The Watergate scandal or the Watergate affair was an American political scandal in the 1970s that revealed illicit methods had been used during the 1972 presidential campaign. The scandal eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon (R-California) in 1974.
Presidential election campaign
In November 1972, Republican Richard Nixon won the US presidential election against Democratic candidate U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota). The proportions were very different a year earlier. In the Democratic camp, the left-wing McGovern had no chance against moderate Senator Edmund Muskie (D-Maine).
The latter seemed promising against unpopular President Nixon, who had failed to deliver on his promise to end the Vietnam War.
Strange things happened during the campaign. The Republicans seemed to know Muskie’s strategy exactly. In their speeches, information came out from the Democrats’ campaign team, driving Muskie to despair. George McGovern, unaware of anything, took advantage of Muskie’s weakening and won primary after primary, and finally the nomination.
And that was what Nixon had been all about. McGovern was far too radical to stand a chance. Moreover, he was now bothered by the inside information that the Republicans seemed to have.
On the night of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested during a break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Complex in Washington. The purpose of the break-in was likely to be eavesdropping.
However, it was also speculated that the break-in was intended to obtain incriminating papers on billionaire Howard Hughes’ payments to Nixon and to link the Democrats to Hughes. Larry O’Brien, the chairman of the Democrats’ campaign team whose office was broken into, had been a paid lobbyist for Hughes since 1968. Later, the burglars paid their first visit to the headquarters on May 28, 1972.
Documents were photographed, and eavesdropping equipment was installed. Unsatisfied with the results, John Mitchell of the Republican Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) ordered the burglars to visit again, aiming to get better material.
A year later, the five, plus Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt was found guilty of the burglary by Judge John Sirica.
The journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post revealed the real cause of the burglary. The reporters found that the break-in was just part of a covert operation led by President Richard Nixon to thwart the Democrats’ election campaign. However, the president claimed to have nothing to do with the illegal actions at all levels.
Woodward and Bernstein had been writing about the Watergate affair for months at the time. The trail the reporters followed brought them higher up the political ladder. At one point, it even led directly through the gates of the White House: the president’s personal assistant and attorney gave orders to sabotage the Democratic campaign.
The young Woodward and Bernstein’s detective work revealed the links between the burglary and the Republican committee for re-election of the president and illegal acts in financing his 1972 election campaign.
President Nixon was also heard tape recordings of his meetings routinely and tracked phone calls. Nixon himself continued to maintain his innocence. When the tapes were claimed, he fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who refused to have the proceedings stopped, further troubling Nixon.
In 1973, the effects of the scandal were felt in the White House. On April 30, 1973, Nixon asked his two principal advisers, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, to resign. Both were eventually charged with, among other things, perjury and sentenced to prison. At the same time, White House attorney John Dean was put on hold.
In 1974 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the tape recordings should be released. This proved Nixon’s involvement in both the break-in and covering up the events, although an important passage appeared to have been deleted.
To avoid impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. His successor Gerald Ford (R-Michigan) granted him amnesty for all criminal acts he committed or allegedly committed during his presidency.
In 2003, Jeb Magruder, Nixon’s special assistant and leader of the President’s Re-election Committee, stated that Nixon was not only involved in the cover-up of the Watergate burglaries but had ordered it by phone.
One of the Watergate scandals was that it did not make China a superpower since the promises made by Henry Kissinger to Mao could no longer be fulfilled. This concerned the lifting of the arms embargo and the embargo on the supply of advanced technology to China