.


Wiretapping of the Democratic Party's headquarters

E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, who led the Watergate break-in team, were stationed in a Watergate Hotel room while the burglary was underway. A lookout was posted across the street at the Howard Johnson Hotel. was a 21-year old intern working at the DNC's 6th floor offices in the Watergate Hotel Complex when his prolonged stay on that floor precluded the burglars from entering the offices to correct their earlier wiretap work. During the break-in, Hunt and Liddy would remain in contact with each other and with the burglars by radio. These Chapstick tubes outfitted with tiny microphones were later discovered in Hunt's White House office safe. Transistor radio used in the Watergate break-in Walkie-talkie used in Watergate break-in A DNC filing cabinet from the Watergate office building, damaged by the burglars

On January 27, 1972, , Finance Counsel for the (CRP) and former aide to , presented a campaign intelligence plan to CRP's Acting Chairman , Attorney General , and Presidential Counsel that involved extensive illegal activities against the . According to Dean, this marked "the opening scene of the worst political scandal of the twentieth century and the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency".

Mitchell viewed the plan as unrealistic. Two months later, he was alleged to have approved a reduced version of the plan, including burgling the 's (DNC) headquarters at the in — ostensibly to photograph campaign documents and install listening devices in telephones. Liddy was nominally in charge of the operation, but has since insisted that he was duped by both Dean and at least two of his subordinates, which included former CIA officers and , the latter of which was serving as then-CRP Security Coordinator after John Mitchell had by then resigned as Attorney General to become the CRP chairman.

In May, McCord assigned former FBI agent to carry out the wiretapping and monitor the telephone conversations afterward. McCord testified that he selected Baldwin's name from a registry published by the to work for the Committee to re-elect President Nixon.[] Baldwin first served as bodyguard to Martha Mitchell — John Mitchell's wife, who was living in Washington.[] Baldwin accompanied Martha Mitchell to Chicago.[] Martha did not like Baldwin and described him as the "gauchest character [she'd] ever met".[] The Committee replaced Baldwin with another security man.[]

On May 11, McCord arranged for Baldwin, who investigative reporter described as "somehow special and perhaps well known to McCord",[] to stay at the Howard Johnson's motel across the street from the Watergate complex.[] Room 419 was booked in the name of McCord's company.[] At behest of and , McCord and his team of burglars prepared for their first Watergate break-in, which began on May 28.

Two phones inside the DNC headquarters' offices were said to have been .[] One was 's phone. At the time, Oliver was working as the executive director of the Association of State Democratic Chairmen. The other phone belonged to DNC chairman .[] The FBI found no evidence that O'Brien's phone was bugged;[] however, it was determined that an effective listening device was installed in Oliver's phone.

Despite successfully installing the listening devices, the Committee agents soon determined that they needed repairs. They planned a second "burglary" in order to take care of the situation.

Shortly after midnight on June 17, 1972, Watergate Complex security guard noticed tape covering the on some of the complex's doors leading from the underground parking garage to several offices, which allowed the doors to close but stay unlocked. He removed the tape, thinking nothing of it. But when he returned an hour later and discovered that someone had retaped the locks, he called the police. Five men identified as , , , , and were discovered inside the DNC office and arrested. They were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. The Washington Post reported, "In addition, police found lock-picks and door jimmies, almost ,300 in cash, most of it in 0 bills with the serial numbers in sequence....a short wave receiver that could pick up police calls, 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35 millimeter cameras and three pen-sized tear gas guns." On September 15, a indicted them, as well as Hunt and Liddy, for conspiracy, burglary, and violation of federal wiretapping laws. The five burglars who broke into the office were tried by a jury, with Judge officiating, and pled guilty or were convicted on January 30, 1973.

On the morning of 18 June 1972, G. Gordon Liddy called Jeb Magruder in Los Angeles and informed him that "the four men arrested with McCord were Cuban freedom fighters, whom Howard Hunt recruited." Initially, Nixon's organization and the White House quickly went to work to cover up the crime and any evidence that might have damaged the president and his reelection.

Cover-up and its unraveling

Initial cover-up

Address book of Watergate burglar Bernard Barker, discovered in a room at the Watergate Hotel, June 18, 1972

Within hours of the burglars' arrest, the FBI discovered 's name in Barker and Martínez's address books. Nixon administration officials were concerned because Hunt and Liddy were also involved in a separate secret activity known as the "", which was set up to stop security "" and investigate other sensitive security matters. Dean later testified that top Nixon aide ordered him to "deep six" the contents of Howard Hunt's White House safe. Ehrlichman subsequently denied this. In the end, Dean and the FBI's Acting Director (in separate operations) destroyed the evidence from Hunt's safe.

Nixon's own reaction to the break-in, at least initially, was one of skepticism. Watergate prosecutor James Neal was sure that Nixon had not known in advance of the break-in. As evidence, he cited a conversation taped on June 23 between the President and his Chief of Staff, , in which Nixon asked, "Who was the asshole who ordered it?"[] However, Nixon subsequently ordered Haldeman to have the CIA block the FBI's investigation into the source of the funding for the burglary.

