The Watergate Scandal
The Watergate scandal rocked the U.S. presidency in the early 1970s. The events of Watergate led to the resignation—or quitting—of President Richard M. Nixon. As a result, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the U.S. on August 9, 1974.
The Watergate scandal gets its name from the Watergate Hotel. During the election campaign of 1972, the Democratic National Committee had offices inside the Watergate building.
On June 17, 1972, at 2:30 a.m., police caught five men trespassing inside the hotel. The men were attempting to hide bugs, which are microphones used to secretly listen to conversations, inside these offices.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that the Watergate break-in was part of widespread spying and sabotage designed to help President Nixon win reelection.
The following November, President Nixon won reelection.
More and more people connected to Nixon resigned, were fired, or were convicted of crimes dealing with their involvement in the Watergate scandal. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Watergate Committee began court hearings.
All telephone calls and office conversations in Nixon’s offices had been recorded since 1971. When the Senate Watergate Committee and a case prosecutor asked to hear these tape recordings, Nixon refused to hand the tapes over. During this time, there was increasing pressure for Nixon's impeachment.
The U.S. Supreme Court ordered Nixon to hand over tapes of 64 White House conversations. Days later, the House Judiciary Committee passed one of three articles required to impeach the President.
The following month, on August 8, 1974, Nixon announced his resignation. It was the first time in history that a U.S. president had resigned. Ford was sworn in as President the next day.
President Ford was known for his ability to work well with both Republicans and Democrats by trying to find common ground on issues. He focused on helping America move forward through a difficult time. He eventually pardoned Nixon of all charges connected to the Watergate scandal.
"He assumed power in a period of great division and turmoil," said President George W. Bush. "For a nation that needed healing and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we needed him most."