In 1968 former Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon ran for the presidency of the United States on the Republican ticket. It was the second time he attempted to attain that position. In 1960 he had run against John Fitzgerald Kennedy and lost by less than one percent of the vote.
President Lyndon B. Johnson had announced that he would not run for another term as President. After a tumultuous Convention the Democrats had chosen Hubert Humphrey and the Southern states of America also ran a third party candidate, George Wallace, whose platform tended to be against integration of the public schools and civil rights for Blacks. Nixon’s platform, among other things, was that he would end the Viet Nam War and the United States would withdraw with honor from Viet Nam. Nixon also campaigned as the law and order candidate. Martin Luther King Jr, and Robert Kennedy while campaigning for the presidency, had been assassinated. It was a highly dramatic time in the history of the nation, with the anti-Viet Nam War Movement having reached a high point.
Nixon carried 32 states with 301 electoral votes, and a popular vote of 31,783,783; Humphrey had 13 states plus Washington, D.C., 191 electoral votes, and 31,271,839 popular votes; and Wallace had 5 states, 46 electoral votes, and 9,901,118 popular votes. This was the first election after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had led to the mass enfranchisement of racial minorities throughout the country. It was about this time that the South would switch its voter majority to the Republican Party.
Nixon’s presidency, for the next four years would be rather dramatic. He actually increased the pressure of the Viet Nam War, enlarging it beyond its borders in order to get the U.S. out of the war with honor. Protest grew in this country. Protest movements exploded, particularly at universities. By 1972, when it became time for reelection Nixon, even though he had the support of the majority of the American people, became frantic to get reelected.
The Republican Party secretly supported, with funds, the most radical of the Democratic candidates, George McGovern, helping him to get nominated as the Democratic candidate. And a small group of five men, both directly or indirectly, connected with the Republican Reelection Committee broke into Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., bugging two of the telephones and searching for assorted information as to what the Democrats were doing or planning. They broke in more than once and were finally caught and arrested for burglary.
Watergate occurred shortly before the Presidential Election of 1972. Nixon won the election by an overwhelming majority. He received 520 electoral votes, carried 49 states with a popular vote of 47,168,710. McGovern received 17 electoral votes, carried 1 state and Washington, D.C. with a popular vote of 29,173,222. It was an embarrassing defeat for the candidate and the Democratic Party.
Even with the election over and the new Presidential term beginning the Watergate investigation continued. In addition over the next two years an eighty-five page indictment was developed against Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, the former governor of Maryland. He was involved with bribery and extortion, as Vice President, governor, and even going back to before he became governor of Maryland.
Because of the turmoil of Watergate the country was undergoing at that time Agnew was offered a deal by government law enforcement. He could plead “no contest” and resign from the Vice Presidency and he would not be prosecuted. Agnew took the deal, left Washington, and, from what I remember, settled in Palm Springs, California. Nixon, while the investigation was going on appointed a new Vice President, Senator Gerald Ford, who would become President after Nixon resigned.
In January of 1972 G. Gordon Liddy, the Finance Council for the Committee for the Reelection of President Richard Nixon and former aide to John Ehrlichman, presented a campaign intelligence plan to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP) which consisted of Acting Chairman Jeb Stuart Magruder, Attorney General John Mitchell, and Presidential Council John Dean that involved extensive illegal activities against the Democratic Party.
Mitchell viewed the plan as unrealistic. Two months later he was alleged to have approved a reduced version of the plan. This included burgling the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. The burglars were to photograph campaign documents and install listening devices in telephones. G.Gordon Liddy was in charge of the operation, but has insisted, after being arrested, that he was duped by Dean and two of his subordinates. These were former CIA officers E. Howard Hunt and James McCord.
The first burglary was on May 28. Two phones were wiretapped, that of the executive director and that of the DNC secretary. Apparently the listening devices had problems and a second burglary was planned.
Shortly after midnight on June 17, 1972 a security guard at Watergate noticed tape covering the locks on some of the doors in the complex leading from the underground garage to several offices. This allowed the doors to close but remain unlocked. He removed the tape. When he returned an hour later the locks had been re-taped. He called the police. Five men were arrested inside the DNC headquarters.
On September 15, a grand jury indicted them, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy for conspiracy burglary and violation of federal wiretapping laws. The five burglars were tried by a jury and were convicted on January 30, 1973,
On the morning of June 18, 1972, G. Gordon Liddy called Jeb Magruder in Los Angeles and informed him the “the four men arrested with McCord were Cuban Freedom Fighters, whom Howard Hunt had recruited.” The White House immediately began a cover up of the crime and any evidence that might damage the President and his reelection. The Presidential Election would be the first Tuesday in November.
(Somehow the burglary and arrests sounds like a scene from the Silent Era series of films on the keystone cops, totally ridiculous.)