A few days later, Nixon's Press Secretary, , described the event as "a third-rate burglary attempt." On August 29, at a news conference, Nixon stated that Dean had conducted a thorough investigation of the incident, when Dean had actually not conducted any investigations at all. Nixon furthermore said, "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." On September 15, Nixon congratulated Dean, saying, "The way you've handled it, it seems to me, has been very skilful, because you—putting your fingers in the dikes every time that leaks have sprung here and sprung there."

Money trail

On June 19, 1972, the press reported that one of the Watergate burglars was a security aide. Former Attorney General John Mitchell, who at the time was the head of the CRP, denied any involvement with the Watergate break-in or knowledge of the five burglars. On August 1, a ,000 (6,000 today) was found to have been deposited in the US and Mexican bank accounts of one of the Watergate burglars, Bernard Barker. Made out to the Finance Committee of the Committee to Reelect the President, the check was a 1972 campaign donation by . This money (and several other checks which had been lawfully donated to the CRP) had been directly used to finance the burglary/wire tapping team's expenses, hardware, and supplies.

Mr. Barker's multiple national and international businesses all had separate bank accounts, which he was found to have attempted to use to disguise the true origin of the monies being paid to the burglars. The donor's checks demonstrated the burglars' direct link to the finance committee of the CRP.

Donations totaling ,000 (3,000 today) were made by individuals who thought they were making private donations by certified and cashier's checks for the president's re-election. Investigators' examination of the bank records of a Miami company run by Watergate burglar Barker revealed an account controlled by him personally had deposited a check and then transferred it (through the ).

The banks that had originated the checks were keen to ensure the depository institution used by Barker had acted properly in ensuring the checks had been received and endorsed by the check's payee, before its acceptance for deposit in Bernard Barker's account. Only in this way would the issuing banks not be held liable for the unauthorized and improper release of funds from their customers' accounts.

The investigation by the FBI, which cleared Barker's bank of fiduciary malfeasance, led to the direct implication of members of the CRP, to whom the checks had been delivered. Those individuals were the Committee bookkeeper and its treasurer, .

As a private organization, the committee followed normal business practice in allowing only duly authorized individuals to accept and endorse checks on behalf of the Committee. No financial institution could accept or process a check on behalf of the committee unless a duly authorized individual endorsed it. The checks deposited into Barker's bank account were endorsed by Committee treasurer Hugh Sloan, who was authorized by the Finance Committee. However, once Sloan had endorsed a check made payable to the Committee, he had a legal and fiduciary responsibility to see that the check was deposited only into the accounts named on the check. Sloan failed to do that. When confronted with the potential charge of federal bank fraud, he revealed that committee deputy director and finance director had directed him to give the money to .

Liddy, in turn, gave the money to Barker, and attempted to hide its origin. Barker tried to disguise the funds by depositing them into accounts in banks outside of the United States. What Barker, Liddy, and Sloan did not know was that the complete record of all such transactions were held for roughly six months. Barker's use of foreign banks in April and May 1972, to deposit checks and withdraw the funds via cashier's checks and money orders, resulted in the banks keeping the entire transaction records until October and November 1972.

All five Watergate burglars were directly or indirectly tied to the 1972 CRP, thus causing Judge Sirica to suspect a conspiracy involving higher-echelon government officials.

On September 29, 1972, the press reported that John Mitchell, while serving as Attorney General, controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance intelligence-gathering against the Democrats. On October 10, the FBI reported the Watergate break-in was part of a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage on behalf of the Nixon re-election committee. Despite these revelations, Nixon's campaign was never seriously jeopardized; on November 7, the in one of the biggest landslides in American political history.

Role of the media

The connection between the break-in and the re-election committee was highlighted by media coverage—in particular, investigative coverage by , , and . The coverage dramatically increased publicity and consequent political and legal repercussions. Relying heavily upon , Post reporters and uncovered information suggesting that knowledge of the break-in, and attempts to cover it up, led deeply into the upper reaches of the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, and the White House. Woodward and Bernstein interviewed , the bookkeeper for Nixon, who revealed to them information about the mishandling of funds and records being destroyed.

Chief among the Post's anonymous sources was an individual whom Woodward and Bernstein had nicknamed ; 33 years later, in 2005, the informant was identified as , deputy director of the FBI during that period of the 1970s, something Woodward later confirmed. Felt met secretly with Woodward several times, telling him of Howard Hunt's involvement with the Watergate break-in, and that the White House staff regarded the stakes in Watergate extremely highly. Felt warned Woodward that the FBI wanted to know where he and other reporters were getting their information, as they were uncovering a wider web of crimes than the FBI first disclosed. All of the secret meetings between Woodward and Felt took place at an underground parking garage somewhere in over a period from June 1972 to January 1973. Prior to resigning from the FBI on June 22, 1973, Felt also anonymously planted about Watergate with , the and other publications.

The garage in Rosslyn where Woodward and Felt met, seen in January 2018; also visible is the historical marker erected by the county to note its significance.

During this early period, most of the media failed to grasp the full implications of the scandal, and concentrated reporting on other topics related to the 1972 presidential election. Most outlets ignored or downplayed Woodward and Bernstein's scoops; the crosstown and the even ran stories incorrectly discrediting the Post's articles. After the Post revealed that made payments from the secret fund, newspapers like the and the failed to publish the information, but did publish the White House's denial of the story the following day. The White House also sought to isolate the Post's coverage by tirelessly attacking that newspaper while declining to criticize other damaging stories about the scandal from the and .

