Watergate: The Lead Up to Nixon’s Impeachment

Spiro Agnew | RealClearPolitics

Watergate Episode 5

History Channel (2016)

Film Review

This episode focuses on Spriro Agnew’s resignation and the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre.” Many analysts view as the turning point in Nixon’s battle to clear his name.

On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns after pleading guilty to corruption charges. Two days later, Nixon nominates Congressman Gerald Ford as Vice President, and he’s confirmed by the Senate.

In the Saturday Night Massacre three weeks later (on Saturday October 20, 1973, Nixon orders Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refuses and resigns instead. Nixon then orders Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he, too, refuses and resigns. Nixon then orders the third-most-senior official at the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox. Bork complies, stating he intends to resign afterwards. He’s persuaded by Richardson and Ruckelshaus to stay on for the good of the Justice Department

Although the Nixon administration seals off the special prosecutor’s office following Cox’s firing, they forget to fire the attorneys under Cox and they continued their investigation.

On July 24, 1974 the Supreme Court rules unanimously (8-0) that Nixon turn over the White House tapes. According to the new special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, three of the tapes were missing and one tape had an 18 1/2 minute gap. Nixon’s secretary blamed this on accidentally hitting the record button as she transcribed them.

The following week the House Judiciary Committee conducting impeachment hearings begins listening to the tapes. In one of the most publicized conversations, former White House counsel John Dean advises Nixon he needs another million dollars to continue payoffs to the burglars. Nixon indicates he will have no difficulty finding a million dollars. However as Russ Baker points out in Chapter 11 “Downing Nixon” of his 2009 book Family of Secrets, there is no evidence that he ever paid a million dollars (legally or legally) to the Watergate burglars or played any direct role in the Watergate payoffs.*

*See Was Nixon Set Up?

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy.



Did John Dean Instigate the Watergate Coup?

Watergate's John Dean: "I am actually honored" to be ...

Watergate Chapter 4

The History Channel (20160

Film Review

In this episode, the History Channel replays video footage of John Dean testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee. There is also a clear attempt to elicit sympathy for Dean as the inexperienced dupe of Nixon. I don’t buy it. Neither does Russ Baker in his 2009 Family of Secrets (see Was Nixon Set Up?).

In “Chapter 11 Downing Nixon Part II The Execution,” he reveals (based on range of resources, including unclassified documents, first hand accounts of White House staff and congressional records) that it was Dean who instigated and engineered both the Watergate break-in and cover-up (as Nixon claimed at the time): 

  • In November 1971, it was Dean who recruited two private eyes to do a “walk-through” of Watergate.
  • It was Dean who ordered Jeb Magruder (deputy director of the Committee to Reelect the President) to ask CIA asset and Watergate burglar Gordon Liddy: “Do you think you can get into Watergate?”
  • It was Dean who paid hush money to CIA assets and Watergate burglars as part of the coverup.

After Dean spends two days reading his 245-page testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Nixon issues a statement accusing Dean of orchestrating the coverup without the knowledge of his superiors. Although no one believed him at the time, he seems to have been telling the truth.

After Dean, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman and White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman are summoned to testify, White House aide (and CIA asset, according to Baker) Alexander Butterfield reveals that Nixon records all Oval Office conversations. A week later, Judge Sirica (responsible for advising the grand jury, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and the Senate Judiciary Committee) orders the White House to turn over the tapes.

Nixon, following the precedent set by both Truman and Eisenhower, declines, citing executive privilege.

Meanwhile Vice President Spiro Agnew is charged with for accepting bribes as governor of Maryland, the Yum Kippur War breaks out in the Middle East and in October 1973 the oil-producing Arab countries declare an oil embargo against all western countries supplying military aid to Israel.

On October 30, 1973, the House begins impeachment hearings against Nixon.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy