Although his involvement was not immediately obvious, President Nixon was undeniably connected and complicit in the Watergate break-in. In addition to the fact that the spies who carried out the act were part of his reelection campaign team, there was evidence proving that he created a hush fund to protect them from prosecution.
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It also emerged that he lied to the American electorate when he assured them that the break-in was in no way linked to the Whitehouse staff. However, Investigations revealed that they were indeed involved and had acted on his orders (Van Meter, 2009). Furthermore, using the CIA, he tried to impend FBI investigations of the crime so he could protect his co-conspirators and prevent detectives from tracing them back to the Whitehouse (Anderson, 2006).
By denying investigators and prosecutors access to essential evidence, Nixon abused his presidential powers with the intent to hinder the investigations and protect himself. He even fired Archibald Cox, one of the prosecutors putting pressure on him to avail the evidence needed to clarify the matter, a move that the public viewed as both arrogant and unconstitutional.
18 and ½ minutes of silence
While being cross-examined by investigators, some members of the Whitehouse staff cracked and admitted that Nixon recorded all the conversations that took place in the Oval Office. The prosecutors realized that access to these tapes would prove Nixon’s involvement in Watergate beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, they set out to have them released (Van Meter, 2009).
One of the controversies surrounding these tapes is the “eighteen and a half minutes of silence” erased from a conversation between Nixon and Haldeman, in which they discussed the Watergate situation. Even today, it has never been determined who deleted this crucial evidence, although Nixon’s secretary did admit to accidentally wiping out four and a half minutes of the recording.
She was, however, adamant that she only deleted that part and could not have been responsible for the entire 18 1/2 minutes (Anderson, 2006). These minutes remain a mystery and the ruined recording is currently stored in the national archives in the hope that someday, there will be the technology that can recover the information.
Richard Nixon and his resignation
Following the scandal and his near-certain impeachment, Nixon was forced to resign as the 37th president of the United States, only two years after winning a landslide re-election victory. Although he never confessed to the crimes despite the overwhelming evidence stacked against him, he admitted to poor judgment and appeared to accept at least some of the responsibility for the consequences of his actions (Anderson, 2006).
In his final speech as president, he claimed that he did not feel he had enough support in Congress to allow him to complete the remaining two years of his term. Nixon also expressed hope that his stepping down would hasten national healing and reconciliation. Gerald Ford, his successor, later pardoned him for the Watergate scandal and other crimes making it impossible for him to be prosecuted after leaving the office.
With his resignation, Nixon became the first American president in history to resign, and this had a profound impact on public perception towards the presidency. In the backdrop of the scandal and the controversial Vietnam War, the presidency was viewed in a negative light, and there was considerable public cynicism towards the White House.
Anderson, D. (2006). Watergate: Scandal in the White House. Minnesota: Capstone.
Van Meter, L. A. (2009). United States V. Nixon: The Question of Executive Privilege. New York: Infobase Publishing.