After it was learned that one of the convicted burglars wrote to Judge Sirica alleging a high-level cover-up, the media shifted its focus. Time magazine described Nixon as undergoing "daily hell and very little trust." The distrust between the press and the Nixon administration was mutual and greater than usual due to lingering dissatisfaction with events from the . At the same time, public distrust of the media was polled at more than 40%.

Nixon and top administration officials discussed using government agencies to "get" (or retaliate against) those they perceived as hostile media organizations. The discussions had precedent.[] At the request of Nixon's White House in 1969, the FBI tapped the phones of five reporters. In 1971, the White House requested an audit of the tax return of the editor of , after he wrote a series of articles about the financial dealings of , a friend of Nixon.

The Administration and its supporters accused the media of making "wild accusations", putting too much emphasis on the story, and of having a liberal bias against the Administration. Nixon said in a May 1974 interview with supporter that if he had followed the liberal policies that he thought the media preferred, "Watergate would have been a blip." The media noted that most of the reporting turned out to be accurate; the competitive nature of the media guaranteed widespread coverage of the far-reaching political scandal.

Applications to reached an all-time high in 1974.

Scandal escalates

Rather than ending with the conviction and sentencing to prison of the five Watergate burglars on January 30, 1973, the investigation into the break-in and the Nixon Administration's involvement grew broader. Nixon's conversations in late March and all of April 1973 revealed that not only did he know he needed to remove Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean to gain distance from them, but he had to do so in a way that was least likely to incriminate him and his presidency. Nixon created a new conspiracy—to effect a cover-up of the cover-up—which began in late March 1973 and became fully formed in May and June 1973, operating until his presidency ended on August 9, 1974. On March 23, 1973, Judge Sirica read the court a letter from Watergate burglar , who alleged that had been committed in the Watergate trial, and defendants had been pressured to remain silent. Trying to make them talk, Sirica gave Hunt and two burglars provisional sentences of up to 40 years.

On March 28, on Nixon's orders, aide John Ehrlichman told Attorney General that nobody in the White House had prior knowledge of the burglary. On April 13, Magruder told U.S. attorneys that he had perjured himself during the burglars' trial, and implicated John Dean and John Mitchell.

John Dean believed that he, Mitchell, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman could go to the prosecutors, tell the truth, and save the presidency. Dean wanted to protect the president and have his four closest men take the fall for telling the truth. During the critical meeting between Dean and Nixon on April 15, 1973, Dean was totally unaware of the president's depth of knowledge and involvement in the Watergate cover-up. It was during this meeting that Dean felt that he was being recorded. He wondered if this was due to the way Nixon was speaking, as if he were trying to prod attendees' recollections of earlier conversations about fundraising. Dean mentioned this observation while testifying to the Senate Committee on Watergate, exposing the thread of what were taped conversations that would unravel the fabric of the conspiracy.

Two days later, Dean told Nixon that he had been cooperating with the U.S. attorneys. On that same day, U.S. attorneys told Nixon that Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, and other White House officials were implicated in the cover-up.

On April 30, Nixon asked for the resignation of Haldeman and Ehrlichman, two of his most influential aides. They were later both indicted, convicted, and ultimately sentenced to prison. He asked for the resignation of Attorney General Kleindienst, to ensure no one could claim that his innocent friendship with Haldeman and Ehrlichman could be construed as a conflict. He fired John Dean, who went on to testify before the and said that he believed and suspected the conversations in the Oval Office were being taped. This information became the bombshell that helped force Richard Nixon to resign rather than be impeached.

Writing from prison for New West and magazines in 1977, Ehrlichman claimed Nixon had offered him a large sum of money, which he declined.

The President announced the resignations in an address to the American people:

In one of the most difficult decisions of my Presidency, I accepted the resignations of two of my closest associates in the White House, Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, two of the finest public servants it has been my privilege to know. Because Attorney General Kleindienst, though a distinguished public servant, my personal friend for 20 years, with no personal involvement whatsoever in this matter has been a close personal and professional associate of some of those who are involved in this case, he and I both felt that it was also necessary to name a new Attorney General. The , John Dean, has also resigned.

On the same day, Nixon appointed a new attorney general, , and gave him authority to designate a special counsel for the Watergate investigation who would be independent of the regular hierarchy. In May 1973, Richardson named to the position.

Senate Watergate hearings and revelation of the Watergate tapes

Main article:

See also: and

On February 7, 1973, the United States Senate voted 77-to-0 to approve Senate Resolution and establish a select committee to investigate Watergate, with named chairman the next day. The hearings held by the Senate committee, in which Dean and other former administration officials testified, were broadcast from May 17 to August 7, 1973. The three major networks of the time agreed to take turns covering the hearings live, each network thus maintaining coverage of the hearings every third day, starting with on May 17 and ending with on August 7. An estimated 85% of Americans with television sets tuned into at least one portion of the hearings.

On Friday, July 13, 1973, during a preliminary interview, deputy minority counsel asked White House assistant if there was any type of recording system in the White House. Butterfield said he was reluctant to answer, but finally stated there was a new system in the White House that automatically recorded everything in the , the and others, as well as Nixon's private office in the .