Shortly after the arrest the FBI would discover the name of E. Howard Hunt in the address books of two of the burglars. Dean was later ordered by top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman to “deep six” the contents of Hunt’s White House safe. The evidence from Hunt’s safe was destroyed by Dean and the FBI’s Acting Director, L. Patrick Gray. On June 19, 1972, the press reported that one of the Watergate burglars was a Republican Party Security aide. On August 1, a $25,000 cashier’s check earmarked for the Nixon re-election campaign was found in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars. The FBI investigation would reveal that the burglary team received thousands of dollars in the months leading up to their arrests. In essence multi-thousands of dollars in certified checks which the burglars had received could be traced back to the CRP, connecting the oncoming Presidential Election with the five burglars. All five Watergate burglars were directly or indirectly tied to the 1972 CRP. This in turn caused the Judge who tried their case to suspect a conspiracy involving higher-echelon government officials. On September 29, 1972, the press reported that John Mitchell, while serving as Attorney General, controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance intelligence gathering against the Democrats. On October 10, the FBI reported the Watergate burglary was part of a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage on behalf of the Nixon re-election committee. Still, Nixon’s campaign was never seriously jeopardized. On November 7, the President was overwhelming re-elected.
Watergate lingered between the press and the White House, with more and more information gradually coming out. In fact it haunted Nixon’s second term as president. A special council outside the government for the Watergate investigation was appointed. Archibald Cox headed it. The Senate held public hearings on Watergate which were publically broadcast on national television. It came out that Nixon was recording all conversations in the oval office. Both Cox and the Senate attempted to subpoena these recordings. Nixon refused and ordered Cox to drop his subpoena. Cox refused. Nixon ordered the Attorney General to fire Cox. The Attorney General refused. Nixon fired the Attorney General and ordered the assistant to the Attorney General to fire Cox. He also refused. Nixon also fired him and appointed a third Attorney General, Robert Bork, who did fire Cox.
The public was incensed. In a speech on October 20, 1973, Nixon stated, “I am not a crook.” Then the new Attorney General, Robert Bork, appointed a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, to continue the investigation.
The question had become: When did the President learn of the Watergate break-in? On March 1, 1974 seven of the President’s close aides were indicted by a Grand Jury. They also secretly named the President as an unindicted co-conspirator.
The Nixon administration released an edited version of the tapes. Expletives, which Nixon freely used and confidential information were removed from the tapes. The tapes implied that Nixon knew about the burglary from the beginning and that the initial burglars had been paid to keep silent. Later another tape appeared that proved Nixon was aware of Watergate from the beginning.
In July 27, 1974, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee by a vote of 27 to 11 voted to recommend a Bill of Impeachment against the President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. On August 8, 1974, Nixon was told of the Bill of Impeachment by the House and that there were no more than 15 votes in the Senate that would support him. On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency; the day a bill of impeachment was to be passed in the House of Representatives.
The Cover up had failed. The process had taken a little under two years. The Vice President, Gerald Ford became the new President.
He would serve out the balance of the presidential term. Nixon was still liable to criminal prosecution by both state and federal laws. On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford issued a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes Nixon may have or did commit as President.
Today, early in May of 2017, President Donald J. Trump and his administration face a similar problem. Is or has it undergone a cover-up for collusion with Vladimir Putin and Russia over the Presidential Election of 2016 or are Trump and his staff amateurs that don’t really know what’s going on as they attempt ineptly to run the United States?
According to James Clapper, the former head of the National Intelligence Agency there is “overwhelming” evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. The FBI began its counterintelligence investigation in July of 2016, well before the November Presidential Election.
What I find interesting here is why the FBI Director, James Comey, disregarded policy about an ongoing investigation and publically commented about the Clinton emails shortly before the November Presidential Election but followed FBI procedure and kept quiet about the Trump investigation. He spoke about the Trump investigation in early May of 2017, well after the election.
On May 9, 2017, Trump fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI. Did that act of Trump using his favorite phrase, (which, I understand, was his favorite term when he was hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Presumably he copyrighted the phrase). Does this end the FBI investigation of Trump and Russia? It would seem that he is actually encouraging both the investigation and the appointment of an independent prosecutor.
Trump and his team have continually denied that they have had any improper contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign. Representative Adam Schiff, the highest Democrat on the Intelligence Committee has verbally pointed to a number of people who are or have been part of Trump’s team that have had contact with Russians. There is Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the committee investigation. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who Trump fired eighteen days after discovering he had had contacts with the Russian Ambassador prior to the election. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort; campaign aides J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, as well as longtime Trump confidant Roger stone.
Representative Schiff stated that it was possible that all of their contacts had nothing to do with the election. “But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere.
An election was also held early in May in France and the same techniques were used by the Russians to try to subvert that election to the far-right candidate who Putin preferred. Unlike Trump, she lost the election. The French are apparently far more sophisticated than the Americans.
On May 7, 2017, the former temporary Attorney General, Sally Yates, and the former head of the National Intelligence Agency, James Clapper, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. President Trump did not emerge in any positive fashion from what was said about him.
Donald Trump has been President of the United States for a little over 100 days. Much of what he has done in that office or what he has stated or tweeted has not shown him in a positive light. It is still early in his tenure in office. Remember it took about two years for the evidence against Nixon to come together after his illegal acts. There is a distinct possibility that it may take as long for the same thing to happen to Trump.
Investigation are ongoing now. While Jeff Sessions has recused himself as the chief law enforcement officer in the nation it is still his assistant who is heading up this investigation. Pressure is currently building for an independent investigator outside of Trump’s circle. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, sees no reason for an independent investigator. The New York Times is suggesting that there are a lot more of Trump’s people involved with Russia. What will happen is anyone’s guess. The probability is that Trump may not survive four years as President of the United States.