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Conspiracy Files: Watergate

Last update: 28th April, 2016

Uncovered conspiracy: President Richard Nixon used his position in office to cover up illegal harassment of his political opposition in the United States of America. The conspiracy was uncovered in large part by two Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Woodstein). Watergate would ultimately lead to the resignation of a sitting president, on August 8, 1974.

The Watergate complex

Watergate Complex

The Watergate timeline

September 23, 1952

The New York Times publishes an article that claims campaign donors were buying influence with Nixon by funding a secret political campaign fund. On September 23, 1952 Nixon appeared on television to defend himself - this became known as the Checkers speech. Checkers was a dog that had been given to him on top of political donations. Nixon said he wouldn't give Checkers back (video right below) because his daughters loved it. This seems to convince Eisenhower to continue to back him as vice president candidate on the ticket.

November 5, 1968

Richard Milhous Nixon, 55, defeats Hubert Humphrey in one of the closest elections in US history.

His political turnaround may be one of the greatest political comebacks of all time. Nixon had lost the 1960 election to Kennedy and had retired from public life to California. He was persuaded to run against Pat Smith for governor, but he lost by 300,000 votes. Nixon told the media at a press conference following his defeat: "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."

Nixon Wins 1968
Nixon For President Pin

January 21, 1969

Nixon is inaugurated as the 37th president of the United States.

June 13, 1971

The New York Times begins publishing the Pentagon Papers - the Defense Department's secret history of the Vietnam War. [Link to The Pentagon Papers]

September 3, 1971

In an attempt to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, a psychiatrist's office is burgled by members of the The President's Special Investigations Unit, or the White House plumbers unit (so named because they specialize in plugging leaks in the administration.)

June 17, 1972

Five men (one ex CIA) are arrested at 2:30am trying to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex. Read the first Washington Post report of the break in published Sunday 18th June 1972 here. (The first article notes contributions from Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Bart Barnes, Kirk Schafernberg, Martin Weil, Claudia Levy, Abbott Combes and Tim O'Brien.) [Washington Post story]

June 19, 1972

The Washington Post reports that a GOP security aide is among the Watergate burglars. John Mitchell, former attorney general and current head of the Nixon reelection campaign, denies any link to the operation. [Washington Post story]

June 20, 1972

The Washington Post reports that one of the burglars had E Howard Hunt (ex CIA, President's Special Investigations Unit (aka the plumbers)) in his address book, had checks signed by Hunt, and that Hunt was connected to Charles Coulson (Special Counsel To The President). This was based on information from Deep Throat.

August 1, 1972

A $25,000 cashier's check, apparently earmarked for the Nixon campaign, wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar, reports The Washington Post. [Washington Post story]

September 15, 1972

E Howard Hunt,Gordon Liddy(chief operative for the plumbers unit) and the Watergate burglars are indicted by a federal grand jury.

September 29, 1972

The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell, while serving as attorney general (almost a year before resigning to become Nixon's reelection campaign manager) controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance widespread intelligence gathering operations against the Democrats. [Washington Post story]

October 10, 1972

The Washington Post reports that FBI agents have established that the Watergate break-in stems from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon reelection effort. [Washington Post story]

November 7, 1972

Richard Milhous Nixon is reelected in one of the largest landslides in American political history. He takes more than 60 percent of the vote against Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.

New York Times - Nixon reelected
You Can't lick our Dick - Flyer
They Can't Lick Our Dick - Pin

January 30, 1973

Five men plead guilty to the burglary charges. Former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr. are convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident at trial.

February 28, 1973

L Patrick Gray, in confirmation hearings for becoming permanent director of the FBI, reveals that John Dean (White House Counsel) had asked for daily briefings on the Watergate investigation. Gray also claimed that Dean had 'probably' lied to FBI investigators.

March 17, 1973

One of the Watergate burglars, James McCord, writes a letter to Judge John Sirica (Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia) claiming that he had perjured some of his testimony at trial because he had been put under pressure. McCord said that the Watergate burglary had not been a CIA operation but had involved other officials. This led the investigation to the White House.

April 27, 1973

L Patrick Gray resigns after it is revealed that he destroyed files from E Howard Hunt's safe. William Ruckelshaus is appointed as his replacement.