On Monday, July 16, 1973, in front of a live, televised audience, chief minority counsel asked Butterfield whether he was "aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President." Butterfield's revelation of the taping system transformed the Watergate investigation. Cox immediately subpoenaed the tapes, as did the Senate, but Nixon refused to release them, citing his as president, and ordered Cox to drop his subpoena. Cox refused.

"Saturday Night Massacre"

Main article:

On October 20, 1973, after Cox refused to drop the subpoena, Nixon ordered Attorney General to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson resigned in protest rather than carry out the order. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General to fire Cox, but Ruckelshaus also resigned rather than fire him. Nixon's search for someone in the Justice Department willing to fire Cox ended with the . Though Bork said he believed Nixon's order was valid and appropriate, he considered resigning to avoid being "perceived as a man who did the President's bidding to save my job." Bork carried out the presidential order and dismissed the special prosecutor.

These actions met considerable public criticism. Responding to the allegations of possible wrongdoing, in front of 400 managing editors at on November 17, 1973, Nixon stated emphatically, "I'm not a crook." He needed to allow Bork to appoint a new special prosecutor; Bork chose to continue the investigation.

Legal action against Nixon Administration members

On March 1, 1974, a in Washington, D.C., indicted several former aides of Nixon, who became known as the ""—, , , , , , and —for conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation. The grand jury secretly named Nixon as an . The special prosecutor dissuaded them from an indictment of Nixon, arguing that a President can only be indicted after he leaves office. John Dean, , and other figures had already pled guilty. On April 5, 1974, , the former Nixon appointments secretary, was convicted of lying to the grand jury. Two days later, the same grand jury indicted , the Republican , on three charges of perjury before the Senate committee.

Release of the transcripts

President Nixon giving a televised address explaining release of edited transcripts of the tapes on April 29, 1974

The Nixon administration struggled to decide what materials to release. All parties involved agreed that all pertinent information should be released. Whether to release unedited and vulgarity divided his advisers. His legal team favored releasing the tapes unedited, while Press Secretary preferred using an edited version where "" would replace the raw material. After several weeks of debate, they decided to release an edited version. Nixon announced the release of the transcripts in a speech to the nation on April 29, 1974. Nixon noted that any audio pertinent to national security information could be from the released tapes.

Initially, Nixon gained a positive reaction for his speech. As people read the transcripts over the next couple of weeks, however, former supporters among the public, media and political community called for Nixon's resignation or impeachment. Vice President said, "While it may be easy to delete characterization from the printed page, we cannot delete characterization from people's minds with a wave of the hand." The Senate Republican Leader said the transcripts revealed a "deplorable, disgusting, shabby, and immoral" performance on the part of the President and his former aides. The House Republican Leader agreed with Scott, and Rhodes recommended that if Nixon's position continued to deteriorate, he "ought to consider resigning as a possible option."

The editors of , a newspaper that had supported 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 wrote, "Reading the transcripts is an emetic experience; one comes away feeling unclean." This newspaper continued that, while the transcripts may not have revealed an indictable offense, they showed Nixon contemptuous of the United States, its institutions, and its people. According to Time magazine, the Republican Party leaders in the felt that while there remained a significant number of Nixon loyalists in the party, the majority believed that Nixon should step down as quickly as possible. They were disturbed by the bad language and the coarse, vindictive tone of the conversations in the transcripts.

Supreme Court

The issue of access to the tapes went to the United States Supreme Court. On July 24, 1974, in , the Court ruled unanimously (8 to 0) that claims of executive privilege over the tapes were void. (Then-Justice —who had recently been appointed to the Court by Nixon and most recently served in the Nixon Justice Department as Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel—recused himself from the case.) The Court ordered the President to release the tapes to the special prosecutor. On July 30, 1974, Nixon complied with the order and released the subpoenaed tapes to the public.

Release of the tapes

The tapes revealed several crucial conversations that took place between the President and his counsel, John Dean, on March 21, 1973. In this conversation, Dean summarized many aspects of the Watergate case, and focused on the subsequent cover-up, describing it as a "cancer on the presidency." The burglary team was being paid for their silence and Dean stated: "That's the most troublesome post-thing, because Bob [Haldeman] is involved in that; John [Ehrlichman] is involved in that; I am involved in that; Mitchell is involved in that. And that's an obstruction of justice." Dean continued, saying that Howard Hunt was blackmailing the White House demanding money immediately. Nixon replied that the money should be paid: "... just looking at the immediate problem, don't you have to have—handle Hunt's financial situation damn soon? … you've got to keep the cap on the bottle that much, in order to have any options."

At the time of the initial congressional proceedings, it was not known if Nixon had known and approved of the payments to the Watergate defendants earlier than this conversation. Nixon's conversation with Haldeman on August 1, 1972, is one of several that establishes he did. Nixon said: "Well ... they have to be paid. That's all there is to that. They have to be paid." During the congressional debate on impeachment, some believed that impeachment required a criminally indictable offense. Nixon's agreement to make the blackmail payments was regarded as an affirmative act to obstruct justice.

