About the Watergate Scandal

About the Watergate Scandal

The Watergate Scandal took place at the Watergate hotel on June 17, 1972 where 5 men broke into the Democratic National Committee’s Headquarters, stole important documents and illegally placed recording devices in the office phones. This caused a disruption in all political engagements and changed the viewpoints of many citizens against people in higher authorities. President Nixon’s involvement in this and many horrendous phenomenons cost him not only his presidency but his reputation as well. The Scandal opened the eyes of America and brought triumphs especially Nixon’s resignation after almost being impeached for unlawful acts in the oval office and abusing his power as president. He commited treason? to maintain a fine reputation and brought a tragedy and a constitutional nightmare upon the United States. This led to the beginning of a newer, superior, and legitimate Governmental Branch and a change on how the United States is controlled. [Treason is a very strong word and I do not believe Nixon was legally treasonous. Treason means traitor. Did he sell/give United States’ secrets to foreign governments?]

Although the Watergate Scandal was the biggest turning point for the country it wasn’t the only shocking outbreak that swept the nation. On June 1971 Daniel Ellsberg was responsible for exposing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and The Washington Post who later released it to the rest of the world. Daniel Ellsberg, who served as a U.S. Marine Corps officer from 1954 to 1957 worked as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation and the Department of Defense. He studied all of the basics of The Vietnam War. If you didn’t know, The Vietnam War was a conflict between the United sStates and Vietnam from 1955 until 1975. This war began because the United States believed the communist government of North Vietnam would take over Ssouth vietnam. They went to war to prevent this from happening. Ellsberg studied the Pentagon Papers when they were first made and the more involved he became with it, the more opposed he’ve become towards it. His research showed there were many military miscalculations and lies told by politicians about United states involvement with Vietnam. He discovered that way before the war even happened many presidents were involved with Vietnam for several years without the people of the United States recognition. The papers revealed traces from 3 decades of government activity with vVietnam. The Papers also included top secret information which exposed everything they knew about the Vietnam War and that this major war was unwinnable. (Some argued that the United States wasere on the verge of winning but threw its chance for victory away because of negative press and a resulting failure of political will at home.) . OIn 1961 Ellsberg began photocopying the papers all 7,000 pages. He leaked some documents to the Members Of Congress but they didn’t go public so in 1970 he leaked the photographs to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Some of the stuff that came to the light was that in 1950 President Harry S Truman aided the fFrench military against Vietnam, in 1954 President Eisenhower sent military assistance to the fFrench in Vietnam, in 1961 President Kennedy adopted a broad commitment to the war in Vietnam after he told the people of the United States that U.S. involvement wouldill be very limited, and lastly in 1964 President Johnson took military action against North Vietnam and began planning war in 1964 a full year before the depth of U.S involvement was revealed to the public. After this released to the public in 1971, President Nixon obtained a court injunction and stopped the New York Times Ffrom Printing any more things that involve the government, Pentagon Papers, and people in high authority. He argued that publishing the Pentagon Papers would limit the president’s ability to guard National Security. The New York Times adthere to President Nixon’s restraining order but filed an appearl. Then on June 18, 1971 Katherine Grahm or Grahamnt, the head of The Washington Post, published many articles containing the Pentagon Papers. Of course Nixon tried his hardest to ceased this from happening but the judge refused to grant an injunction. Both The New York Times and Washington Post went to the Supreme Court because of this incident but?)and?) the Supreme Court ruled in favor so both articles continued publishing more things about the Pentagon Papers. A few weeks later Daniel Ellsberg was indicted under The Espionage Act for leaking government secrets. He was almost sentenced to 115 years in prison but all charges dropped because evidence of government misconduct came to light. Even though the pPentagon pPapers included plenty of information it didn’t have details on Nixon’s conduct in Vietnam. He still remained very threatened by them.

Nixon became anxious after all this went down and was so very threatened by Ellsberg that he created a White House convert special investigation unit on July 24, 1971. They were nicknamed “The White House Plumbers” because their initial assignment were to “fix leaks” in the White House. Members of the Plumbers included G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent and E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent. John Paisley, a liaison to the CIA was also assigned to the Plumbers, John Ehrlichman, Egil Krogh and David Young worked closely with the White House Plumbers regarding their operations. There was also a group of Cubans who worked with the plumbers to create necessary distractions. John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s counsel and assistant in domestic affairs, supervised Kissinger’s assistant David Young and his assistant Egil Krogh – the two creators of the White House plumbers as they formed their stealth team. It was Young who coined the term “Plumbers” as his grandfather was a real plumber. Their very first task was to burglarize the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding, and find any files or document that would paint him out as mentally illed or a dirty criminal. Nixon told his aide Charles Colson: “We’ve got a counter government here and we’ve got to fight it. I don’t give a damn how it’s done. Do whatever has to be done to stop those leaks.… I don’t want to be told why it can’t be done.” Whatever damaging information the “Plumbers” can find on Ellsberg will be itself leaked to the press, Nixon says. “Don’t worry about his trial [referring to Ellsberg’s arrest on conspiracy and espionage charges. Just get everything out. Try him in the press… leak it out.” Luckily the plumbers didn’t have any luck in finding these things they searched for. Another task the plumbers took on was burglarizing The Brookings Institute to create chaos and steal other important classified documents believed to store there. The Brookings Institute is a Washington think tank which Nixon believed had copies of the Pentagon Papers. A secret recording was exposed revealing Nixon and chief of staff HR hHaldeman’s conversation about breaking into the Brookings Institute. Nixon tells Haldeman: “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. They have a lot of material. I want—the way I want that handled, Bob, is get it over. I want Brookings. Just break in. Break in and take it out. You understand.” Haldeman replies: “Yeah. But you have to get somebody to do it.” Nixon says: “Well, you—that’s what I’m just telling you. Now don’t discuss it here. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them out.”then Haldeman says “I don’t have any problem with breaking in.” Nixon replies “Just go in and take them. Go in around 8 or 9 o’clock. That’s right. You go in and inspect and clean it out.… We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They’re using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear?” The next day, Nixon repeats: “Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute’s safe cleaned out.” The plan was way too expensive to operate so it never went through. Apart from the burglary, other Plumbers’ operations included Hunt’s and Liddy’s investigation into Teddy Kennedy Chappaquiddick incident and the Kennedy administration involvement in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem respectively. By early 1972, the Plumbers were basically merged with the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP or derogatorily as CREEP) whose dirty tricks to ensure Nixon would be re-elected in the upcoming election would go far beyond a fundraising organization for the president. This is how the Watergate break in came to be.

