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Watergate designation of a major US political scandal that began with the burglary and wiretapping of the Democratic partys campaign headquarters later engulfed President Richard M Nixon and many of his supporters in a variety of illegal acts and culminated in the first resignation of a US president The burglary was committed on June 17 1972 by five men who were caught in the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate apartment and office complex in Washington DC Their arrest eventually uncovered a White House-sponsored plan of espionage against political opponents and a trail of complicity that led to many of the highest officials in the land including former US Attorney General John Mitchell White House Counsel John Dean White House Chief of Staff H R Haldeman White House Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman and President Nixon himself On April 30 1973 nearly a year after the burglary and arrest and following a grand jury investigation of the burglary Nixon accepted the resignation of Haldeman and Ehrlichman and announced the dismissal of Dean US Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigned as well The new attorney general Elliot Richardson appointed a special prosecutor Harvard Law School professor Archibald Cox to conduct a full-scale investigation of the Watergate break-in In May 1973 the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Activities opened hearings with Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina as chairman A series of startling revelations followed Dean testified that Mitchell had ordered the break-in and that a major attempt was under way to hide White House involvement He claimed that the president had authorized payments to the burglars to keep them quiet The Nixon administration vehemently denied this assertion The White House Tapes The testimony of White House aide Alexander Butterfield unlocked the entire investigation
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