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Watergate designation of a major US political scandal that began with the burglary andwiretapping of the Democratic partys campaign headquarters later engulfed President RichardM Nixon and many of his supporters in a variety of illegal acts and culminated in the firstThe burglary was committed on June 17 1972 by five men who were caught in the offices ofthe Democratic National Committee at the Watergate apartment and office complex inWashington DC Their arrest eventually uncovered a White House-sponsored plan ofespionage against political opponents and a trail of complicity that led to many of the highestofficials in the land including former US Attorney General John Mitchell White HouseCounsel John Dean White House Chief of Staff H R Haldeman White House SpecialAssistant on Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman and President Nixon himselfOn April 30 1973 nearly a year after the burglary and arrest and following a grand juryinvestigation of the burglary Nixon accepted the resignation of Haldeman and Ehrlichman andannounced the dismissal of Dean US Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigned as wellThe new attorney general Elliot Richardson appointed a special prosecutor Harvard LawSchool professor Archibald Cox to conduct a full-scale investigation of the WatergateIn May 1973 the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Activities opened hearings withSenator Sam Ervin of North Carolina as chairman A series of startling revelations followedDean testified that Mitchell had ordered the break-in and that a major attempt was under wayto hide White House involvement He claimed that the president had authorized payments tothe burglars to keep them quiet The Nixon administration vehemently denied this assertionThe testimony of White House aide Alexander Butterfield unlocked the entire investigation OnJuly 16 1973 Butterfield told the committee on nationwide television that Nixon had ordereda taping system installed in the White House to automatically record all conversations whatthe president said and when he said it could be verified Cox immediately subpoenaed eightrelevant tapes to confirm Deans testimony Nixon refused to release the tapes claiming theywere vital to the national security
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