MARIANNE GARCIA PEREA
THE WATERGATE SCANDAL
The Watergate scandal was a political scandal in the United States in the 1970s. Named for the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., effects of the scandal ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, President of the United States, on August 9, 1974. It also resulted in the indictment and conviction of several Nixon administrationofficials.
The scandal began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972. The subsequent investigation by the FBI connected the men to the 1972 Committee to Re-elect the President by a slush fund.
President Nixon's staff conspired to cover up the break-in. As evidence mounted against thepresident's staff, which included former staff members tesifying against them in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations. Recordings from these tapes implicated the president, revealing that he had attempted to cover up the break-in. After a series of courtbattles, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the president had to hand over the tapes; he ultimately complied.
Facing near-certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and a strong possibility of a conviction in the Senate, Nixon resigned the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald Ford, would issue a pardon unto President Nixon.
On June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, asecurity guard at the Watergate Complex, noticed tape covering the latch on locks on several doors in the complex (leaving the doors unlocked). He took the tape off, and thought nothing of it. An hour later, he discovered that someone had retaped the locks. Willis called the police and five men were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) office. The five men were VirgilioGonzález, Bernard Barker, James W. McCord, Jr., Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis. The five were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. On September 15, a grand jury indicted them and two other men (E. Howard Hunt, Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy]) for conspiracy, burglary, and violation of federal wiretapping laws.
The men who broke into the officewere tried and convicted on January 30, 1973. After much investigation, all five men were directly or indirectly tied to the 1972 Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP, or sometimes pejoratively referred to as CREEP) and the trial judge, John J. Sirica, suspected a conspiracy involving higher-echelon government officials. In March 1973, James McCord wrote a letter to Sirica, claiming that hewas under political pressure to plead guilty and he implicated high-ranking government officials, including former Attorney General John Mitchell. His letter helped to elevate the affair into a more prominent political scandal.
The hearings held by the Senate Committee, in which Dean and other former administration officials delivered testimony, were broadcast from May 17 to August 7, 1973,causing political damage to the President. Each network maintained coverage of the hearings every third day, starting with ABC on May 17 and ending with NBC on August 7. An estimated 85% of Americans with television sets tuned in to at least one portion of the hearings.
On July 13, 1973, Donald Sanders, the Deputy Minority Counsel, asked Alexander Butterfield if there were any type of recordingsystems in the White House. Butterfield answered that, though he was reluctant to say so, there was a system in the White House that automatically recorded everything in the Oval Office and other rooms in the White House, including the Cabinet Room and Nixon's private office in the Old Executive Office Building. Later, Chief Minority Counsel Fred Thompson asked Butterfield if he was "aware of the...
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