On December 7, 1973, investigators found that an of one recorded tape had been erased. , Nixon's longtime personal secretary, said she had accidentally erased the tape by pushing the wrong pedal on her tape player when answering the phone. The press ran photos of the set-up, showing that it was unlikely for Woods to answer the phone while keeping her foot on the pedal. Later analysis in 2003 determined that the tape had been erased in several segments—at least five, and perhaps as many as nine.

Final investigations and resignation

See also:

Nixon's position was becoming increasingly precarious. On February 6, 1974, the approved giving the Judiciary Committee authority to investigate impeachment of the President. On July 27, 1974, the voted 27-to-11 to recommend the first article of impeachment against the president: . The Committee recommended the second article, , on July 29, 1974. The next day, on July 30, 1974, the Committee recommended the third article: . On August 20, 1974, the House authorized the printing of the Committee report H. Rep. 93–1305, which included the text of the resolution impeaching Nixon and set forth articles of impeachment against him.

"Smoking Gun" tape

Nixon Oval Office meeting with H.R. Haldeman "Smoking Gun" Conversation June 23, 1972

On August 5, 1974, the White House released a previously unknown audio tape from June 23, 1972. Recorded only a few days after the break-in, it documented the initial stages of the cover-up: it revealed Nixon and Haldeman had conducted a meeting in the Oval Office where they discussed how to stop the FBI from continuing their investigation of the break-in, as they recognised that there was a high risk that their position in the scandal may be revealed.

Haldeman introduced the topic as follows:

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

After explaining how the money from CRP was traced to the burglars, Haldeman explained to Nixon the cover-up plan: "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.'"

Nixon approved the plan, and after he was given more information about the involvement of his campaign in the break-in, he told Haldeman: "All right, fine, I understand it all. We won't second-guess Mitchell and the rest." Returning to the use of the CIA to obstruct the FBI, he instructed Haldeman: "You call them in. Good. Good deal. Play it tough. That's the way they play it and that's the way we are going to play it."

Nixon denied that this constituted an obstruction of justice, as his instructions ultimately resulted in the CIA truthfully reporting to the FBI that there were no national security issues. Nixon urged the FBI to press forward with the investigation when they expressed concern about interference.

Before the release of this tape, Nixon had denied any involvement in the scandal. He claimed that there were no political motivations in his instructions to the CIA, and claimed he had no knowledge before March 21, 1973, of involvement by senior campaign officials such as . The contents of this tape persuaded Nixon's own lawyers, and , that "the President had lied to the nation, to his closest aides, and to his own lawyers—for more than two years." The tape, which referred to as a "," proved that Nixon had been involved in the cover-up from the beginning.

In the week before Nixon's resignation, Ehrlichman and Haldeman tried unsuccessfully to get Nixon to grant them pardons—which he had promised them before their April 1973 resignations.


"Resignation of Richard Nixon" redirects here. For the nationally televised address from the Oval Office, see .

Further information:

Nixon's resignation letter, August 9, 1974. Pursuant to federal law, the letter was addressed to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. When Kissinger initialed the letter at 11:35 AM, Ford officially became president.

The release of the destroyed Nixon politically. The ten congressmen who had voted against all three articles of impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee announced they would all support the impeachment article accusing Nixon of obstructing justice when the articles came up before the full House.

On the night of August 7, 1974, Senators and and Congressman met with Nixon in the Oval Office. Scott and Rhodes were the Republican leaders in the Senate and House, respectively; Goldwater was brought along as an elder statesman. The three lawmakers told Nixon that his support in Congress had all but disappeared. Rhodes told Nixon that he would face certain impeachment when the articles came up for vote in the full House. Goldwater and Scott told the president that there were enough votes in the Senate to convict him, and that no more than 15 Senators were willing to vote for acquittal.

Realizing that he had no chance of staying in office and that was not in his favor, Nixon decided to resign. In a from the Oval Office on the evening of August 8, 1974, the president said, in part:

In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me. In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future….

I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations. From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require.

I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.

' photo of Nixon leaving the shortly before his resignation became effective, August 9, 1974

The morning that his resignation took effect, the President, with Mrs. Nixon and their family, said farewell to the White House staff in the . A helicopter carried them from the White House to in . Nixon later wrote that he thought, "As the helicopter moved on to Andrews, I found myself thinking not of the past, but of the future. What could I do now?" At Andrews, he and his family boarded Air Force One to in California, and then were transported to his home in .

President Ford's pardon of Nixon

Further information:

Pen used by President Gerald R. Ford to pardon Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974

With Nixon's resignation, Congress dropped its impeachment proceedings. Criminal prosecution was still a possibility both on the federal and state level. Nixon was Vice President as President, who on September 8, 1974, issued a full and unconditional of Nixon, immunizing him from prosecution for any crimes he had "committed or may have committed or taken part in" as president. In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interest of the country. He said that the Nixon family's situation "is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must."

Nixon proclaimed his innocence until his death in 1994. In his official response to the pardon, he said that he "was wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal into a national tragedy."

Some commentators have argued that pardoning Nixon contributed to President Ford's loss of the . Allegations of a secret deal made with Ford, promising a pardon in return for Nixon's resignation, led Ford to testify before the on October 17, 1974.

