The history lesson for this week is the Watergate scandal. The scandal known as Watergate began on June 16, 1972, when a security guard at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., discovered a piece of tape on the lock of the door leading to the National Democratic Headquarters. This attempt was part of a larger campaign by supporters of Richard M. Nixon to tarnish the reputations of Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party.
As soon as the attempt to break into Democratic headquarters was known, President Nixon ordered the entire affair to be covered up. It gradually became clear that the Nixon presidency had been involved in abuses of power and serious manipulation for years. The attempt to hide the truth from Congress and the American people cost millions of dollars from Nixon supporters. Two questions from the investigation became famous: What did the President know? When did he know it? Apparently, Nixon knew about the break-in from the beginning and was involved in the cover-up as it progressed.
The scandal broke in the media as a minor story with little national significance. It probably would have been considered as "politics as usual" if two reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, working for the Washington Post had not began to investigate the mystery. The reporters, aided by an informant identified as Deep Throat, opened wide the chasm that forced the first presidential resignation in history.
Soon after the investigation started, the revelation was made that a taping system was installed in the Oval Office, Camp David, the Cabinet rooms, and Nixon's hideaway office to record conversations. When Nixon argued that the tapes held only private conversations between the President and his advisors, the Supreme Court disagreed and ordered the President to release the tapes.
The tapes - containing an unexplained silence for eighteen minutes - were released. The House of Representatives approved the articles of impeachment against President Nixon in mid-1974. The articles of impeachment were: Article I: Obstruction of Justice; Article II: Abuse of power; and Article III: Defiance of committee subpoena.
Republican leaders from both the Senate and the House of Representatives informed President Nixon that he would probably be impeached and forced to resign. President Richard M. Nixon announced to the American people on August 8, 1974, that he no longer had a political base strong enough to keep him in office. He then resigned the presidency.
In a lawsuit of historian Stanley I. Kutler in 1996, two hundred new hours of tape were released. The new tapes revealed that Nixon was closely involved in abuses of power taking place both before and after Watergate. One taped conversation, taking place on June 23, 1972, proved that a discussion had taken place between Nixon and Bob Haldeman about thwarting the FBI investigation into the Watergate scandal by using the CIA.
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