Watergate: Was The Nixon White House Involved? What was Watergate? 'Watergate' is a term used to describe a complex web of political scandals occurring between 1972 and 1974. On January 20, 1969, Richard M. Nixon had become the thirty-seventh president of the United States. As Nixon entered the White House, he was "full of bitterness and anger about past defeats, and about years of perceived slights from others in the political establishment." Nixon, a Republican, once stated that, "Washington is a city run primarily by Democrats and liberals, dominated by like-minded newspapers and other media." Nixon's obligation to control his political destiny and to forestall the damaging of his agenda by incumbents urged him toward the development of what was, in effect, a "secret government" (Gettlin and Colodny 6).
The word, "Watergate", refers to the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D. C. In addition to the hotel, the Watergate complex houses many business offices. It was here that the offices of the Democratic National Committee June 17, 1972. Five individuals were arrested at the Watergate complex after the burglary. Charges were also pressed on G.
George Liddy and E. Howard Hunt; the "Watergate Seven" were sentenced by Judge John Sirica. Although Nixon was worried about the break-in, he advised the White House press secretary, Ron Ziegler, to dismiss the incident as "a third-rate burglary" (Cannon 107). In the years ensuing the invasion at the Watergate building, questions and controversy have surfaced consequent to whether or not the White House, under the control of President Nixon, was either directly or discursively involved in the planning and / or performing of any illegal deeds. As the Watergate scandal unfolded, the Nixon administration was quick to mitigate the responsibility for the occurrences, however, in actuality, numerous facts and particulars ascertain White House involvement and justify the repercussions. The arrests of the 'Watergate Seven' eventually uncovered a "White House-sponsored plan of espionage against political opponents and a trail of complicity that led to many of the highest officials in the land" (Jacobs, "Watergate").
These high political executives included former United States Attorney General John Mitchell, White House Counsel John Dean, White House Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman, White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, and President Nixon himself. Evidence corroborating White House involvement was ample and immense. On April 30, 1973, close to a year after the burglary and subsequent to a grand jury investigation of the break-in, President Nixon affirmed the resignation of H. R.
Haldeman and John Ehrlichman and announced the dismissal of John Dean; United States Attorney General RichardKleindienst resigned as well. The resignations and dismissal were all results of pressure placed upon the White House to produce answers regarding the scandal that consummated in the officials' insubordination's. However, the United States government is based upon a system of "checks and balances" where no one person or party can make an ultimate decision. The noncompliance's of the White House and its administrators did not thwart the public's progression towards the answers in the case. Washington, no outsider to "political shenanigans and chicanery,' had never had a political burglary before. Four of the seven individuals apprehended for the Watergate break-in were connected with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and were hired hands "on call" to take care of the agency's "less tasteful work"; bugging phones or picking locks (Cannon 107).
When arrested and searched, in the pockets of two of the burglars the police retrieved the name and phone number of E. Howard Hunt. Police traced the number and found it to be in the Nixon White House. Bringing to question, what business did members of a CIA task force that specialized in burglary and spying have with officials in the White House? Also retrieved from the five individuals detained at the scene, was, altogether, $2, 300 in cash, primarily in hundred-dollar bills with the serial numbers in sequence.
This was coincidental because, John Ehrlichman once revealed, "Bob [H. R. ] Haldeman said nothing to the rest of us about $350, 000 the President had him skim off the top of the 1972 campaign funds to be held in a safe-deposit box (by Alex Butterfield) for 'emergencies'" (342). Perhaps, Nixon and his cabinet members and the other officials who did "business" with Nixon, saw the Democratic campaign as an "emergency" that they needed to take action against.
In May 1973, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Activities opened hearings on Watergate, placing Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina as chairman. John Dean was of the first individuals to be interrogated. A series of startling revelations followed. Dean testified, under oath, that John Mitchell had ordered the break-in at the Watergate and that a major attempt was under way to hide White House involvement. Dean also claimed that the president had authorized payments to the burglars to keep them quiet. The payments can be justified by the evidence found on the five men when they were apprehended at the scene of the crime.
