Eyewitness Reports in History Watergate Scandal Part 3

An eyewitness account of the Watergate Scandal an important event in United States history involving Richard Nixon.


The continuing investigations had revealed a spin-off of related and unrelated scandals. A formal CRP task force had been formed to pull "dirty tricks" on political opponents; Nixon had accepted huge donations from the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation and the milk producers' association, apparently in exchange for political favors; a White House unit, the "plumbers," had burglarized the files of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who had stolen and released to the press the "Pentagon papers"; the White House kept an "enemies list"; Nixon had understated his taxes for 1969, 1970, and 1971 by nearly half a million dollars; and Vice-Pres. Spiro Agnew had resigned in disgrace after pleading "no contest" to felony charges of tax evasion in a deal which enabled him to escape trial for accepting bribes while governor of Maryland and vice-president.

After 18 months of denials, the scandal was nearing a climax. Nixon had been named an unindicted coconspirator in the Mar. 1 cover-up indictment of Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and other aides; he had slipped to an all-time low in confidence polls; and more and more supporters began deserting him as the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach him on three of the five original articles--obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and defiance of congressional subpoenas. This was only the second time in the history of the U.S. that a congressional body voted to impeach a president. The first time occurred in 1868, when Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House. In Nixon's case, however, the impeachment issue did not go before the House as a whole, although it was generally acknowledged that the House would have supported the charges.

The final act of the drama was played out in July, 1974, when Nixon's entire legal staff quietly informed the President that they would resign unless he released the key tape--a conversation between him and Haldeman on June 23, 1972.

Nixon reluctantly agreed, and his attorney, James St. Clair, listened to the tape on July 31. The tape convinced St. Clair that his client had helped launch the cover-up. He later was to refer to this tape as "the smoking gun."

In the mind of St. Clair, Nixon had but two choices--resign or be impeached and thrown out of office. A delegation of Republican congressional leaders was called in to persuade the President to resign.

On Aug. 8, 1974, Nixon yielded to the inevitable. In a 16-minute television broadcast, he announced that he would resign. As the words "I shall resign" came from a hundred portable radios on Pennsylvania Avenue, members of the National Prayer and Fast Committee bowed their heads in prayer. Others burst into giddy cheers and mock choruses of "Hail to the Chief."

It was the sixth anniversary of Nixon's triumphant acceptance of the GOP nomination for his first term as president.

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