In his autobiography A Time to Heal, Ford wrote about a meeting he had with Nixon's Chief of Staff, . Haig was explaining what he and Nixon's staff thought were Nixon's only options. He could try to ride out the impeachment and fight against conviction in the Senate all the way, or he could resign. His options for resigning were to delay his resignation until further along in the impeachment process, to try and settle for a censure vote in Congress, or to pardon himself and then resign. Haig told Ford that some of Nixon's staff suggested that Nixon could agree to resign in return for an agreement that Ford would pardon him.

Haig emphasized that these weren't his suggestions. He didn't identify the staff members and he made it very clear that he wasn't recommending any one option over another. What he wanted to know was whether or not my overall assessment of the situation agreed with his. [emphasis in original] ... Next he asked if I had any suggestions as to courses of actions for the President. I didn't think it would be proper for me to make any recommendations at all, and I told him so.

— , A Time to Heal


Final legal actions and effect on the law profession

pled guilty to charges concerning the case; in exchange, the indictment against him for covering up the activities of the was dropped, as it was against Strachan. The remaining five members of the Watergate Seven indicted in March went on trial in October 1974. On January 1, 1975, all but Parkinson were found guilty. In 1976, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Mardian; subsequently, all charges against him were dropped.

Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Mitchell exhausted their appeals in 1977. Ehrlichman entered prison in 1976, followed by the other two in 1977. Since Nixon and many senior officials involved in Watergate were lawyers, the scandal severely tarnished the public image of the legal profession.

The Watergate scandal resulted in 69 government officials being charged and 48 being found guilty, including:

  1. , who resigned to become Director of , convicted of perjury about his involvement in the Watergate break-in. Served 19 months of a one- to four-year sentence.
  2. , Attorney General, convicted of "refusing to answer questions" (contempt of court); given one month in jail.
  3. , Deputy Director of , pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to the burglary, and was sentenced to 10 months to four years in prison, of which he served 7 months before being paroled.
  4. , Advisor to , convicted of obstruction of justice. He served four and a half months.
  5. , Chief of Staff for Nixon, convicted of conspiracy to the burglary, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Served 18 months in prison.
  6. , Counsel to Nixon, convicted of conspiracy to the burglary, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Served 18 months in prison.
  7. , aide to John Ehrlichman, sentenced to six months for his part in the case.
  8. , counsel to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice, later reduced to felony offenses and sentenced to time already served, which totaled 4 months.
  9. , deputy assistant to Nixon, convicted of perjury.
  10. , who resigned to become Finance Chairman of , convicted of multiple counts of illegal campaigning, fined ,000 (in 1975 – ,700 today).
  11. , personal attorney to Nixon, convicted of illegal campaigning. Served 191 days in prison and fined ,000 (in 1974 – ,600 today).
  12. , special counsel to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice. Served 7 months in Federal Maxwell Prison.
  13. , aide to the . Convicted of perjury.
  14. , Special Investigations Group, convicted of masterminding the burglary, original sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Served ​4 1⁄2 years in federal prison.
  15. , security consultant, convicted of masterminding and overseeing the burglary, original sentence of up to 35 years in prison. Served 33 months in prison.
  16. , convicted of six charges of burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping. Served 2 months in prison.
  17. , convicted of burglary, original sentence of up to 40 years in prison. Served 13 months in prison.
  18. , convicted of burglary, original sentence of up to 40 years in prison. Served 18 months in prison.
  19. , convicted of burglary, original sentence of up to 40 years in prison. Served 15 months in prison.
  20. , convicted of burglary, original sentence of up to 40 years in prison. Served 10 months in prison.

To defuse public demand for direct federal regulation of lawyers (as opposed to leaving it in the hands of state or courts), the (ABA) launched two major reforms. First, the ABA decided that its existing (promulgated 1969) was a failure. In 1983 it replaced it with the . The MRPC have been adopted in part or in whole by 49 states (and is being considered[] by the last one, California). Its preamble contains an emphatic reminder that the legal profession can remain self-governing only if lawyers behave properly. Second, the ABA promulgated a requirement that law students at ABA-approved take a course in (which means they must study the MRPC). The requirement remains in effect.

On June 24 and 25, 1975, Nixon gave secret testimony to a . According to news reports at the time, Nixon answered questions about the ​18 1⁄2-minute tape gap, altering White House tape transcripts turned over to the House Judiciary Committee, using the to harass political enemies, and a 0,000 contribution from billionaire . Aided by the , the historian , who has written several books about Nixon and Watergate and had successfully sued for the 1996 public release of the , sued for release of the transcripts of the Nixon grand jury testimony.

On July 29, 2011, U.S. District Judge granted Kutler's request, saying historical interests trumped privacy, especially considering that Nixon and other key figures were deceased, and most of the surviving figures had testified under oath, have been written about, or were interviewed. The transcripts were not immediately released pending the government's decision on whether to appeal. They were released in their entirety on November 10, 2011, although the names of people still alive were redacted.

professor Luke Nichter wrote the chief judge of the federal court in Washington to release hundreds of pages of sealed records of the . In June 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice wrote the court that it would not object to their release with some exceptions. On November 2, 2012, Watergate trial records for G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were ordered unsealed by Federal Judge .

