In the early to mid-1970s, Richard Nixon was embroiled in a series of scandals surrounding his conduct as President of the United States. Nixon's downfall surrounded the central issue of the Watergate building break-in, where Nixon operatives stole secret documents. The discovery of this misdoing led to a series of other scandals, including Nixon's unwillingness to release documents related to the Watergate investigation.
In 1972, as Nixon was facing re-election, members of his campaign broke into the Democratic Party's headquarters in the Watergate Building in Washington, D.C. These operatives also bugged the headquarter's phones, which constituted illegal espionage. When the break-in was discovered at the time, no one was immediately aware that the event was connected to the president. It was not until the summer and fall of 1973 that members of the media -- including the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein -- began to suspect that the president was involved.
In addition to being accused of involvement with the Watergate break-in, Nixon was also accused of covering up the crime and his connection to it. This involved elaborate schemes, including having accused Nixon aids plead guilty to certain crimes to avoid having to divulge evidence before a trial. As Congress and others began investigating a potential Nixon connection to Watergate, they demanded White House recordings of Nixon's conversations. Nixon, however, refused to offer these tapes, even after the Senate subpoenaed them. In April of 1974, Nixon released some of these tapes but only in edited form.
Abuse of Power
As part of Nixon's coverup of the Watergate scandal, the president made use of important government resources like the CIA. In particular, the president tried to use the CIA to inhibit the FBI's investigation of the president and Watergate. This went beyond a mere cover-up into a severe abuse of presidential power. Nixon's firing of staff members who were uncooperative with the president's handling of the investigation was also considered an infringement of authority.
Impeachment and Resignation
The accusations against Nixon came to a head in July 1974 when the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, criminal cover-up and several violations of the U.S. Constitution. Because of the obvious criminal nature of the acts Nixon was accused of committing, many thought the president's removal from office was assured. Instead of enduring trial, Nixon announced that he would resign the office of president on August 8, 1974, becoming the first president in history to resign.
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