Chapter 21 Section 2 The Watergate Scandal Protesting Nixon • Nixon became president when the nation was in turmoil. • He viewed protesters as people out to bring down his administration. Focusing on 1972 • Nixon was expected to win re-election in 1972. – His approval rating was high. • However, the Vietnam War continued. • Nixon and his advisers also remembered that he won in 1968 by a slim margin. Win...by any means necessary • As a result, his team tried to gain an advantage by any method. • Determined to win the 1972 election at all costs, Nixon’s staffers began spying on opposition rallies and spreading rumors and false reports. • They also tried to steal information from the Democratic Party’s headquarters. Watergate • The scandal known as Watergate originated from the Nixon administration’s attempts to cover up its involvement in the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Break-in at the Watergate Hotel • On June 17, 1972, a security guard at the Watergate complex discovered burglars. • The police arrested the men. No ordinary criminal • One of the burglars, James McCord, was a member of the Committee for the Reelection of the President (CREEP). • Questions came up about the White House’s connection to the burglary. Covering up the break-in • Although President Nixon may not have ordered the break-in, he did order a cover-up. • The cover up included destroying documents and giving false testimony. • The White House denied any involvement in the break-in. 1972 Election • On Election Day, Nixon won 520 electoral votes, while his opponent won only 17. – Most Americans believed the denial. Testifying • The Watergate burglars went on trial in 1973. • James McCord agreed to testify before the grand jury and the Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. • Many people testified after McCord. The President is involved… • In June 1973, John Dean, the counsel to the president, testified that former Attorney General John Mitchell had ordered the Watergate break-in and that Nixon had helped cover it up. • The Nixon administration denied the charges. • The committee then tried to find out who was telling the truth. White House taping system • On July 16, 1973, White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified that Nixon had ordered a taping system installed in the White House to record conversations. • The committee believed that the tapes would tell them what the president knew and when he knew it. Executive Privilege • Everyone wanted the tapes. • However, President Nixon refused to turn over the tapes, pleading executive privilege, the opinion that White House conversations should remain confidential to protect national security. Special Prosecutor • Nixon appointed Archibald Cox as a special prosecutor, or a lawyer from outside the government, to investigate the Watergate cases. • Cox took Nixon to court to force him to give up the tapes. – Nixon had Cox fired. Vice President…Taken Bribes • In the fall 1973 Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned because it was discovered that he had taken bribes. Gerald Ford, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, became vice president. Handing over the tapes • President Nixon appointed a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski. – He also wanted the president’s tapes. • In July the Supreme Court ruled that the president had to turn over the tapes. • Nixon did so. Impeachment begins • A few days later the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon, or officially charge him with misconduct. • The committee charged that Nixon had obstructed justice in the Watergate cover-up. Nixon’s is involved • The next step was for the House of Representatives to vote whether or not to impeach the president. • Investigators found evidence against the president. – One of the tapes showed that Nixon had ordered the CIA to stop the FBI’s investigation of the breakin. Nixon Resigns • Nixon’s impeachment and conviction now seemed certain. • As a result, on August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned. Ford became president. Limiting the Presidency • After Watergate, Congress passed laws to limit the power of the executive branch. • The Federal Campaign Act Amendments limited campaign contributions. • It also set up an independent agency to administer stricter election laws. • The Ethics in Government Act required that high government officials provide financial disclosures. Americans View on Watergate • Watergate made many Americans distrust their public officials. • Other Americans saw Watergate as proof that no one is above the law.