Why Did the Watergate Break in Occur?

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People associated with Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in order to obtain copies of the opposition’s documents and plant microphones in their offices. According to History.com, the original May 1972 break-in was not successful in installing working wiretaps, and the burglars were caught during their second attempt the following month.

The year 1972 was an extremely contentious time in American history, with the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War escalated by Nixon’s administration late the previous year. During the 1971 holiday season Richard Nixon employed a strategy of heavy bombing over North Vietnam. According to an article in “The Harvard Crimson” published in January 1972, the escalation brought the Vietnam War “back onto the front pages.” Nixon was in danger of alienating a large enough segment of the voting public to potentially cost him the election. The people who broke into the Watergate were associated with the Committee to Re-Elect the President. Nixon was ultimately re-elected, and he denied any involvement with the Watergate break-in. However, the president was involved with the cover-up, including the attempted use of the CIA to thwart the investigation. Facing mounting pressure from the press and the public and a possible impeachment, Nixon resigned in 1974 in the middle of his second term.