Richard Nixon Trump Watergate
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Amid reports that President Trump's ethical dealings in office stink more than a mosh pit at Burning Man at high noon, impeachment talk hangs in the air. And one analogy keeps coming up more than any other: Watergate.

So what is Watergate?

Shorthand for the biggest presidential scandal in United States history thus far, Watergate resulted in the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in August 1974.

Watergate scandal summary

It originated with a burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Five men were arrested for breaking and entering in June 1972. The Nixon administration was ultimately found to have financed the break-in via a slush fund called the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), to have covered up the burglary and to have committed numerous abuses of power, including bugging political opponents and investigating perceived enemies inside and outside the government.

Hearings by the Congressional Watergate Committee began in 1973. An iconic moment was provided by Sen. Howard Baker, who asked a witness: "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"


A major break in the Watergate case came via Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, reporters for the “Washington Post.” A source whom they called Deep Throat revealed crucial information implicating the president. Woodward and Bernstein's reports led to increased scrutiny of the president; they were the subject of the later film "All the President's Men."

Ultimately, Nixon's taping system in Oval Office brought him down. Subpoenaed by Congress, the tapes revealed that Nixon approved cover-ups after the burglary, including the use of administration officials to deflect from the charges.

Under the spectre of impeachment, Nixon resigned the presidency on October 9, 1974, and his vice president, Gerald R. Ford, was sworn in as president the next day.

More than 69 associates of Nixon's were indicted; 48 were ultimately tried and sent to prison. President Ford pardoned Nixon in September 1974, in a controversial act many believe sank his election bid against Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Trump Watergate parallels

The question of what the president knows and when he knew it has also been applied to Trump by political analysts, who ask what and when the president was aware of meetings with Russian officials conducted by former adviser Mike Flynn and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

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