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President Richard M. Nixon’s final departure from the White House, photograph by Robert L. Knudsen, August 9, 1974

After discovering the existence of White House audiotapes, the Senate Watergate Committee subpoenaed them. President Richard Nixon refused to comply, claiming executive privilege, but the Supreme Court later ordered him to release the tapes. On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment based on the content of those recordings, prompting Nixon’s resignation on August 9.

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives and Records Administration

President Richard M. Nixon’s final departure from the White House, photograph by Robert L. Knudsen, August 9, 1974

The Watergate Break-in

On June 17, 1972, police arrested burglars in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Evidence linked the break-in to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. In February 1973 the Senate established a select committee chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina to investigate the 1972 presidential election. The Senate investigation revealed the existence of audiotapes, the content of which proved incriminating to President Nixon, and ultimately led to his resignation. Nationally televised, the Watergate Committee hearings boosted public confidence in Congress.

This committee can serve another quite important function that neither a grand jury investigation nor a jury proceeding is equipped to serve, and that is to develop the facts in full view of all the people of America.

Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, Hearings before the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, May 17, 1973