The Watergate Crisis does not refer simply to a single event, but to the sequence of events following June 17, 1972. On this day, several burglars were arrested bugging the Democratic Party’s National Committee offices, and these burglars were found to be closely associated with President Nixon’s re-election campaign. However, this event alone was not enough to damage Nixon’s reputation—Nixon swore that his administration had had no part in this espionage, and so was successfully re-elected in the 1972 election.
After the break-in had come to light, however, the crisis escalated. Nixon was later found to have lied about many of the events leading up to Watergate. Nixon himself arranged for payments to be made to each of the burglars to keep them quiet about his involvement. Furthermore, all statements that he had made claiming that he had had no direct involvement with the wiretapping of Democratic Party phones were shown to be untrue.
It eventually became apparent that Nixon had secretly taped every meeting during his time in the Oval Office. Nixon attempted to claim that executive privilege gave him the right to withhold these tapes, as he believed himself to be above the law in this way. However, it was ruled to be an obstruction of justice. The tapes proved that Nixon had engaged in illegal activity, organizing the burglary of the Democratic Party’s National Committee offices, the payoff of many people involved, and extensive attempts to cover up this involvement.
Perhaps the worst of the cover-up was known as the “Saturday Night Massacre”—an evening on which Nixon ordered his Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General to fire the Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. In response, both refused Nixon’s order and resigned, leaving Solicitor General Bork to fire Cox.
All of these events contributed to the end of the Nixon presidency.
- Watergate Scandal. History. Retrieved from www.history.com/topics/watergate.
- Watergate: The Scandal That Brought Down Nixon. Watergate. Retrieved from watergate.info.
- Presidential Impeachment Proceedings: Richard Nixon. History Place. Retrieved from www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/impeachments/nixon.htm.