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What Was Watergate
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  • 1. What
  • 2. More complicated than some of the scandals that have followed in its wake,
    Watergate involved a wide-ranging web of political espionage. It also took down a
    president, changed the role of the news media in public debate, and challenged
    many people's assumptions about the dignity of public office. The stage was set in
    1968, when Richard M. Nixon -- who had lost the Republicans the presidency eight years earlier -- made a comeback and won the White House.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 3. The Watergate, which gave the scandal its name, was a hotel and office complex in
    Washington. In 1972, the Democratic National Committee had its headquarters
    there. (The Watergate is still around, and is still a part of public life -- Monica
    Lewinsky took refuge there at the height of the scandal about her affair with
    President Clinton.)
    (Globe Photo)
  • 4. Without Frank Wills, the scandal never would have happened. On June 17, 1972, Wills,
    then 24, was a security guard at the Watergate. While doing his rounds, he found that a
    door lock had been covered with electrical tape to keep it from locking. He called police,
    who found five men burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee.
    The burglars had equipment for bugging the phones at the DNC. Wills quit his job because
    he didn't get a raise for discovering the burglary.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 5. Among those arrested was James W. McCord, security director for the Committee
    To Re-Elect the President (CREEP). John Mitchell, head of the Nixon re-election
    campaign (pictured) denied any ties between the campaign and the burglary.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 6. The burglars were later revealed to be "plumbers" -- members of a clandestine unit of the
    CRP, led by John Mitchell. One of the plumbers' previous jobs was a 1971 burglary at the
    office of a psychiatrist who was treating Daniel Ellsberg (pictured). Ellsberg had leaked the
    Pentagon Papers -- the Defense Department's secret history of the Vietnam War –
    to The New York Times. They were published by the Times, The Boston Globe, and
    The Washington Post.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 7. One of those arrested in the burglary, Bernard Barker, was carrying an address book with an
    entry for "HH" (Howard Hunt, pictured) at "WH" (White House). Hunt was a spy novelist
    and White House consultant who had previously worked for the CIA, and was revealed as
    one of the planners of the burglary.
    (Globe File Photo)
  • 8. On Aug. 1, two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward (right) and Carl Bernstein,
    reported that a $25,000 cashier's check, apparently earmarked for the Nixon campaign,
    wound up in the bank account of one of the accused burglars. Woodward and Bernstein
    would follow the story for more than a year, eventually writing a book,
    "All the President's Men," about what they discovered.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 9. On Sept. 29, 1972, Woodward and Bernstein reported that John Dean (pictured), former
    attorney general turned White House counsel, controlled a Republican slush fund used to
    finance intelligence-gathering operations against the Democratic Party.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 10. Ken Clawson, a former reporter who joined the White House communications staff under
    Nixon, was named in an Oct. 10, 1972, story as the writer of an anonymous letter to a
    New Hampshire newspaper that helped torpedo the career of Democratic vice-presidential
    candidate Edmund Muskie. The letteralleged that Muskie had used the slur when describing
    French-Canadians, a large part of his Maine constituency. The Post described this
    "Canuck letter" as part of a "massive campaign of political spying and sabotage" on
    Nixon's behalf.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 11. On Nov. 7, 1972, Nixon was re-elected by a landslide over Sen. George W.
    McGovern of South Dakota.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 12. On Jan. 30, 1973, G. Gordon Liddy (pictured) and James W. McCord were convicted of
    conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping in the Watergate break-in. Liddy, a former FBI agent,
    was not among those first arrested, but was convicted of planning the burglary.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 13. In February 1973, the Senate established the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign
    Activities to investigate the Watergate break-in and rumors of other operations. Sam Ervin,
    a North Carolina Democrat who cultivated a folksy "country lawyer" persona, is chairman;
    Howard Baker, a Republican from Tennessee, is his deputy.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 14. On March 19, days before his sentencing in the original Watergate burglary, James W.
