The Watergate Scandal, a political crisis that occurred in the early 1970s, is still remembered today as one of the worst in U.S. history. Five men were arrested on June 17, 1972, for breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Investigations into the break-ins later uncovered evidence linking the perpetrators to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign.
Journalists and investigators dug further and found a complex web of unlawful activities in which high-ranking Nixon administration officials were embroiled. The break-in and other covert activities aimed at damaging political opponents were covered up in an attempt to cover up the scandal involving Nixon’s staff. The name “Watergate” soon became shorthand for graft and misuse of power in government.
Information from key officials including White House attorney John Dean and FBI Associate Director Mark Felt (Deep Throat) helped expose the plot and bring it to light. Nixon’s involvement in the cover-up was exposed by the discovery of secret tape recordings over the course of legal disputes.
Facing probable impeachment, President Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, becoming the first U.S. president to do so. Nixon was granted a complete pardon by his successor, Vice President Gerald Ford, saving the country from a potentially controversial and lengthy trial.
Transparency and accountability were thrust into the spotlight after the Watergate Scandal irrevocably changed the public’s view of government and its leaders. There was a long-lasting effect on American politics and the concept of presidential power as a result of the reforms and changes it prompted in political ethics and journalism.