The Watergate scandal was one of the worst political scandals in the history of the United States. The scandal began when five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic Party offices on June 17, 1972 and ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974.
Where did the name "Watergate" come from?
When someone says "Watergate" they are usually referring to the Watergate scandal. The name came from a complex of buildings in Washington, D.C. called the Watergate complex. The headquarters of the Democratic Party was located in the Watergate offices.
Several men who were trying to get President Richard Nixon re-elected as president decided they wanted to spy on the Democratic Party. They hatched a plan to break into the Democratic Party offices in the Watergate building. On May 11, 1972 they broke into the offices, took photographs of secret documents, and placed wire taps on the phone. At first, they got away with it. However, they tried to break in again on June 17, 1972. This time they were caught and arrested.
President Nixon and his staff tried desperately to cover-up the break-in. Nixon denied any knowledge of the activities and said his staff was not involved. He managed to keep his name out of the scandal through the election and was re-elected president in November of 1972.
Woodward and Bernstein
Two reporters for the Washington Post newspaper, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were investigating the burglary. They had an anonymous source they nicknamed "Deep Throat" who told them that the president was involved. It turned out that several members of the White House staff knew about the break-in. President Nixon had been involved in the cover-up as well. He had provided "hush money" to the burglars to keep them quiet. He had also used the CIA to try and stop the FBI from investigating the case.
Despite the mounting suspicion that President Nixon was involved, there wasn't any real proof. The Congress needed hard evidence in order to impeach the president. Investigators soon discovered that Nixon kept tapes of all his conversations in the Oval Office. Investigators asked for the tapes. When Nixon refused, the Supreme Court got involved and ordered him to turn the tapes over. The tapes were the "smoking gun." They clearly showed that Nixon had at least been involved in the cover-up.
With the release of the "smoking gun" tapes, Nixon's political career was over. The Congress was going to impeach him. Rather than be impeached, Nixon chose to resign. On August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office. He was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford.
Did anyone go to jail?
President Nixon did not face criminal charges because he was pardoned by incoming President Ford. However, many of the other men involved were prosecuted. A total of 48 government officials were found guilty of crimes. Many of them served time in jail.
Interesting Facts About the Watergate Scandal
The real name of Deep Throat wasn't revealed for over 30 years. He was the deputy director of the FBI William Mark Felt, Sr.
The Watergate burglars were caught when a security guard noticed that the locks on the office doors were taped open.
When President Nixon fired independent prosecutor Archibald Cox, several more federal attorneys resigned including the Attorney General of the United States. The night this happened is called the "Saturday Night Massacre."
Nixon likely did not order or know about the initial break-in, but he was involved trying to cover it up.
There was a movie made about the reporters Woodward and Bernstein called All the Presidents Men.