    McCord sent a letter to Judge John Sirica, describing how other suspects had withheld
    information and charging that payments were made by high White House officials to
    persuade them to lie and plead guilty. Sirica made the letter public.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 15. Presidential Counsel John Dean was fired at the end of April for cooperating with the
    Watergate Committee. His testimony the following summer would be key to the
    investigation, and his description of the cover-up as "a cancer on the presidency" would
    become one of the best-remembered remarks from the scandal.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 16. Also at the end of April, Nixon's top aides, Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman (left) and
    domestic-affairs assistant John Ehrlichman (center), resigned over their roles in the
    widening scandal. Also resigning was the attorney general, Richard Kleindienst. Elliot
    Richardson of Massachusetts is named to replace Kleindienst.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 17. On May 18, 1973, the Senate Select Committee (later known simply as the
    "Watergate Committee") began its hearings, which were nationally televised. The same day
    Richardson, about to take office as attorney general, appointed Archibald Cox as a special
    prosecutor for Watergate.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 18. Alexander Butterfield, a former presidential appointments secretary, testifed before the
    Senate committee in July, confirming that Nixon had a system in place for taping all
    conversations and phone calls in his office. The committee and Nixon began a battle over
    the tapes.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 19. Nixon, increasingly embattled in his refusal to hand over any tapes, began a series of events
    known as the "Saturday Night Massacre" by ordering Richardson to fire Cox (pictured).
    Richardson refused and resigned. Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus was also
    ordered to fire Cox, refused and resigned. Robert Bork, then solicitor general (and later,
    briefly, a Supreme Court nominee), finally fired Cox.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 20. Nixon finally released some of the tapes. In December 1973, investigators discovered an
    18 1/2-minute gap in one of them. Chief of Staff Alexander Haig (pictured) said one theory
    was that "some sinister force" erased the segment.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 21. Rosemary Woods, Nixon's secretary, took the blame for the gap, demonstrating
    in this photo how she could have accidentally erased the segment of the tape.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 22. Nixon, who had been named an "unindicted co-conspirator" when charges were filed
    against seven of his aides, had also been the subject of impeachment hearings by the
    House Judiciary Committee, which began considering the matter in February 1974.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 23. By April 30, 1974, the Senate committee still hadn't gotten all the tapes it had asked for.
    Instead of handing them over, Nixon released 1,200 pages of edited transcripts. The
    transcripts were notable for the frequent use of the delicate "expletive deleted" to replace
    saltier language. (Rolling Stone ran a quiz suggesting a range of profanities that might
    have filled a few Important gaps.) That summer, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower
    court order that Nixon turn over all the tapes.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 24. Late in July, the House Judiciary Committee passed the first of three articles of I
    mpeachment against Nixon. On August 5, under increasing pressure, he released
    transcripts of three conversation he had with Haldeman six days after the Watergate
    break-in. The June 23 tape became known as "the smoking gun" because it revealed that
    Nixon ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the break-in. Under increasing
    threat of impeachment, Nixon resigned three days later.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 25. Vice President Gerald Ford assumed the presidency to fill out Nixon's term.
    One of his early acts in office was to issue a full pardon for Nixon for all charges
    related to the Watergate case.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 26. One of the lasting impacts of Watergate was a change in the relationship between
    government and the media. Reporters Woodward and Bernstein -- and their editor,
    Ben Bradlee, and publisher Katharine Graham (pictured) -- are credited with moving past
    the Nixon administration's attempts at a cover-up to bring the web of misdeeds to light.
    Other journalists joined the chase, and more than 50 journalists appeared on Nixon's
    "enemies list.“
    (Globe Photo)
  • 27. Watergate made its way into popular culture with the publication of Woodward and B
    ernstein's book, "All the President's Men," and the movie based on it, starring Dustin
    Hoffman and Robert Redford as the two reporters. Phrases like "expletive deleted" and
    "credibility gap" entered the language during the height of the story, and subsequent
    scandals – Monicagate, Irangate -- had "-gate" appended to their names.
    (Globe Photo)
  • 28. The presidents who came after Nixon found greater restrictions on their activities, including
    a ban on "slush funds" and a law requiring them to report financial statements. They also
    faced more public cynicism and deeper questioning of the facts behind their actions.
    Ultimately, many believe that the system of checks and balances worked, and that the
    result was astronger democracy.
    (Globe Photo)