The $2, 300 that the authorities had found on the men were in exact order, by serial number. Throughout the whole ordeal, Nixon emphasized his cabinet members to abolish the public's belief of a cover-up. Nixon stated, "A cover-up is the worst thing; cover-up is how I nailed Truman. It can hurt deeply." Nixon also directed his spokesman to, "Tell them, no one in the White House was involved... At the Committee to Re-elect, there is a possible involvement of a few lower-level officials" (Ehrlichman 354). In these statements, Nixon reveals the need for him and his administration to subterfuge their cover-up of the Watergate scandal.
The testimony of Alexander Butterfield was the affirmation that unlocked the whole investigation and eventually became the most disastrous of all. "On July 16, 1973, Butterfield told the committee, on nationwide television, that Nixon had ordered a taping system installed in the White House to automatically record all conversations" (Jacobs, "Watergate"). These tapes could have been the answer to all the questions in the public's minds. If Nixon or his cabinet members were involved in the Watergate scandal, their voices would be on tape. If they were not involved, they would be free of conviction; the tapes helped either way.
Archibald Cox quickly subpoenaed eight relevant tapes to confirm John Dean's testimony. However, Nixon refused to release the tapes, claiming that "they were vital to national security." U. S. District Court Judge John Siricaruled that Nixon must give the tapes to Cox, and an appeals court reaffirmed the resolution (Jacobs, "Watergate"). Nonetheless, Nixon held his ground and would not give in.
If Nixon was indeed innocent of any and all wrongdoings, so he claimed, why was he so preoccupied with the releasing of the tapes that would set him free of questioning? On Saturday, October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to dismiss Cox. Richardson refused and resigned instead, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Ultimately, the solicitor general dismissed Cox. The actions on this day were classified as the "Saturday night massacre." Public protests and suggestions from his political advisors forced Nixon to turn over the tapes to Sirica. Certain subpoenaed conversations were deficient, and one tape had a mysterious gap of eighteen-and-a-half minutes. Experts analyzed the tapes and concluded that the gap was the result of five separate erasures.
Perchance, these erasures removed the information which would have ended the controversy and brought to life the truth of the White House's involvement in the Watergate scandal. In March 1974, a grand jury indicted Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and four other White House officials for their part in the Watergate cover-up and named President Nixon as an "un indicted co-conspirator" (Jacobs, "Watergate"). In the subsequent months, Nixon was instructed to, and later did, release transcripts for forty-two more tapes. The conversations revealed Nixon's monumental concern with reproving political opponents and thwarting the Watergate investigation. Succeeding investigations have also revealed that the Nixon administration supplicated large sums of money in illegal campaign contributions. The money was put forth to underwrite political espionage in addition to paying more than $500, 000 to the Watergate burglars.
Also surfaced was, "a related group that performed illegal activities for the administration," known as the "plumbers" (Gettlin and Colodny 377). The group had been doing whatever necessary to "stop leaks to the press" (Cannon 269). In an administration where, supposedly, no one is doing any wrong, it does not seem reasonable nor does it seem justifiable to appoint a group that specializes in hiding things from the public. As the Watergate scandal unfolded, the Nixon administration was quick to mitigate the responsibility for the occurrences, however, in actuality, numerous facts and particulars ascertain White House involvement and justify the repercussions. The controversy surrounding the conspiracy at Watergate is simply a matter of the public's lack of awareness to the facts in the case. If the facts are carefully reviewed, it is nearly an indisputable conclusion.
I twas obvious that the Nixon administration was indeed run in a secretive manner. The officials were openly involved in espionage and many other illegal acts. The president himself was approved for three articles of impeachment; he was charged with: "Misusing his power in order to violate the constitutional rights of U. S. citizens, obstructing justice in the Watergate affair, and defying Judiciary Committee subpoenas" (Farnsworth, "Nixon's Watergate"). Rather than face almost assured impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, the first U.
S. president to do so. A month later his successor, Gerald Ford pardoned him for all crimes he might have committed while in office; Nixon was then immune prosecution. President Nixon and his cabinet members failed to realize that the constitutional system of checks and balances would work to prevent abuses as it was intended to by the Founding Fathers.