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Watergate Scandal

The Watergate scandal was a great political scandal in the US during the 1970s, which led to the resignation of the US President Richard Nixon. The scandal started with the 1972 break-in at the Democratic NC headquarters in Washington DC, and the consequent cover-up by the Nixon administration.

Break-in

On June 17 1972, a security guard at the Watergate complex called the police when he noticed that the doors in the building had been taped. The police arrived to catch the perpetrators, who had thousands of dollars in their pockets and were caught wiretapping into phones.

Suspicions were aroused when amongst the burglars’ possession were phone numbers related to people in the Nixon administration. All five perpetrators were charged with attempted burglar and attempting to bug phone lines.

Cover up

Nixon’s initial reaction was skepticism towards the break-in, and in August he issued a speech in which he swore that his staff was not involved in the cover up, and Watergate prosecutor was also adamant that Nixon did not have any prior knowledge of the break-in. The public believed him and he was re-elected in a landside victory in November of the same year.

At the request of Nixon’s aides, three of the five people who broke into the headquarters plead guilty, and two were sentenced in January 1973. Only after the sentencing were there more cries into investigating the involvement of the president and his aides by journalists and even the Watergate judge John Sirica, which uncovered many unknown cover-ups by the Nixon administration into the break-ins.

Some of Nixon’s closest advisors and some of the burglars began relenting under the scrutiny they were under. Eventually it reached a boiling point where they could no longer handle the pressure and made incriminating testimonies in front of a grand jury, the most incriminating the fact that Nixon liked to tape every single conversation that took place in his office. This meant that if people could get their hands on the tape, there would be clear evidence of Nixon and his administration’s involvement in the break-in. Nixon fought hard to protect the tapes, claiming that his executive privilege allowed him to keep his tapes private, until in 1974, the supreme court ordered him to hand over his tapes.

The tapes made Nixon’s role in the cover-up of the scandal very clear, he had ordered the CIA to stop the FBI’s investigation, offered money to the break-in culprits for their silence amongst many other acts to silence and erase any opposition. The uncovering of such actions made Nixon’s position untenable as president and so Nixon reigned on August 8 1974. He was later pardoned by his replacement Gerald Ford so Nixon did not face any prosecution for his actions, but this gained a lot of criticism, for people saw his resignation as a way for Nixon to escape the legal consequences for his actions.

The Watergate scandal had a profound effect on American politics, where people grew wary of politics and a culture of mistrust between politicians and the public developed, and shed new light into the possible abuses of power presidents could commit. It did however show great investigative journalism, perhaps the finest ever seen, with the uncovering of the Watergate scandal.

 
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