June 17

On this day. 1972: Five men were arrested for breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate building. It was the beginning of the biggest political scandal in U.S. history — Watergate — which ended with the only resignation of a president, Richard Nixon, on August 9, 1974. Watergate also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction, and incarceration of 43 people, including dozens of top Nixon administration officials.

The scandal unraveled rather quickly, thanks to dogged reporting by two reporters from The Washington Post: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. In addition, after the break-in, the FBI linked cash the burglars had to a "slush fund" used by the Committee for the Re-election of the President ("CREEP"). As a Senate committee launched an investigation into Watergate, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and that he had recorded numerous conversations. Nixon refused to turn the tapes over, citing executive privilege, but eventually did so after the Supreme Court ordered him to do so. The tapes showed that Nixon tried to cover up the break-in, helped raise "hush money" for the burglars, tried to hinder the FBI's investigation, and destroyed evidence.

With Congressional support crumbling in the summer of 1974 — and the House Judiciary Committee moving forward with impeachment proceedings, Nixon resigned. A month later his successor, President Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon for any crimes "he committed or may have committed" in connection with Watergate.

Quote of the day

"Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth... find the truth... speak the truth... live the truth." -Richard Nixon

More from West Wing Reports...