Political and cultural reverberations

According to Thomas J. Johnson, a professor of journalism at , Secretary of State predicted during Nixon's final days that history would remember Nixon as a great president and that Watergate would be relegated to a "minor footnote."

When Congress investigated the scope of the president's legal powers, it belatedly found that consecutive presidential administrations had declared the United States to be in a continuous open-ended since 1950. Congress enacted the in 1976 to regulate such declarations. The Watergate scandal left such an impression on the national and international consciousness that many scandals since then have been labeled with the suffix "."

One of a variety of anti-Ford generated during the 1976 presidential election: it reads "Gerald ... Pardon me!" and depicts a thief cracking a safe labeled "Watergate".

Disgust with the revelations about Watergate, the Republican Party, and Nixon strongly affected results of the November 1974 and , which took place three months after Nixon's resignation. The Democrats gained five seats in the Senate and forty-nine in the House (the newcomers were nicknamed ""). Congress passed legislation that changed , to amend the , as well as to require financial disclosures by key government officials (via the ). Other types of disclosures, such as releasing recent income tax forms, became expected, though not legally required. Presidents since had recorded many of their conversations but the practice purportedly ended after Watergate.

Ford's pardon of Nixon played a major role in his defeat in the against .

In 1977, Nixon arranged with British journalist in the hopes of improving his legacy. Based on a previous interview in 1968, he believed that Frost would be an easy interviewer and was taken aback by Frost's incisive questions. The interview displayed the entire scandal to the American people, and Nixon formally apologized, but his legacy remained tarnished.

In the aftermath of Watergate, "" became part of the American lexicon and is widely believed to have been uttered by Mark Felt to Woodward and Bernstein. The phrase was never used in the 1974 book and did not become associated with it until the was released in 1976.

The parking garage where Woodward and Felt met in Rosslyn still stands. Its significance was noted by Arlington County with a historical marker in 2011. In 2017 it was announced that the garage would be demolished as part of construction of an apartment building on the site; the developers announced that the site's significance would be memorialized within the new complex.

Purpose of the break-in

Despite the enormous impact of the Watergate scandal, the purpose of the break-in of the DNC offices has never been conclusively established. Records from the United States v. Liddy trial, made public in 2013, showed that four of the five burglars testified that they were told the campaign operation hoped to find evidence that linked Cuban funding to Democratic campaigns. The longtime hypothesis suggests that the target of the break-in was the offices of , the DNC Chairman.[] However, O'Brien's name was not on Alfred C. Baldwin III's list of targets that was released in 2013.[] Among those listed were senior DNC official , Oliver's secretary Ida "Maxine" Wells, co-worker Robert Allen and secretary Barbara Kennedy.

Based on these revelations, history professor Luke Nichter, who had successfully petitioned for the release of the information, argued that Woodward and Bernstein were incorrect in concluding, based largely on Watergate burglar James McCord's word, that the purpose of the break-in was to bug O'Brien's phone to gather political and financial intelligence on the Democrats.[] Instead, Nichter sided with late journalist of the New York Times, who had concluded that the committee was seeking to find evidence linking the Democrats to prostitution, as it was alleged that Oliver's office had been used to arrange such meetings. However, Nichter acknowledged that Woodward and Bernstein's theory of O'Brien as the target could not be debunked unless information was released about what Baldwin heard in his bugging of conversations.[]

In 1968, O'Brien was appointed by Vice President to serve as the national director of Humphrey's presidential campaign and, separately, by to serve as Hughes' public-policy lobbyist in Washington. O'Brien was elected national chairman of the DNC in 1968 and 1970. In late 1971, the president's brother, , was collecting intelligence for his brother at the time and asked , an adviser to Howard Hughes, about O'Brien. In 1956, Donald Nixon had borrowed 5,000 from Howard Hughes and had never repaid the loan. The loan's existence surfaced during the campaign, embarrassing Richard Nixon and becoming a political liability. According to author Donald M. Bartlett, Richard Nixon would do whatever was necessary to prevent another family embarrassment. From 1968 to 1970, Hughes withdrew nearly half a million dollars from the Texas National Bank of Commerce for contributions to both Democrats and Republicans, including presidential candidates Humphrey and Nixon. Hughes wanted Donald Nixon and Meier involved but Nixon opposed this.

Meier told Donald that he was sure the Democrats would win the election because they had considerable information on Richard Nixon's illicit dealings with Hughes that had never been released, and that it resided with Larry O'Brien. According to Fred Emery, O'Brien had been a lobbyist for Hughes in a Democrat-controlled Congress, and the possibility of his finding out about Hughes' illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign was too much of a danger for Nixon to ignore.

, who prosecuted the Watergate 7, did not believe Nixon had ordered the break-in because of Nixon's surprised reaction when he was told about it.



Australian criticised the Watergate scandal during in May 1973. Just two years later, in November 1975, Australia experienced its own which led to the dismissal of Whitlam by the Australian Governor-General, .


Chinese then-Premier said in October 1973 that the scandal did not affect the . According to Thai then- of in July 1975, Chairman called the Watergate scandal "the result of 'too much in the U.S.'" Mao called it "an indication of , which he saw as 'disastrous' for Europe." He further said, "Do Americans really want to go isolationist? ... In the two , the Americans came [in] very late, but all the same, they did come in. They haven't been isolationist in practice."


