The Watergate Scandal – How Richard Nixon Lost His Presidency


Watergate was the biggest political scandal in American history. It was about illegal activities that should help Richard Nixon become President a second time. The Watergate scandal forced Richard Nixon to resign in 1974.
The whole scandal started in the summer of 1972, when five men broke into the Democratic National Party’s headquarters in the Watergate building complex in Washington. They wanted to steal documents and plant bugs in the offices. Some of them were Republicans who worked in committees to re-elect President Nixon.  In January 1973 the men faced trial and were found guilty.

The White House claimed that nobody in the President’s staff knew anything about the break-in. Later on newspaper reporters found documents that proved that White House aides gave money to spy on the Democrats. It was also found that White House officials tried to get the CIA and the FBI to help in covering up the burglary.
In April 1973 Richard Nixon stated that he had not known anything about the break-in nor had he anything to do with covering it up. A Senate committee started to investigate the issue and the White House named a special prosecutor to head it.

The committee learned that President Nixon made tape recordings of conversations that went on in his office.  It believed that these tapes could help uncover the truth and what role the President really played in the Watergate break-in.  Several times President Nixon refused to hand over the tapes but finally a judge ordered him to do so. When the tapes were finally released the special prosecutor discovered that a few parts were missing or erased.

In mid- 1974 Congress representatives started a campaign to get Richard Nixon impeached. They accused him of three crimes: blocking justice in a federal crime, abusing presidential powers and keeping back evidence.

While Nixon’s lawyers repeatedly stated that Nixon had done nothing wrong, the president saw that it was no use fighting back and that the public was turning against him.  On August 5 1974, Nixon finally released the most important transcripts of the tape recordings. They showed that the President knew all about the Watergate burglary a week after it had happened. For two years the president had been lying to the American people. After seeing no other way out of the scandal, Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.  Vice President Gerald Ford took office and a month later pardoned Nixon for the crimes he may have committed.

The Watergate scandal changed American politics.  Many people started looking at their leaders in a different way and no longer had much faith in them.


Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.


Related Topics



  • abuse = to use in a wrong way
  • activity = action
  • aide = helper
  • block = stop
  • break-in = the act of entering a building illegally , in order to steal something
  • campaign = movement
  • CIA = Central Intelligence Agency = government organization that secretly collects information about other countries
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • commit = do
  • committee = group of people that have been selected to get information about something
  • cover up= to stop someone from finding out the truth about something
  • discover = to find out
  • erase = remove
  • evidence = facts, proof
  • faith = trust
  • FBI = police department that deals with crimes that break national laws
  • federal = nationwide
  • force = to make someone do something, even if they do not want to do it
  • guilty = not innocent; to have committed a crime
  • hand over = give to someone
  • headquarters = here: the place from which everything is controlled
  • illegal = against the law
  • impeach = to charge a government  official, in most case the president, with a crime and remove him from his job
  • investigate = look into, examine, get more information about
  • issue = topic
  • judge = an official ion court who decides how criminals should be punished
  • justice = system of laws in a country
  • keep back = not give to the public
  • lawyer = a person who defends someone in court
  • official = person who is in a high position
  • pardon = to allow someone to go free without punishing them
  • plant bugs = to put a small piece of metal into a room in order to secretly listen to what people say
  • politics = ideas and activities about gaining and using power in a country
  • prove = to provide facts that show that something is true
  • public = the American people
  • re-elect = to choose again
  • refuse = to say no
  • release = make public
  • repeatedly = often
  • representative = a member of parliament
  • resign = leave your job
  • Senate = a part of the American Congress, made up of a hundred Senators
  • special prosecutor = a lawyer who is named by the President or by Congress to examine a crime in which the government may be involved
  • staff = the people who work for you
  • state = to say officially
  • steal = to take something that belongs to someone else
  • take office = here: to become president
  • tape recording = something that has been recorded on magnetic tape
  • trial = an examination in court in which a judge and a jury tries to find  out if someone has done something wrong or not
  • truth = facts, what really happened
  • uncover = find out about