Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Final Report: Watergate

We reveal how a bungled burglary, and the accompanying cover-up campaign, led to the demise of Richard Nixon, the American president, in 1974.
On 17th June 1972, police arrested five burglars who were in the process of breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. At first, the break-in was no more than a local police blotter story. However, suspicious reporters soon linked the burglars to the CIA, the FBI, the ‘Committee to Re-elect the President’ and even the White House itself.
For a time, the Watergate story all but vanished from the newsstands. Yet Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein continued their investigation, meeting with their confidential source, FBI Associate Director Mark Felt. To most of the Washington Post staff, he was known simply as ‘Deep Throat’. We uncover Felt’s hidden agenda, exploring what drove him to attack Nixon.
In November 1972, Americans re-elected Nixon. He won forty-nine states in a landslide victory over George McGovern of South Dakota. We reveal the extent of the political sabotage that led up to the landmark 1972 election. In the process, we uncover another burglary - one which would prove infinitely more damaging to the White House.
In the spring of 1973, the Senate began televising its hearings on the Watergate scandal. The nation sat transfixed before their televisions as John W. Dean III, the President’s former legal counsel, effectively accused Nixon of being a criminal. In his questioning of Dean, Senator Howard Baker famously asked: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
Less than a month after Dean's testimony, former White House aide Alexander Butterfield told the Senate Watergate Committee that President Nixon had a secret taping system in the Oval Office. During the programme, Alexander Butterfield reveals the back-story that lead up to this infamous moment. After Butterfield revealed the existence of the White House tapes, Richard Nixon did not destroy them. We interview Leonard Garment, Nixon’s legal counsel, who exposes the real justification behind keeping the evidence that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency.

In 1974, Richard Nixon left the White House for the last time. The programme concludes by looking more broadly at the lasting effect the scandal has had on the presidency.


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