Watergate scandal

The Watergate scandal was a political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s as a result of the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. , and the Nixon administration’s attempted cover-up of its involvement.

The term Watergate, by metonymy, has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. Those activities included such “dirty tricks” as bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious.

Nixon and his close aides also ordered investigations of activist groups and political figures, using the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as political weapons.

The scandal eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, on August 9, 1974, the only resignation of a U.S. President.

After a series of court battles, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that the president was obliged to release the tapes to government investigators (United States v. Nixon). The tapes revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and to use federal officials to deflect the investigation. 

Facing virtually certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, preventing the House from impeaching him. On September 8, 1974, his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him.

The name “Watergate” and the suffix-gate” have since become synonymous with political and non-political scandals in the United States, and some other parts of the world.