Some of us are old enough to remember the Watergate burglary that brought down the President of the United States 50 years ago on June 17, 1972. The burglary became the apparent reason for President Richard’s political downfall Nixon. Shortly after the burglary, Nixon handlers launched a series of schemes to insulate the White House from responsibility for the failed political espionage plot. No one knows if Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in or if he knew about it in advance – but we do know that he was involved in covering up or “containing” the information once it got out. is produced.
In hindsight, the intelligence-gathering mission against the Democrats was unnecessary at all and revealed that Nixon’s paranoia had finally got the better of him. Nixon ended up winning the 1972 presidential election by an overwhelming margin against George McGovern. Unfortunately, this incident consumed his remaining time in office and ruined what until then had been a rather impressive presidential legacy. This tale is steeped in intrigue and has been portrayed in various movies and tons of books over the past 50 years. Let me provide a small version of Cliff Notes for now. It all started with the “plumbers” of the White House.
The White House Plumbers: In late 1971, Attorney General John Mitchell and White House Chief of Staff HR “Bob” Haldeman decided that J. Gordon Liddy should be given the green light to conduct a spy program against Democrats in headquarters of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at the Watergate Office Complex.
Gordon Liddy had a colorful past and was one of many men called “the plumbers” for their ability to “stop leaks” in the White House. Among White House staff, these men went by several names: The Plumbers, The Room 16 Project, and, more formally, the White House Special Investigations Unit.
The Plumbers were a secret White House unit created to respond to the infamous leak of the “Pentagon Papers” which revealed America’s covert expansion of the war in Vietnam. At the time, it was a huge embarrassment, and the resulting public outcry threatened to prevent Nixon’s re-election. There’s one thing every first-term president wants and that’s a second term. With this in mind, the plumbers shifted their efforts to helping the committee re-elect the president.
Gordon Lidy – became general counsel for the President’s Reelection Committee and worked with the campaign’s political intelligence operations. John Ehrlichman, the President’s Assistant for Home Affairs and Special Investigations Unit, cleared Liddy’s intelligence-gathering operations against Democrats during the 1972 election year.
Before dawn on June 17, 1972, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard Baker and James McCord were apprehended by guards as they installed wiretapping devices at National Democratic Party campaign offices located in the Watergate office complex in Washington. , DC Liddy controlled this operation from another location. A phone number found on the burglars led reporters to E. Howard Hunt, a man who worked for the White House. Soon advice began to trickle in to Washington Post reporters. Bob Woodward, a reporter working for the Post, was given the story. He was later informed by a secret source that senior aides to President Nixon had ordered these men to obtain information on Nixon’s political opponents. At this point, the story took on a life of its own with unimaginable consequences and intrigue. Woodward began working with another Washington Post reporter, Carl Bernstein, on the Watergate affair. Over time, their secret source became known as the Deep Throat. But where did Deep Throat get their information? This piece of the puzzle was a secret that puzzled Washington for the next 30 years. The results of this constant supply of information mesmerized the nation as the United States was absorbed in its exit from Vietnam and in the wake of Nixon’s strategic overtures to Mao Tse-Tung’s Red China.
Deep Throat: Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward pursued the Watergate burglary story for two years – periodically stoking the public’s thirst with juicy White House information – provided by their informant – Deep Throat. The continued volume of damning information has definitely caused the president and his cabinet to lose their minds. They couldn’t figure out how the Washington Post got the information, the charges, and the accusations.
Soon, many members of the president’s inner circle began to turn against each other. One of them, White House lawyer John Dean, fearing he would be made a scapegoat, resigned. Soon after, he traded clemency for testimony against his former Nixon aides. At the time, the country was in a frenzy with ongoing congressional investigations uncovering wrongdoing and a cover-up. As more and more evidence mounted, the scandal eventually implicated many members of Nixon’s White House, culminating in Nixon becoming the first President of the United States to resign.
