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Watergate Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at Watergate, the 1970s political scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.


June 17, 1972 – Five men are arrested after breaking into Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. White House press secretary Ron Ziegler describes the incident as a “third-rate burglary.”

September 15, 1972 – For their parts in the break-in at the DNC headquarters, Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzales, E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, Eugenio Martinez, James McCord and Frank Sturgis are indicted by a grand jury.

October 10, 1972 – The Washington Post publishes a story by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, stating that the FBI believes aides to President Nixon are responsible for the Watergate break in.

November 7, 1972 – Nixon is elected to a second term in office, defeating Democratic candidate George McGovern.

January 30, 1973 – Former FBI agent Liddy and former CIA employee McCord, security director of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), are found guilty of conspiracy, burglary and bugging DNC headquarters. Hunt, a former CIA operative, and the four others involved ended their trials by pleading guilty.

April 30, 1973 – Four of Nixon’s top officials resign as the Watergate scandal grows: John Dean, White House counsel; H. R. Haldeman, chief of staff; John D. Ehrlichman, assistant for domestic affairs; and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst.

May 17, 1973 – The Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities opens hearings into the Watergate incident, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin (D, NC). The hearings are nationally televised.

May 19, 1973 – Archibald Cox is appointed special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation.

June 25-29, 1973 – Dean testifies before the Senate Select Committee about the White House and Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

July 16, 1973 – During the Watergate hearings, former aide Alexander Butterfield reveals that Nixon has been secretly recording all of his White House conversations since 1971.

July 23, 1973 – In a letter to Ervin, Nixon explains his reason for not turning over the presidential tapes as “the special nature of tape recordings of private conversations is such that these principles (of executive privilege) apply with even greater force to tapes of private presidential conversations than to presidential papers.”

July 26, 1973 – Nixon responds to two subpoenas issued by the Ervin committee by saying he will not comply with requests for copies of White House recordings. He also refuses a similar request from special prosecutor Cox.

August 29, 1973 – Federal Judge John Sirica orders Nixon to turn over the tapes to him to be privately examined. Nixon does not comply and appeals all subpoenas and orders with regards to surrendering the tapes.

October 19, 1973 – The appeal is denied, and the president is ordered to turn over the tapes to Cox. Nixon offers to give a summary of the White House conversations personally edited by him and verified by Senator John Stennis (D, MS) instead.

October 20, 1973 – In what becomes known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” President Nixon orders the firing of Cox as special prosecutor. Rather than comply, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resign. Cox is eventually fired by Solicitor General Robert Bork.

November 1, 1973 – Leon Jaworski is named the special prosecutor.

November 21, 1973 – The White House reveals that one of the subpoenaed recordings, dated June 20, 1972, has an 18-minute gap. Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods says she is responsible for accidentally erasing the tape.

April 30, 1974 – The White House releases edited transcripts, more than 1,200 pages, of the presidential tapes.

July 24, 1974 – The Supreme Court unanimously rules that Nixon must immediately turn over the original recordings of more than 64 conversations to special prosecutor Jaworski.

July 27, 1974 – The House Judiciary Committee approves three articles of impeachment against Nixon. The recommendation is then sent to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

July 31, 1974 – The remaining tapes, having been turned over to Jaworski, reveal a conversation from June 23, 1972, that proves the president’s knowledge of the cover-up from the beginning.

August 8, 1974 – Nixon addresses the nation via television saying, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time president and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the president and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.”

August 9, 1974 – Nixon signs a letter of resignation and Vice President Gerald Ford becomes president.

September 8, 1974 – Ford pardons Nixon.

January 1, 1975 – Former Attorney General John Mitchell, former aide Ehrlichman and former Chief of Staff Haldeman are found guilty of obstruction of justice.

1977 – In a series of interviews with David Frost, Nixon defends his actions during the Watergate investigation.

April 22, 1994 – Nixon dies at the age of 81.

May 31, 2005 – The Washington Post confirms that former FBI agent Mark Felt was “Deep Throat,” the informant who provided reporters Woodward and Bernstein with insider information during the Watergate scandal.

July 29, 2014 – For the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, historians Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter publish “The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972,” transcriptions from a selection of Nixon’s White House audio recordings.

Major Players

The Watergate break-in:

Bernard Barker – Watergate burglar. Pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wiretapping and burglary and served 14 months in prison.

Virgilio R. Gonzalez – Watergate burglar. Pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wiretapping and theft and served 16 months.

E. Howard Hunt – Former CIA agent, counsel to CREEP, and organizer of the Watergate break-in. Pleaded guilty to burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping and served 32 months.

G. Gordon Liddy – Former FBI agent and organizer of the Watergate break-in. Convicted of burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping and served 4.5 years after President Jimmy Carter commuted his original 20-year sentence to eight.

Eugenio Martinez – Watergate burglar. Pleaded guilty to conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping and served 15 months. He was later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.

James McCord – Former CIA agent, Security Director for CREEP and one of the Watergate burglars. Convicted of burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping and served two months.

Frank Sturgis – Watergate burglar. Pleaded guilty to burglary and wiretapping and served 16 months.

Committee to Re-Elect the President:

Jeb Magruder – Deputy director of CREEP. Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and served seven months.

John Mitchell – Former Attorney General, Director of CREEP. Convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury and served 19 months.

The investigation:

Howard Baker – (R, TN) Vice Chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee.

Carl Bernstein – Washington Post investigative reporter.

Archibald Cox – Watergate Special Prosecutor.

Sam Ervin – (D, NC) Chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee.

W. Mark Felt – “Deep Throat,” former FBI official.

Leon Jaworski – Watergate Special Prosecutor.

John J. Sirica – Chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Bob Woodward – Washington Post investigative reporter.

White House:

Charles Colson – Special Counsel to the President. Pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and served seven months.

John Dean – Chief White Counsel. Pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and served four months.

John Ehrlichman – Assistant to the President. Convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury and served 18 months.

H.R. Haldeman – Nixon Chief of Staff. Convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and served 18 months.

Richard Nixon – 37th President of the United States, pardoned.

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