Watergate Scandal

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Before the summer of 1972, the word "Watergate" meant nothing more than an office and luxurious apartment complex in Washington, D.C. As a result of a "third-rate burglary" on June 17 of that year, it came to be associated with the greatest political scandal of that century and would change the lives of the many people involved — especially President Richard M. Nixon.

While doing his rounds at the Watergate Hotel in the early morning of June 17, 1972, security guard Frank Wills found a door, located between the basement stairwell and the parking garage, that was being prevented from latching by a piece of tape. He removed the tape and continued his rounds. Returning to the same spot later, he discovered that someone had re-taped the door. His curiosity now aroused, he called the police. Around 2:30 a.m., after the police arrived, five men, wearing business suits and latex gloves, were arrested in the offices of the Democratic National Committee. The men had been repairing wiretapping equipment and, according to some, taking pictures of documentation.

The five burglars were later identified as Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, and James W. McCord Jr. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post was present at their arraignment and overheard McCord mention "CIA" in connection with his occupation. Another of the arrested men identified his occupation as "anti-communist." Intrigued, Woodward investigated further. It was later established that McCord was responsible for security for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP), i.e. to re-elect Republican Richard M. Nixon. Another link to the White House came to light when the phone number for E. Howard Hunt, a former White House employee, was found in Barker's notebook.

It later appeared that Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, who was a member of the “Plumbers” and therefore connected with the White House, had been stationed nearby and were in communication with the burglars. The White House’s Special Investigation Unit, nicknamed the “Plumbers,” had been established by John Ehrlichman to prevent information leaks from the White House and were also involved in various activities perpetrated against Democrats and antiwar protestors. Their most famous mission was the break-in at the home of former Pentagon employee Daniel Ellsberg, where they unsuccessfully attempted to prevent further leaks of confidential information, the Pentagon Papers). Four of the burglars had CIA connections and had been involved in the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

Almost immediately, a cover-up was undertaken by persons associated with the president and his campaign. Jeb Magruder and others destroyed documents and lied to investigators. The acting director of the FBI, L. Patrick Gray, received and destroyed documents from Ehrlichman, who was a top aide to the president, and from White House council John Dean III. After learning from White House Chief of Staff Robert Haldeman on June 23, 1972, that his former attorney general John Mitchell, who was now running the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), might be involved; President Nixon instructed Haldeman to head off a possible FBI investigation. Nixon argued that the investigation might interfere with a CIA operation. Dean and others later tried to get the CIA to go along with the plan. On July 1, Mitchell resigned from the CREEP. He cited "personal reasons."

Woodward teamed up with Carl Bernstein to report on the Watergate scandal throughout the summer. Woodward and Bernstein received information from someone with inside knowledge of the White House, a source known as "Deep Throat."* According to Woodward, Deep Throat only confirmed information that Woodward had already received from other inside sources. The Post's interest in the case was not shared much by other newspapers. Although the Post continued to investigate, little more came to light during the balance of the campaign. On August 19, Nixon declared that no...
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