Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thirty five years after Watergate

August 9th will be the thirty-fifth anniversary of the resignation of Richard Nixon and the culmination of the Watergate scandal. It was a truly transformative event in American history, marking perhaps the most cynical time in twentieth century America.

The break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington occurred on June 17, 1972. Discovered by a security guard, it quickly became apparent that Nixon campaign officials and other members of the administration were involved, and that there had been a pattern of illegal activity engaged in by the Nixon administration.

It was unclear how much the president himself was involved, John Dean, the White House attorney, testified to the Senate Watergate Committee that Nixon was personally involved. On June 13, 1973, Alexander Butterfield, who had been Nixon's appointments secretary, revealed to the Watergate committee that Nixon recorded all his White House phone calls.This resulted in a long legal struggle and the decision by the Supreme Court that Nixon needed to turn over all of the subpoenaed tapes. The content of these tapes, the passing of three articles of impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee, and political pressure from both Democrats and Republicans led to Nixon's resignation.

Here's a concise Watergate timeline.

This is Nixon''s "I am not a crook statement". This was made three weeks after the "Saturday Night Massacre" where Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, was fired. This was followed by the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Assistant Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. ( sorry for the poor quality)

The "smoking gun" tape was the clearest indication that Nixon had conspired to obstruct justice. From June 13. 1972, this is the tape with the "18 1/2 minute gap". Rosemary Woods, Nixon's secretary, claimed she had accidentally erased this segment. The tape is well worth hearing, in spite of its poor quality. The link also includes a transcript of the conversation. Mark Felt, who is mentioned as "ambitious" here turned out to have been "Deep Throat", the mysterious source for Woodward and Bernstein in theior investigative workon Watergate for the Washington Post.

Part of Nixon's resignation speech:

A complete archive of all the released Nixon tapes.

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