What Is a Summary of the Watergate Scandal?

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The Watergate scandal consisted of the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters by people indirectly working for President Richard Nixon, and the subsequent cover-up of the administration’s involvement by Nixon and members of his staff. The Watergate scandal drew widespread attention and resulted in the resignation of President Nixon.

Watergate.info reports that the scandal began with the arrest of five men for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972. The men were found to be bugging the building’s telephones, including the phone of Democratic chairman Larry O’Brien. The FBI found the name of E. Howard Hunt–a former CIA officer involved in another Nixon controversy–in the address book of one of the burglars. Shortly thereafter, investigators discovered a cashier’s check for $25,000 from the committee for the re-election of the president in the bank account of one of the burglars.

Congress, the Justice Department and the press began suspecting a link between the Nixon Administration and the break-in. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were famously contacted by an anonymous source known as Deep Throat, who informed them that Howard Hunt and the administration were trying to cover up their involvement. Eventually, a collection of White House tapes recording the conversation of President Nixon came to light. Nixon further incriminated himself when he ordered the dismissal of special prosecutor Archibald Cox of the Justice Department, who subpoenaed the tapes.

Eventually, the Supreme Court ordered the release of the tapes. The result was the near-universal acknowledgement of Nixon’s culpability. The president resigned on August 8, 1974 in order to avoid certain impeachment and conviction.