In August 1973, then- said that the scandal had "no cancelling influence on U.S. leadership in the world." Tanaka further said, "The pivotal role of the United States has not changed, so this internal affair will not be permitted to have an effect." In March 1975, Tanaka's successor, , said at a convention of the , "At the time of the Watergate issue in America, I was deeply moved by the scene in the , where each member of the committee expressed his own or her own heart based upon the spirit of the American Constitution. It was this attitude, I think, that rescued American democracy."


Then- said in August 1973, "As one surprising revelation follows another at the Senate hearings on Watergate, it becomes increasingly clear that the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.), today is in no position to offer the moral or strong political and economic leadership for which its friends and allies are yearning." Moreover, Lee said that the scandal may have led the United States to lessen its interests and commitments in world affairs, to weaken its ability to enforce the on Vietnam, and to not react to violations of the Accords. Lee said further that the United States "makes the future of this peace in an extremely bleak one with grave consequence for the contiguous states." Lee then blamed the scandal for economic inflation in Singapore because the was pegged to the at the time, assuming the U.S. dollar was stronger than the British .

Soviet Union

In June 1973, when arrived in the United States to have a one-week meeting with Nixon, Brezhnev told the press, "I do not intend to refer to that matter—[the Watergate]. It would be completely indecent for me to refer to it. ... My attitude toward Mr. Nixon is of very great respect." When one reporter suggested that Nixon and his position with Brezhnev were "weakened" by the scandal, Brezhnev replied, "It does not enter my mind to think whether Mr. Nixon has lost or gained any influence because of the affair." Then he said further that he had respected Nixon because of Nixon's "realistic and constructive approach to ... passing from an era of confrontation to an era of negotiations between nations".

United Kingdom

Talks between Nixon and may have been bugged. Heath did not publicly display his anger, with aides saying that he was unconcerned about having been bugged at the White House. According to officials, Heath commonly had notes taken of his public discussions with Nixon so a recording would not have bothered him. However, officials privately said that if private talks with Nixon were bugged, then Heath would be outraged. Even so, Heath was privately outraged over being taped without his prior knowledge.

Other international reactions

Iranian then-Shah told the press in 1973, "I want to say quite emphatically ... that everything that would weaken or jeopardize the President's power to make decisions in split seconds would represent grave danger for the whole world." An unnamed Kenyan senior official of accused Nixon of lacking interest in Africa and its politics and then said, "American President is so enmeshed in domestic problems created by Watergate that foreign policy seems suddenly to have taken a back seat []." Cuban then-leader said in his December 1974 interview that, of the crimes committed by the Cuban exiles, like killings, attacks on Cuban ports, and spying, the Watergate burglaries and wiretappings were "probably the least of [them]."

Domestic reactions

After the ended the Vietnam War, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in May 1975 that, if the scandal had not caused Nixon to resign, and Congress had not overridden Nixon's veto of the , would not have captured . Kissinger told the in January 1977 that Nixon's presidential powers weakened during his tenure, (rephrased by the media) "prevent[ing] the United States from exploiting the [scandal]."

The publisher of , John P. McGoff, said in January 1975 that the media overemphasized the scandal, though he called it "an important issue," overshadowing more serious topics, like a declining economy and an .

See also


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External links

Further reading

  • Hersh, S, 1983, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, Faber & Faber, London. The Vault. . Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  • . 's Office of the Inspector General. Retrieved September 5, 2016. 
  • . United States National Archives. 1972–1979. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  • . United States National Archives. 1971–1977. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  • Campbell, W. Joseph (June 16, 2012). . BBC. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  • Doyle, James (1977). Not Above the Law: the battles of Watergate prosecutors Cox and Jaworski. New York: William Morrow and Company.  . 
  • (1984). Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA. New York: Random House, Inc.  .  This was the first book to question the orthodox narrative of The Washington Post.
  • (1992). . New York: BasicBooks.  . 
  • (2012). . Lawrence, KN: University Press of Kansas.  . 
  • (1975). . New York: Atheneum Publishers.  .  A comprehensive history of the Watergate Scandal by Teddy White, a respected journalist and author of
  • and wrote a best-selling book based on their experiences covering the Watergate Scandal for titled , published in 1974. , starring and as Woodward and Bernstein respectively, was released in 1976.
  • Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl (2005). . New York: Simon & Schuster.  .  – contains further details from March 1973 through September 1974.
  • U.S. News Staff (2014-08-08). U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on 2016-10-24. Retrieved 2017-01-07 – via , but originally published in U.S. News & World Report on Aug. 19, 1974. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown ()
  • Rawson, Hugh (2013-01-13). . dictionaryblog.cambridge.org – A blog from Cambridge Dictionary. Archived from on 2017-08-05. Retrieved 2017-08-05 – via . 
  • Rawson, Hugh (2013-01-28). . dictionaryblog.cambridge.org – A blog from Cambridge Dictionary. Archived from on 2017-08-05. Retrieved 2017-08-05 – via . 
  • Waldron, Lamar (2012). The Hidden History. Berkeley, California: Counterpoint publishers.  . 

External links

  1. "A New Explanation of Watergate," by J. Anthony Lukas, The New York Times, January 11, 1984.