Woodward and Bernstein wrote a book about the Watergate drama a few years later titled, All the President’s Men. It was followed by a thriller of the same name starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein. In the book, they noted youKey information for their investigation came from an anonymous informant they dubbed “Deep Throat”. The transmission of information from the informant to the reporters was rather elaborate and clandestine. Woodward and Deep Throat often met secretly in an underground garage at 1401 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn, Virginia at 2 a.m.
Today, a historical marker is at the location. Interestingly, the identity of Deep Throat remained secret for more than 30 years and was one of the biggest mysteries in American politics until 2003. Woodward and Bernstein insisted that they would not reveal his identity before his death or consent to reveal it. Alas on May 31, 2005, former FBI agent Mark Felt revealed he was Deep Throat in an article published in Vanity Fair magazine. Felt was a highly placed FBI agent and had access to all FBI investigative findings surrounding the Watergate drama. His disdain for the Nixon administration prompted his actions. Shortly after Felt’s confession, Woodward and Bernstein corroborated the fact and detailed their relationship to him in Woodward’s book, The Secret Man: The Watergate Deep Throat Story.
The “Smoking Gun” – White House Tapes: President Nixon secretly taped recordings of daily conversations and phone calls during his administration – likely for posterity purposes. The tapes Nixon made of his White House meetings became a central part of the drama when their existence was leaked to the press. Investigators wanted access to it. The White House resisted. Later, the White House reluctantly let some of them go but refused to release them all. When a tape was discovered to have an 18-minute gap, audiences immediately assumed the president was erasing key information about the Watergate burglary cover-up.
This prompted the United States Supreme Court to order Nixon to turn over all tapes. The result was the discovery of the “smoking gun” long sought by prosecutors. One of the tapes revealed a conversation that took place just days after the burglary in which Nixon discussed with HR Haldeman a plan for the CIA to tell the FBI to stay away from the situation because it involved national security. This proved that Nixon himself was involved in the cover-up. As impeachment looms, after being told by key Republican congressmen that they now support impeachment, Nixon resigned from office.
When the dust has cleared: Watergate is generally seen as shorthand for a story about five burglars caught in the middle of a covert operation to influence the outcome of the 1972 presidential election. Yet the reality of the case is obviously much larger than that. .
First, the burglars went to jail. J Gordon Liddy – along with Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzales, E. Howard Hunt, Eugenio Martinez, James McCord and Frank Sturgis – were all indicted in 1972 by a grand jury for their involvement in the break-in at DNC headquarters. In 1973, Liddy and former CIA employee James McCord, director of security for the President’s Reelection Committee, were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and bugging DNC headquarters. They went to jail. Then the president’s inner circle was found guilty.
The full scope of Watergate is beyond us. By the time the flames of scandal had finished consuming Richard Nixon’s administration, 69 people had been charged with crimes, including two of Nixon’s cabinet secretaries, Attorney General John Mitchell and Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans. Almost all pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. The White House filings implicated dozens of companies, from Goodyear to American Airlines, with illegally funding Nixon’s re-election campaign. Nixon aides HR Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were later convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice by further White House disclosures – largely based on John Dean’s testimony. All assistants have also served prison time.
The evidence that forced Nixon to resign – the famous “irrefutable” conversation – proved that Nixon had tried to prevent the FBI from investigating the case by lying about it. Tapes and later testimony from aides also revealed that Nixon had approved giving silent money to the Watergate conspirators. In short, it is obstruction of justice. But the degree of involvement of the White House in planning the burglary has never been established. Given the scope and scale of the crime and corruption that surrounded Nixon’s presidency, it is all the more surprising that no one was ever charged with ordering the DNC heist.
Today, most of the key players in the Watergate drama have passed away, but we have a few who are still with us. Only John Dean survives from Nixon’s inner circle, but the two reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, are still there. In the meantime, you can be sure that the Washington Post and the Watergate Hotel will take the time to commemorate the 50e birthday on Friday, June 17, 2022.
Now you know.