Watergate Watergate Scandal Introduction Watergate was the name of the biggest political scandal in United States history. It included various illegal activities constructed to help President Richard Nixon win reelection in the 1972 presidential elections. Watergate included burglary, wire tapping, violations of campaign financing laws, and sabotage and attempted use of government agencies to harm political opponents. It also involved a cover-up of conduct. There were about 40 people charged with crimes in the scandal and related crimes.
Most of them were convicted by juries or pleaded guilty. Watergate involved more high-level government officials than any previous scandal. It led to the conviction of former Attorney General John Mitchell and two of Nixon’s top aides, John Erlichmen and H.R. Haldeman, in 1975. Former Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans, a leader of Nixon’s reelection campaign pleaded guilty to Watergate criminal charges and was fined $5000.
Watergate also resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Richard Kleindienst in 1973. The Beginning Watergate really began in 1969 when the White House staff made up a list of enemies. This so-called enemies list was kept of people the president’s men wanted retribution on. Nixon had adversaries which included 200 liberal politicians, journalists, and actors. When people made public speeches against Vietnam, agents found out secret information about them that would harm them.
The Nixon campaign routinely engaged in unethical dirty tricks. These deceptions were led by White House staffers Charles Colson, Special Counsel to the President; Deputy Campaign Director of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) Jeb Magruder; Dwight Chapin, Deputy Assistant to the President; and Donald Segretti, an attorney. These corrupt antics included following Democratic political candidates, assembling reports on their personal lives, forged letters on candidates’ letterheads, altering schedules of campaign appearances, placing harassing phone calls, and manufacturing false information then leaking it to the press. The goal of these tricks was to help eliminate the strongest candidates from the Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire the campaign of front runner, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine was ruined. False rumors were circulated to newspapers. The day before election s Muskie lashed out at the press.
This damaged Muskie’s even-tempered reputation and contributed to his failure to win the 1972 Democratic nomination for the president. Special Investigations Unit The Special Investigations Unit, better known as the plumbers unit, was created as a result of the Pentagon Papers being leaked to the New York Times in June of 1971. The Pentagon Papers were secret defense department documents on the American involvement in the Vietnam War. They revealed a pattern of government deception related to Vietnam. The Papers were leaked to the New York Times by Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on the staff of the National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger. The Nixon administration responded by stopping publication of the papers and charging Ellsberg with espionage.
The plumbers were to block news leaks and control public knowledge of Vietnam policy. President Richard Nixon ordered domestic policy advisor, John Erlichman, to streamline leak plugging by creating this plumbers unit. Erlichman’s deputy, Egil Krogh, Jr. and David Young, a member of the National Security Council staff, hired former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy and former CIA operative E. Howard Hunt to run their illegal secret operation.
Plumbers set wiretaps, opened mail, and conducted break-ins in order to gain information about leaking. They targeted political enemies of the Nixon administration for harassment. Ellsberg was at the top of that list. In September of 1971, the plumbers unit broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. They wanted to find degrading information about Ellsberg before his espionage trial.
The case against Ellsberg was dismissed because of this burglary. The Break-In On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The men were adjusting electronic equipment that they had installed in May. The police apprehended a walkie talkie, forty rolls of unexposed film, two 35 millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-sized teargas guns, and bugging devices. Four of the men who were arrested came from Miami, Florida.
They were Bernard Barker, Frank Sturgis, Virgillio Gonzalez, and Eugenio Martinez. The other man was James McCord, security coordinator for CRP. The two co-plotters were Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt. Their arrest eventually uncovered a White House-sponsored plan of surveillance of political opponents and a trail of conspiracy that led to many of the highest officials in the land. Secret Fund A secret fund that contained more than $300,000 was designated for sensitive political projects. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, Herbert Porter (Scheduling Director, CRP), H.R.
Haldemen (President’s chief of staff), and Herbert Kalmbach (Deputy Finance Chairman, CRP) had control of the fund. All were principal assistants of John Mitchell, Campaign Director, CRP. This money was kept in a special account at CRP. They were funds for Watergate espionage. A $25,000 cashier’s check intended as a contribution to the Nixon reelection effort was deposited into a Miami bank account of Bernard Barker in 1972.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, ordered an immediate audit of the Nixon campaign finances. The audit report concluded that former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, the chief Nixon fund-raiser, had an illegal cash fund of $350,000 in his office safe. The $25,000 from the cashier’s check and another $89,000 from four Mexican checks passed through that fund. This cash supply was used, in part, as an intelligent-gathering fund. Campaign Contributions The Watergate money trail exposed a multitude of Nixon administration financial crimes and illegalities. The serial numbers on the money the Watergate burglars carried (as well as the name of their paymaster, Howard Hunt, found in the address book of one of the burglars) led investigators to a Miami bank and an account set up by the Campaign to Re-elect the President. Eventually investigators would examine the records of the activities of Maurice Stans, former attorney general John Mitchell, and Secretary of the Treasury John Connally.
They discovered a host of unethical and allegedly illegal campaign fund-raising operations. Major corporations were told to contribute at least 100,000 dollars each. It was understood that the donations could easily buy the companies influence with the White House. Many large corporations went along. Connally accepted bribes from a dairy organization eager to have the Nixon administration increase price supports.
There were also efforts to pressure corporate contributors by threatening investigation by the Internal Revenue Service or Environmental Protection Agency, attempts to avoid contributor disclosure laws, and offers of favorable legislation in return for campaign contributions. Eighteen corporations and twenty-one corporate executives admitted making illegal contributions for the 1972 campaign. Kalmbach acknowledged raising and distributing large sums of money that were later used for illegal purposes. He promised an ambassador a better assignment in return for a $100,000 contribution. The International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation made a $400,000 campaign contribution in return for a settlement of an antitrust suit. Maurice Stans later pleaded guilty to charges relating to illegal handling of campaign funds.
Cover-up Immediately following James McCord’s arrest, members of the Nixon administration began a cover-up of McCord’s connection with the White House. Memos and written files connecting him and his superior, Hunt, to the White House were destroyed. More than $187,000 in bribes – hush money – was paid to Hunt, McCord, and the other burglars to keep them from discussing their ties to the White House. Jeb Magruder and John Mitchell denied any association to Hunt and McCord before a grand jury. A cover story was made up by White House chief of staff, H.R.
Haldeman, domestic policy assis …