April 30, 1973

Nixon's top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resign over the scandal. White House counsel John Dean is fired.

President Nixon makes his first address to the nation on the Watergate affair:

May 17, 1973

The Senate Watergate Committee begins its nationally televised hearings.

May 19, 1973

Former Solicitor General, Archibald Cox, appointed to investigate possible presidential impropriety.

June 3, 1973

John Dean tells Watergate investigators that he discussed the Watergate cover-up with President Nixon at least 35 times between January and April 1973. [Washington Post story]

June 13, 1973

Watergate prosecutors find a memo addressed to John Ehrlichman (Counsel and Assistant to President Nixon for Domestic Affairs) describing in detail the plans to burglarize the office of Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist.

July 13, 1973

Alexander Butterfield, former presidential appointments secretary, reveals in congressional testimony that since 1971 Nixon had recorded all conversations and telephone calls in his offices.

July 18, 1973

Nixon orders the White House taping system disconnected.

July 23, 1973

Nixon refuses to turn over the presidential tape recordings to the Senate Watergate Committee or the special prosecutor. [Washington Post story]

August 1973

Nixon denies role in cover-up, admits abuses by subordinates

nixon denies role in cover-up, admits abuses by subordinates

October 10, 1973

Spiro Agnew resigns as Nixon's Vice President because of corruption while he was Governor of Maryland.

NY Times cover - Spiro Agnew quits

October 12, 1973

Gerald Ford is nominated as Vice President under the 25th amendment.

October 20, 1973

Saturday Night Massacre: Nixon fires Archibald Cox and abolishes the office of the special prosecutor. Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus resign. Pressure for impeachment mounts in Congress. [Washington Post story]

November 17, 1973

An 18 -minute gap is found in one of the subpoenaed tapes. Chief of Staff Alexander Haig suggests one theory that "some sinister force"caused it. [Washington Post story]

Nixon declares, "I'm not a crook," at a televised press conference in Disney World Florida:

January 28, 1974

Nixon campaign aide, Herbert Porter, admits to perjury for lying to the FBI at the early stages of the Watergate investigation.

March 4, 1974

The Watergate 7 are indicted by a grand jury.

The Watergate 7 were:

John N. Mitchell: Former Attorney general and director of Nixon's two presidential election campaigns

H. R. Haldeman: White House chief of Staff

John Ehrlichman: Former assistant to Nixon, Domestic affairs

Charles Colson: Former White House Counsel

Gordon C. Strachan: White House aid to Haldeman

Robert Mardian: aid to Mitchell and counsel to the Committee to reelect the president (CREEP) in 1972

Kenneth Parkinson: Counsel for the Committee to reelect the president in 1972

April 29, 1974

Before the release of the transcripts of the Nixon Tapes the next day, President Nixon made this address to the nation:

April 30, 1974

The White House releases more than 1,200 pages of edited transcripts of the Nixon tapes to the House Judiciary Committee, but the committee insists that the tapes themselves must be turned over.

July 24, 1974

United States v Nixon: The Supreme Court rules unanimously that Nixon must turn over the tape recordings of 64 White House conversations, rejecting the president's claims of executive privilege.

July 27-30, 1974

House Judiciary Committee passes articles of impeachment, charging obstruction of justice.

Early August 1974

Smoking Gun [mp3 and transcript] - a previously unreleased tape from June 23, 1973 is released in which Nixon discusses the Watergate break in with Haldeman.

Key Republican Senators confirm they have enough votes to convict him.

August 8, 1974

Richard Nixon becomes the first US president to resign. Vice President Gerald R Ford becomes 38th president. Ford will later pardon Nixon of all charges related to the Watergate case (September 8, 1974).

President Nixon's resignation address

New York Times - Nixon resigns

April 22, 1994

Richard Nixon dies, age 81.

April 8, 2003

The University of Texas at Austin buys the Watergate papers of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for $5 million.

December 11, 2003

National Archives and Records Administration releases 240 more hours of tape of the 37th president.

February 4, 2005

The Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers open to the public at the University of Texas, but the identity of Deep Throat is still a secret.

May 31, 2005

The Washington Post confirms that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was Deep Throat, following disclosures in Vanity Fair magazine. [Washington Post story]