Following is the detailed timeline of the Watergate scandal that brought President Richard Nixon down. The controversy while started from the break-in on June 16, 1972 was arguably rooted since the leak of the Pentagon Papers and ended with President Ford’s pardon of Nixon. The scandal led to President Nixon’s resignation on August 8, 1974 – the first and only American President to ever resign.
November 5, 1968: Richard Nixon elected President in one of the closest presidential races.
June 13, 1971: The New York Times begins publishing the Pentagon Papers. The Washington Post would begin publishing the papers later in the week.
September 3, 1971: The White House plumbers broke into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist office to find files that might discredit the man who who had leaked the Pentagon Papers. Several “plumbers” including former FBI agent Gordon Liddy, and former CIA officer Howard Hunt would later become the burglars in the Watergate scandal.
June 16, 1972: Seven men, including Liddy and Hunt, hired by representatives of the Nixon’s administration gathered to finalise their break-in plan into Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarter in the Watergate office complex.
June 17, 1972: Five men were arrested while breaking in the office trying to steal top-secret documents and bug the office.
June 19, 1972: One of the five burglars was reported by the Washington Post based on the help of “Deep Throat”, as a chief security officer at the Committee to Re-elect the President, known pejoratively as CREEP. John Mitchell, head of CREEP, publicly denied any connection to the event so did Ron Zeigler, Nixon’s Press Secretary from the White House. A cover-up was well under way.
August 1, 1972: A $25,000 check intended for President Nixon’s re-election campaign was found in a burglar’s account, thereby establishing a connection between the break-in and the CREEP.
September 15, 1972: Five Watergate burglars, together with Hunt and Liddy, were indicted on the charges of breaking in the Democratic National Committee’s office and stealing documents.
September 29, 1972: The Post revealed further that Attorney General John Mitchell had a secret Republican Party fund used to finance intelligence gathering against the Democrats.
October 10, 1972: The FBI discovered that there was a systematic and illegal spying, recording, and taping and that the break-in was part of a larger campaign by Nixon supporters against the Democrats.
November 7, 1972: The burglary and those revelations, however, did not prevent Nixon from being re-elected with a landslide victory against Democratic candidate Senator George McGovern.
January 8, 1973: The five burglars pleaded guilty as their trial began.
January 20, 1973: President Nixon’s second Inaugural Address
January 30, 1973: Five burglars as well as White House security advisor Liddy and McCord were convicted of conspiracy, wiretapping and burglary.
February 28, 1973: White House counsel John Dean was also linked with Watergate scandal by the testimony of Patrick Gray, who was then acting FBI chief.
March 19, 1973: Watergate burglar, former CIA agent James McCord, who had been convicted in the scandal, wrote to judges that he was compelled to take the responsibility of the break in.
March 25, 1973: The Los Angeles Times reported McCord had stated John Dean, the White House counsel, along with Nixon’s campaign advisor Magruder among those who involved in the controversial burglary.
March 28, 1973: McCord testified that burglary operation was authorized by then attorney General and Chairman of Nixon’s re-election campaign John Mitchell and President’s special advisor Charles Colson was also aware of that.
April 9, 1973: According to a New York Times report, McCord had testified that all the funding to the Watergate burglars came from Republican Party fund that was designated for the CREEP.
April 17, 1973: President Nixon spoke to the press and assured that every person involved in the break in and cover up would be dealt with iron fist and his staff would also be open to interrogation.
April 24, 1973: President Nixon was informed by attorney general Richard Kleindienst that John Deans has testified to the senate committee about the White House’s involvement in the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.
April 30, 1973: Nixon announced in his first Primetime Address on Watergate issue that his top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigned while White House counsel John Dean was fired.
May 19, 1973: Archibald Cox was appointed as the Justice Department’s special prosecutor for Watergate.
Nixon’s Tapes & “Executive Privilege”
June 3, 1973: The Post reported that John Dean was going to disclose to the committee that Nixon had prior knowledge of the hush-money and that he also planned the cover-up with those fired advisors and John Dean himself.
June 25-29, 1973: John Dean did make these allegations and revealed further that Nixon had wiretapped some Watergate conversations in oval office.
Ten days later, Nixon refused to go for testimony nor give access to these tapes, justifying the decision as “executive privilege”.
July 16, 1973: Alexander Butterfield, a White House advisor, confirmed that Nixon had a recording system installed in the oval office, which would be ordered to turn off by Nixon two days later. The committee and Cox subpoenaed Nixon to hand over these tapes.
August 15, 1973: Nixon’s second Primetime Address on Watergate
Nixon reassured the nation in his second address that he had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in nor did he participate in its cover-up activities.
Meanwhile, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned over tax fraud and bribery allegation and would be replaced by Gerald R. Ford on December 6, 1973
October 19, 1973: Nixon suggested Cox the so-called “Stennis Compromise” in which Senator John C. Stennis would independently review and summarize the tapes then pass to him.
October 20, 1973: Saturday Night Massacre
As Cox refused to compromise, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson and then Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. They all refused and resigned in protest. Solicitor General Robert Bork later fired Cox in demand of Nixon.
November 17, 1973: In a televised address to the nation, President Nixon exclaimed: “I’m not a crook!”
November 21, 1973: 18 1/2 Minute Tape Gap
The White House reported two of the subpoenaed tapes were missing while 18.5 minutes of the other which recorded the conversation between the President and H.R. Haldeman just 3 days after the break-in were erased.
Impeachment & Resignation
February 6, 1974: Congress authorized the Judicial Committee to investigate further for President Nixon’s impeachment.
March 1, 1974: The “Watergate Seven” were indicted while Nixon was named an “unindicted co-conspirator” by a grand jury.
April 16, 1974: New special prosecutor Leon Jaworski issued subpoenas for 64 more White House tapes.
April 29, 1974: Nixon’s third Primetime Watergate Address
In his third address, Nixon responded to the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for additional Watergate tapes with a release of edited transcripts tomorrow.
April 30, 1974: The White House released more than 1,200 pages of transcribed tapes, but the House Judiciary Committee demanded the original tapes to be handed over .
May 9, 1974: The committee initiated impeachment hearings.
July 24, 1974: The Supreme Court unanimously decided United States v. Nixon, rejecting Nixon’s claim of “executive privilege” and ordering him to hand the tapes over to investigators.
July 27 – 30, 1974: The Judiciary Committee passed three articles of impeachment against Nixon, namely obstructing the Watergate investigation and misusing of presidential power and violating his oath of office.
August 5, 1974: the “Smoking Gun” tape
Three of the subpoenaed tapes were made public. One of these would become known as the “Smoking Gun” tape containing a conversation recorded six days after the Watergate break-in, in which Nixon had ordered Haldeman to use the CIA to block the FBI’s investigation.
August 8, 1974: In his final address to the nation, Nixon announced his resignation, stating that over the Watergate issue, he no longer had enough support in Congress to carry on his term as president.
September 8, 1974: President Gerald Ford issued a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes Nixon might have committed during his presidency.