United States Senate
|Formed||February 7, 1973|
|Disbanded||abolished after June 27, 1974, when the committee's final report was published|
|Chair||Sam Ervin (D)|
|Ranking member||Howard Baker (R)|
|Political parties||Majority (4)|
|Purpose||To investigate "illegal, improper, or unethical activities" conducted by individuals involved with a campaign, nomination, and/or election of any candidate for President of the United States in the 1972 presidential election, and produce a final report with the committee's findings.|
The Senate Watergate Committee, known officially as the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, was a special committee established by the United States Senate, S.Res. 60, in 1973, to investigate the Watergate scandal, with the power to investigate the break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and any subsequent cover-up of criminal activity, as well as "all other illegal, improper, or unethical conduct occurring during the controversial 1972 presidential election, including political espionage and campaign finance practices".
American print news media focused the nation's attention on the issue with hard-hitting investigative reports, while television news outlets brought the drama of the hearings to the living rooms of millions of American households, broadcasting the proceedings live for two weeks in May 1973. The public television network PBS broadcast the hearings from gavel to gavel on more than 150 national affiliates.
Working under committee chairman Sam Ervin (D-North Carolina), the committee played a pivotal role in gathering evidence that would lead to the indictment of forty administration officials and the conviction of several of Richard Nixon's aides for obstruction of justice and other crimes. Its revelations later prompted the impeachment process against Nixon himself from October 1973 to August 1974, which featured the introduction of three articles of impeachment by the House of Representatives. Watergate led to Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974.
Shortly after midnight on June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the DNC offices.The FBI launched an investigation of the incident, and the dogged reporting of two Washington Post journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, raised questions and suggested connections between Richard Nixon's controversial reelection campaign and the men awaiting trial. The White House denied any connection to the break-in, and Nixon won reelection in a landslide. Following confirmation that such a connection did in fact exist, the Senate voted 77–0 in February 1973 to create the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities.
The members of the Senate Watergate Committee were:
The chief counsel of the Committee was Samuel Dash, who directed the investigation. The minority counsel was Fred Thompson. Members of the Senate Watergate Committee's professional staff included:
Hearings opened on May 17, 1973, and the Committee issued its seven-volume, 1,250-page report on June 27, 1974, titled Report on Presidential Campaign Activities. The first weeks of the committee's hearings were a national politico-cultural event. They were broadcast live during the day on commercial television; at the start, CBS, NBC, and ABC covered them simultaneously, and then later on a rotation basis, while PBS replayed the hearings at night.Some 319 hours were broadcast overall, and 85% of U.S. households watched some portion of them. The audio feed also was broadcast, gavel-to-gavel, on scores of National Public Radio stations, making the hearings available to people in their cars and workplaces, and increased the profile of the fledgling broadcast organization.
The hearings made stars out of both Ervin, who became known for his folksy manner and wisdom but resolute determination, and Baker, who appeared somewhat non-partisan and uttered the famous phrase "What did the President know, and when did he know it?" (often paraphrased by others in later scandals). It was the introduction to the public for minority counsel Thompson, who would later become an actor, senator, and presidential candidate.
Many of Watergate's most famous moments happened during the hearings. During former White House counsel John Dean's 4 days before the committee, he testified about the cover-up, who was involved including himself and events related to it (including him telling Nixon that March 21st that there was a "cancer on the Presidency") and confirmed to Inouye that the Nixon White House kept a list of its enemies – including Weicker, who then called for added transparency in the executive branch. Meanwhile, FAA chairman and former White House deputy assistant Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of the secret Nixon White House tapes and Ervin sparred with former Nixon chief domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman about whether constitutional law allowed a President to sanction such actions as the Watergate break-in and a break-in at the office of the psychiatrist to Daniel Ellsberg, the former assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs who had leaked the Pentagon Papers.
The Watergate scandal was a political scandal in the United States involving the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon from 1971 to 1974 that led to Nixon's resignation. The scandal stemmed from the Nixon administration's continuous attempts to cover up its involvement in the June 17, 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Washington, D.C. Watergate Office Building. After the five perpetrators were arrested, the press and the U.S. Justice Department connected the cash found on them at the time to the Nixon re-election campaign committee. Further investigations, along with revelations during subsequent trials of the burglars, led the U.S. House of Representatives to grant its judiciary committee additional investigation authority to probe into "certain matters within its jurisdiction", and the U.S. Senate to create a special investigative committee. The resulting Senate Watergate hearings were broadcast "gavel-to-gavel" nationwide by PBS and aroused public interest. Witnesses testified that the president had approved plans to cover up administration involvement in the break-in, and that there was a voice-activated taping system in the Oval Office. Throughout the investigation, the administration resisted its probes, which led to a constitutional crisis.
James Walter McCord Jr. was an American CIA officer, later involved as an electronics expert in the burglaries which precipitated the Watergate scandal.
Jeb Stuart Magruder was an American businessman and high-level political operative in the Republican Party who served time in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal.
John Daniel Ehrlichman was counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President Richard Nixon. Ehrlichman was an important influence on Nixon's domestic policy, coaching him on issues and enlisting his support for environmental initiatives.
Howard Henry Baker Jr. was an American politician and diplomat who served as a United States Senator from Tennessee from 1967 to 1985. During his tenure, he rose to the rank of Senate Minority Leader and then Senate Majority Leader. A member of the Republican Party, Baker was the first Republican to be elected to the US Senate in Tennessee since the Reconstruction era.