The plumbers took on many duties but the most crucial one was the break in at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington D.C on June 17, 1972. The plumbers hired 3 Cuban exiles ( Bernard Bark, Virgilio Gonzales, and Eugenia Martinez) and 2 CIA executives (James McCord [who also was working for President Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect Nixon]and Frank Sturgis) to actually break in the complex and steal important documents and also bug the office phones. This was because when President Nixon was running for the re-election in 1972, the States was embroiled in the lengthy, bloody and unpopular Vietnam War (1955-1975) and deeply divided internally. Under such harsh political climate, a forceful presidential campaign was thought to help the president have an easier election than in 1968. Many “dirty-tricks”, therefore, were employed during his campaign including harassing the opponent (The Democrat’s) and bugging in their office. Before they could carry out the operation they were caught red handed by Security guard Frank Wills and taken into custody. They were carrying tools such as cameras, film, and a pen size tear gas gun (which all had been taken in and investigated). They were also found with a lot of clean money, 100 dollar bills and an address book with the name W.H Howard Hunt who as we know was deeply involved with the whole incident alongside Charles Colson (special council of the POTUS), Gordon Liddy (lawyer) John Paisley(CIA) and John Mitchell (attorney general). The media took a great part in further investigation. Two young news reporters of The Washington Post whose names are Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein dugigged deeper into the case and brought everyone involved to justice. They were given anonymous tips from a source called Ddeep tThroat who was later revealed as FBI agent Mark Felt. They concluded that the break-in and subsequent attempts to cover it up had a close connection with the Justice Department, the CIA, the FBI and even the White House. In October, the FBI discovered that there was a systematic and illegal spying and sabotage and that the break-in was just part of a larger campaign conducted on behalf of CRP leaderships against the Democrats. All this happened after Nixon claimed no one in high authority had been involved with the break in. Although those revelations could not prevent Nixon from being re-elected with a landslide victory in November 1972, a political storm was brewing up.

More details came out when the plumbers faced trial in 1973. During the legal proceedings, one of them implicated the Nixon administration cover-up. He reported that the defendants had been paid to lie to protect government officials. Following some of Nixon’s aides’ testimony including former White House Counsel John Dean, it emerged that Nixon had been involved in efforts to cover up White House links in the Watergate break in and secretly taped every conversation that took place in the Oval Office. The shocking disclosure sparked a quest for the tapes by both the Senate Watergate Committee and Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. In July 1973 the senate Watergate Committee issued a subpoena compelling Nixon to hand over several tapes but Nixon refused. He argued that having the tapes in his possession was “executive privilege”. After several months of fighting this battle Nixon ordered for Cox to be removed from the case. This led to the “Saturday Night Massacre” a protest occurring because of the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox and high-profile Justice Department resignations On March 1 1974, the so-called “Watergate Seven” including former Attorney General John Mitchell and Nixon’s six other top former aides were indicted on diverse charges related to the Watergate affair while Nixon was called “unindicted co-conspirator” by a grand jury. In July 1974 the Supreme Court ordered that the tape must be released to the sSenate. Nixon released the tapes on March 5th. One of the tapes named “Smoking Gun“ released and proved that Nixon in fact had ordered a Watergate cover up and had been involved since the beginning. In late July The House Of Judiciary approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon. They accused him of obstruction of Justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. Instead of facing trial Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974 (being the first president to do so). On August 9 Vice President Gerald Ford became the new President of the United States. In September he issued a presidential pardon for Nixon excusing him from all the crimes he committed while in power. Ford hoped this would help unify the country by putting the Watergate mess to rest.

While the watergate Scandal was still unfolding, some argued that the response of Congress and the courts proved that no one, not even the president, is above the law. Some have seen the stuff of tragedy in all of this – great men brought low. But the greater impact of Watergate was on us, on the loss of innocence for all but the most jaded and cynical among us. The American people revere and respect no one so more as their president, believing that even men of humble gifts rise to the challenge and grow in stature when the enter the White House. Richard Nixon showed that the office does not always transform the man, that the man can also lower esteem for the office. Watergate also fostered an air in cynicism about presidents and presidency’s. In 1973, 29 percent of Americans said they had a “great deal” of confidence in the Executive Branch and 18 percent had “very little”. By 1975, the percentages were reversed and by 1980, on 12 percent had “a great deal” and 30 percent had “hardly any” confidence.

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