The Watergate Collection focuses mainly upon the malpractices and political scandals associated with the presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-94), thirty-seventh president of the United States of America (1969-74), which eventually led to his resignation.
In June 1972, five burglars were arrested at 2.30 a.m. during a break-in at the Watergate Hotel, where the offices of the Democratic National Committee were also to be found. Later that same year, in October, FBI agents established that the Watergate burglary was part of an on-going campaign of political spying and sabotage being organised by CREEP (Committee for the Re-Election of the President). This linked the incident immediately to President Nixon. Despite this, on November 11, Nixon was re-elected in the biggest landslide victory in American political history.
In March 1973, James W. McCord (security director for CREEP, convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident) made allegations of cover-up and obstruction of justice that pointed to the involvement of the President's closest advisers in the Watergate break-in.
In an effort to distance himself from the burgeoning scandal Nixon promised (April 1973) 'major new developments' in the investigation arising from the appearance of White House staff before the Senate Watergate Committee. The White House also issued a statement claiming that the President had no prior knowledge of the Watergate incident. Nixon announced the dismissal of several of his close advisers, namely Haldeman and Erlichman. The Attorney General Richard Kleindienst also resigned.
As the Senate Watergate Committee gathered more evidence it became increasingly obvious that Nixon had in fact been informed of the burglary. Nixon meanwhile refused to testify before the Committee and declared that he would not grant access to Presidential documents, claiming Executive Privilege. In July 1973 the Senate Committee demanded that Nixon should hand over a range of White House tapes and documents. But Nixon persisted in his stance of non-compliance. Meanwhile, other aspects of Nixon's life, such as improvements to his San Clemente estate in California, also came under review.
By early 1974 it was clear that Nixon was under threat of impeachment. He submitted transcripts of the White House tapes (which recorded his conversations with his aides) to the House Judiciary Committee. And on 24 July, the Supreme Court, in the case known as United States v. Nixon, by a unanimous vote of 8-0 upheld the Special Prosecutor's subpoena, ordering Nixon to make the tapes available for the Watergate trials of his former staff.
In late July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee adopted three Articles of Impeachment charging Nixon with obstruction of the investigation of the Watergate break-in, misuse of power and violation of his oath of office, and failure to comply with the House subpoenas. The following month Nixon released transcripts of conversations occurring between him and Haldeman only six days after the Watergate break-in. These tapes, subsequently known as The Smoking Gun, revealed that not only was Nixon well informed on the involvement of White House and CREEP officials in the break-in, but he also had ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation.
Around the country there were calls for Nixon's resignation. On August 8, Nixon addressed the US at 9.00 p.m. and announced that he would step down from office as President. The following day he departed from the White House. Gerald Ford was immediately sworn in as President. On September 8, Ford made a surprise announcement granting 'full, free and absolute' pardon to Nixon for 'all offences against the United States' committed between January 20, 1969 and August 9, 1974.