Louis Patrick Gray III was Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from May 2, 1972 to April 27, 1973. During this time, the FBI was in charge of the initial investigation into the burglaries that sparked the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon. Gray was nominated as permanent Director by Nixon on February 15, 1973, but failed to win Senate confirmation. He resigned as Acting FBI director on April 27, 1973, after he admitted to destroying documents that had come from convicted Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt's safe—documents received on June 28, 1972, 11 days after the Watergate burglary, and given to Gray by White House counsel John Dean.
John Wesley Dean III is a former attorney who served as White House Counsel for United States President Richard Nixon from July 1970 until April 1973. Dean is known for his role in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal and his subsequent testimony to Congress as a witness. His guilty plea to a single felony in exchange for becoming a key witness for the prosecution ultimately resulted in a reduced sentence, which he served at Fort Holabird outside Baltimore, Maryland. After his plea, he was disbarred as an attorney. According to the FBI, Dean was the "master manipulator" of the Watergate affair.
Alexander Porter Butterfield is an American retired military officer, public servant, and businessman. He served as the deputy assistant to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. He revealed the White House taping system's existence on July 13, 1973, during the Watergate investigation, but had no involvement in the scandal. From 1973 to 1975, he served as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Robert Charles Mardian was a United States Republican party official who served in the administration of Richard Nixon, and was embroiled in the Watergate scandal as one of the Watergate Seven who were indicted by a grand jury for campaign violations. His conviction for conspiracy was overturned because of procedural unfairness and he was not subsequently retried.
The Watergate scandal refers to the burglary and illegal wiretapping of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, in the Watergate complex, by members of President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign and the subsequent cover-up of the break-in resulting in Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974, as well as other abuses of power by the Nixon White House that was discovered during the course of the scandal.
The Huston Plan was a 43-page report and outline of proposed security operations put together by White House aide Tom Charles Huston in 1970. It came to light during the 1973 Watergate hearings headed by Senator Sam Ervin.
The Nixon White House tapes are audio recordings of conversations between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Nixon administration officials, Nixon family members, and White House staff, produced between 1971 and 1973.
All the President's Men is a 1976 American political biographical drama film about the Watergate scandal, which brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. Directed by Alan J. Pakula with a screenplay by William Goldman, it is based on the 1974 non-fiction book of the same name by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two journalists investigating the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post.
The master list of Nixon political opponents was a secret list compiled by President Richard Nixon's Presidential Counselor Charles Colson. It was an expansion of the original Nixon's Enemies List of 20 key people considered opponents of President Richard Nixon.
Murray M Chotiner was an American political strategist, attorney, government official, and close associate and friend of President Richard Nixon during much of the 37th President's political career. He served as campaign manager for the future president's successful runs for the United States Senate in 1950 and for the vice presidency in 1952, and managed the campaigns of other California Republicans. He was active in each of Nixon's two successful runs for the White House in low-profile positions.
Henry E. Petersen (1921-1991) was an attorney and United States federal government official. He served as Assistant U.S. Attorney General during the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations. He also engaged in ethically questionable communications with Nixon and his staff, providing inside information about the investigation prior to the appointment of the Special Prosecutor.
Operation Sandwedge was a proposed clandestine intelligence-gathering operation against the political enemies of the Richard Nixon presidential administration. The proposals were put together by H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Jack Caulfield in 1971. Caulfield, a former police officer, created a plan to target the Democratic Party and the anti-Vietnam War movement, inspired by what he believed to be the Democratic Party's employment of a private investigation firm.
Donald Gilbert Sanders was an American lawyer and a key figure in the Watergate investigation. As deputy minority counsel of the Senate Committee, he discovered the existence of President Richard Nixon's White House tapes. Nixon's refusal of a congressional subpoena to release the tapes constituted an article of impeachment against Nixon, and led to the president's subsequent resignation on August 9, 1974. Sanders served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and director of investigations for the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Samuel James "Sam" Ervin Jr. was an American politician. A Democrat, he served as a U.S. Senator from North Carolina from 1954 to 1974. A native of Morganton, he liked to call himself a "country lawyer", and often told humorous stories in his Southern drawl. During his Senate career, Ervin was a legal defender of the Jim Crow laws and racial segregation, as the South's constitutional expert during the congressional debates on civil rights. Unexpectedly, he became a liberal hero for his support of civil liberties. He is remembered for his work in the investigation committees that brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954 and especially for his investigation of the Watergate scandal in 1972 that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.
The impeachment process against Richard Nixon began in the United States House of Representatives on October 30, 1973, following the series of high-level resignations and firings widely called the "Saturday Night Massacre" during the course of the Watergate scandal. The House Committee on the Judiciary set up an impeachment inquiry staff and began investigations into possible impeachable offenses by Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States. The process was formally initiated on February 6, 1974, when the House granted the Judiciary Committee authority to investigate whether sufficient grounds existed to impeach Nixon of high crimes and misdemeanors under Article II, Section 4, of the United States Constitution. This investigation was undertaken one year after the United States Senate established the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to investigate the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and the Republican Nixon administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement; during those hearings the scope of the scandal became apparent and the existence of the Nixon White House tapes was revealed.