Nixon's End: How The Watergate Scandal Brought Down A President

By | November 29, 2016

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Richard Nixon raising hands with trademark V signs in doorway of helicopter after leaving White House following his resignation over the Watergate scandal, 9th August 1974. Photo by Bill Pierce/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

Following revelations of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon announced on August 8, 1974, that he was resigning as President. The next day, following the transfer of office to Vice-President Gerald Ford, Nixon boarded a helicopter and left the White House for good, pausing to flash his trademark "V for victory" sign before he went.

How did this all start? 

A Mysterious Break-in At The Watergate Building

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Nixon was seeking reelection during a tough time. The optimism of the '60s had given way to a pessimistic mood in the early '70s, as the Vietnam War had continued to divide the nation. Nixon was a brilliant politician, a proven survivor over his long career -- but he was also paranoid. The presidential campaign for Nixon decided to go with a more aggressive and hands-on approach that would ultimately lead to the President's downfall.

In June of 1972, burglars were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate building in Washington, D.C. It seemed at first like a random break-in -- but why would burglars choose to break into the Watergate building and specifically the DNC office? What was there to steal, other than, perhaps, something to do with the impending election? 

The burglars weren’t your average criminals, and they weren't really even burglars -- in fact, they'd been hired by Nixon’s reelection committee. A month before, they had broken in to wiretap phones and steal top-secret documents, an act of illegal espionage. It turned out that the wiretaps were not properly placed, so the crew of had to break in again re-tap the phones. This time around they were caught red-handed. Though it was a very suspicious incident, there was no evidence, initially, that Nixon knew about or condoned the break-in.