Suspicion and Corruption at the Watergate Hotel
Watergate remains one of the most shocking and turbulent scandals in the history of U.S. politics. Back in 1974, then-President Richard Nixon was up to his eyeballs in corruption charges when it was revealed to the American people that the President tried to cover up a break-in scandal at the office of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel in downtown Washington D.C. While President Nixon eventually resigned over the scandal, the incident left a stain on American politics that forever changed the way we think about elected officials and the power of the presidency.
Vietnam and a Divided Nation
Life in America was pretty chaotic during the 1960s. The Vietnam War sparked outrage across the country. Horrific images of warfare embroiled the nation in a fierce debate about foreign policy and the ethics of international conflict. As the war become more unpopular, President Nixon was gearing up for what he saw as a tough reelection battle in 1972.
The Watergate Break-In
In May of 1972, members of Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President broke into the Watergate Hotel in D.C. in order to tap the phones of some of Nixon’s political enemies. Unfortunately for Nixon’s Reelection Committee, the first wiretap didn’t work properly. So on June 17, 1972, the burglars had to break in again in order to install a new microphone.
Luckily, a security guard noticed that tape had been put over the lock on one of the office doors. The guard called the police and the burglars were caught in the act of trying to spy on officials from the D.N.C. Although the burglars weren’t immediately connected to the president, local police found a phone number for the White House listed on one of the burglar’s possessions.
Cover Up and Aftermath
As the investigation of what happened at the Watergate Hotel got underway, the President could feel his toes inching closer to the fire. Rattled with fear and anxiety, the President issued what was deemed “hush money” to the burglars involved with the break-in. The President also pressed the C.I.A. to impede the F.B.I.’s investigation into the crime. As the days went on, seven of those suspected of being involved with the crime pleaded guilty to avoid going to trial.
But convicting a few burglars wasn’t enough for some people in Washington D.C. Two reporters at The Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and members of the Senate were convinced that something more serious was going on. Some of Nixon’s top aides started to divulge secrets about the Nixon Administration. It was revealed that Nixon had “secret tapes” of all the meetings held in the Oval Office. In July of 1974, after Richard Nixon had won his bid for reelection, the Supreme Court ordered the President to turn over the tapes. Nixon’s involvement in the scandal was finally confirmed and the President resigned on August 8th, 1974.