The Watergate scandal exposed the widespread political corruption of the Nixon White House during his campaign for re-election as president. As the race tightened, Attorney General John Mitchell and White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman authorized G. Gordon Liddy, a White House operative, to gather intelligence on Nixon’s opponent, Senator George McGovern. Liddy hired the men who burglarized the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., in May and June of 1972 in order to tap the phone of the DNC chairman, Lawrence O’Brien. On June 17th of that year, five men, including James McCord, the security coordinator for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP or CREEP), were caught and arrested for breaking into the DNC headquarters. With an eye to the November 1972 election, the White House denied any involvement and attacked the press, particularly The Washington Post, for continuing to report on the story and arranged to pay hush money to the burglars. Nixon also ordered Haldeman to use the CIA to halt an FBI investigation into the break-in.
The cover-up started to unravel after the conviction of the Watergate burglars in early 1973, when McCord, to avoid taking the blame for higher-ups, charged that witnesses had committed perjury at the trial. In May, the Senate began a televised investigation into the affair, which soon revealed that Nixon secretly taped Oval Office conversations. Even before the Senate investigation revealed that these recordings existed, John Dean, White House Counsel, testified that Nixon had many conversations about both the break-in and the cover-up. Only the tapes would corroborate the extent of the president’s knowledge and access to this crucial evidence quickly became the focus of the Senate and Department of Justice Watergate investigations. Nixon refused to release the tapes, however, claiming that executive privilege protected his conversations. This triggered both impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives in May 1974 and an appeal to the Supreme Court. On July 24, 1974, United States v. Nixon was decided, forcing Nixon to surrender the tapes. The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment the following week. Facing impeachment, the collapse of Republican support, and clear evidence of his complicity, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.