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The Watergate Affair: A Chronology of Events

The scandal that felled a President began during Richard Nixon's campaign for re-election as President. It gained its name after a group of men were caught breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters, which in 1972 were located in one of Washington, D.C.'s poshest hotel and office complexes, Watergate.

The Watergate complex as it looked in 1972.
the Watergate complex in 1972


January 21 Richard Nixon is inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States.


July 23 Nixon approves a plan for greatly expanding domestic intelligence-gathering by federal agencies. He rescinds his approval a few days later.


June 21 The New York Times begins publishing the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department's secret history of the Vietnam War.

September 13 A group of men known as the "White House Plumbers" burglarizes a psychiatrist's office to find files on Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who initially leaked the Pentagon Papers.


May 28 Electronic surveillance equipment is installed at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex.

June 17 Five men are arrested while trying to repair the surveillance equipment at Democratic National Committee headquarters.

June 19 The Washington Post reports that a GOP security aide was among the Watergate burglars.

June 22 Nixon tells the public that neither he nor his White House staff had anything to do with the Watergate break-in.

August 1 The Post reports that a $25,000 cashier's check earmarked for the Nixon campaign wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar.

August 30 President Nixon reports that White House counsel John Dean has completed an investigation into the Watergate buggings and that no one from the White House is involved.

September 15 Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, Eugenio Martinez, James W. McCord, Jr., and Frank Sturgis are indicted for their roles in the Watergate break-in.

September 29 The Post reports that John Mitchell, while serving as Attorney General, controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance intelligence-gathering operations against the Democrats.

October 10 The FBI reports that the Watergate break-in stemmed from a campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon re-election effort.

November 7 Nixon is re-elected in one of the largest landslides in American history, with more than 60 per cent of the vote.


January 8 The Watergate break-in trial opens.

January 11 E. Howard Hunt pleads guilty for his role in the Watergate break-in.

January 15 Barker, Sturgis, Martinez, and Gonzalez plead guilty for breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters.

January 30 Former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord, Jr., are convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping in the Watergate incident.

February 7 The Senate creates the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities.

March 1 H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrilichman, John Mitchell, Charles Colson, Robert Mardian, Kenneth Parkinson, and Gordon Strachan are indicted on charges related to the cover-up of the Watergate break-in.

March 7 Ehrlichman, Colson, Liddy, and three others are indicted on charges related to the Ellsberg burglary.

April 17 President Nixon announces that members of the White House staff will appear before the Senate Committee and promises major new developments in the investigation and real progress toward finding the truth.

April 23 The White House issues statements denying that the President had any prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in.

April 30 White House staffers H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as well as Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, resign over the scandal. White House counsel John Dean is fired.

May 18 The Senate Watergate Committee begins its nationally televised hearings. Attorney General-designate Elliot Richardson names former Solicitor General Archibald Cox as the Justice Department's special prosecutor for Watergate.

The Senate Watergate Committee in session.
Senate Watergate Committee in session

May 25 Archibald Cox is sworn in as Special Prosecutor.

June 3 John Dean tells Watergate investigators that he discussed the Watergate cover-up with President Nixon at least 35 times.

June 13 Watergate prosecutors find a memo addressed to John Ehrlichman describing in detail the plans to burglarize the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist.

July 7 President Nixon informs the Senate Committee that he will not appear to testify nor grant access to presidential files.

July 13 Former presidential appointments secretary Alexander Butterfield reveals in congressional testimony that Nixon had been recording all conversations and telephone calls in his office since 1971.

July 23 Both the Senate Committee and Special Prosecutor Cox subpoena White House tapes and documents.

July 25 Nixon refuses to comply with either subpoena.

August 9 The Senate Committee files suit against President Nixon for failure to comply with its subpoena.

October 12 The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rules that President Nixon must turn over to the Federal District Court all White House tape recordings possibly bearing on Watergate crimes.

October 19 Nixon offers to allow Senator John Stennis to review the White House tapes and present Special Prosecutor Cox with summaries.

October 20 Cox refuses to accept Nixon's proposal. In response, Nixon orders Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, but Richardson resigns instead, as does Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus. Acting Attorney General Robert Bork agrees to fire Cox.

October 23 Nixon agrees to hand over tapes to comply with the subpoena.

November 1 Leon Jaworski is named to replace Cox as Special Prosecutor.

November 17 Nixon delivers his "I'm not a crook" speech.

November 21 The Senate Committee announces the discovery of an 18-minute gap on the tape of a Nixon-Haldeman conversation recorded on June 20, 1972.

December 7 The White House fails to adequately explain the 18-minute gap.


January 4 In a letter to Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr., chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, Nixon rejects the committee's subpoenas seeking more than 500 tapes and documents.

February 6 The House of Representatives authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether grounds exist for the impeachment of President Nixon.

April 16 The Special Prosecutor issues a subpoena for 64 White House tapes.

April 30 The White House releases more than 1,300 pages of edited transcripts of Oval Office tapes to the House Judiciary Committee. The committee insists that the tapes themselves must be turned over.

July 24 The Supreme Court rules unanimously that Nixon must turn over the recordings of all 64 White House conversations, rejecting Nixon's claim of executive privilege.

July 27 The House Judiciary Committee passes the first article of impeachment, charging Nixon with obstruction of justice in regards to the Watergate break-in investigation.

July 29 The Judiciary Committee passes the second article of impeachment, charging Nixon with misuse of powers and violation of his oath of office.

July 30 The Committee passes the third article of impeachment, charging Nixon with failure to comply with House subpoenas.

August 8 Richard Nixon announces his resignation.

August 9 President Nixon became the first (and to date only) President to officially resign. He is succeeded by Vice-President Gerald R. Ford.

September 8 President Ford pardons Nixon for any and all federal crimes he may have committed while President.

See Also

Richard Nixon
Charles Colson
Robert Bork
Gerald R. