“Nixon had some large achievements in foreign affairs. They will be remembered. But a president probably gets remembered for one thing, and Watergate will head the Nixon list, I suspect.” -Bob Woodward
Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, dubbed by many as “Woodstein,” served on the staff of the Washington Post when the Watergate burglary occurred. These two reporters fueled the investigation of President Nixon and his officials in the conspiracy commonly known as the Watergate scandal. The extent of their investigative journalism was illustrated in the blockbuster hit, All the President’s Men. The movie outlines the first seven months of the conspiracy.
The Washington Post, founded by Stilson Hutchins, began publishing its first newspapers on December 6, 1877. The Post published its first Sunday edition in 1880. An extensive history of the Post can be found here. It now serves as one of America’s leading and most widely circulated daily newspapers. The Washington Post is located in Washington D.C.
The Washington Post
Late in the night on June 1, 1972, a group of five men were caught in the Watergate Hotel, which served as the Democratic headquarters. These men were found tampering with confidential documents, equipped with instruments to photograph personal documents and bugging devices to record conversations. These five men: Bernard L. Barker, Virgilio R. Gonzalez, Eugenio R. Martinez, James W. McCord Jr., and Frank A. Sturgis were detained shortly after. Barry Sussman of the Washington Post picked up the story, taking along with him the junior reporter Bob Woodward to report on the common break in story. During the five men’s trial, Woodward discovered one of the burglars had ties with the CIA and they were all represented by high-profile attorneys. Curious about the recent turn of events, Woodward delved into a much deeper investigation of the Watergate break in. As the true severity of the events at the Watergate hotel began to be realized, Sussman assigned Carl Bernstein to team up with Woodward. The two began the Watergate investigation reporting for the Washington Post. Their investigation led them to find funding from the CRP, the Committee to Re-Elect the President, was directly tied to the burglars. This slush fund used by CRP was used as a fundraising group for the Nixon campaign. Further investigation led the two reporters up the political ladder, eventually leading all the way to President Nixon. Nixon was backing a campaign to sabotage the Democratic candidacy by bugging offices, phones, recording conversations, releasing false press-leaks, stealing documents, investigating private lives, canceling democratic rallies, faking letters, and planting spies. Members of the CIA and FBI were involved in these shady practices. This scandal led to the indictment, trial, and conviction of 43 people. Dozens of Presidents top administration officials were included in this.
The Watergate Hotel
Upon the initial arrest of the burglars, the FBI stumbled upon a name in two of the burglars address books: Howard H. Hunt. Nixon administration officials were concerned because Hunt and Gordon Liddy were also involved in another secret operation, known as the White House plumbers, which was set up to stop security ‘leaks’ and to investigate other sensitive security matters. Nixon ordered his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman to have the CIA block the FBI’s investigation into the source of the funding for the burglary. Liddy gave the money to Barker and attempted to hide its origin. Barker had attempted to disguise the funds by depositing them into bank accounts which were located in banks outside of the United States. The link between the break-in and the Committee to Re-Elect the President was brought to light through media, primarily the Washington Post. On September 29, 1972 it was revealed that John Mitchell, while serving as Attorney General, controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance intelligence-gathering against the Democrats. On October 10, the FBI reported the Watergate break-in was only part of a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage on behalf of the Nixon re-election committee.
Despite the link between the break-in and the CRP, Nixon’s campaign was never in danger. On November 7, the President was re-elected in one of the biggest landslides in American political history.
On March 23, 1973, Judge Sirica, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, read a letter from James McCord, one of the Watergate burglars. McCord alleged that during the Watergate trial, defendants had lied under oath due to the pressure to stay silent. The aide to Nixon’s Chief of Staff, Jeb Stuart Magruder admitted his perjury, implicating John Dean and John Mitchell.
On April 30, Nixon asked for the resignation of H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, two of his most influential aides. Both men were indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison. President Nixon fired White House Counsel John Dean. Dean went on to testify against him, becoming the key witness against the President of the United States.
Throughout the entirety of the Watergate scandal, Nixon vehemently denied involvement in the conspiracy. President Nixon was told by Republican Senators that enough votes existed to remove him from office. This led Nixon to resign on August 9, 1974.
Below is President Nixon’s resignation speech to the public.
A timeline depicting the events that transpired throughout the Watergate scandal can be found here.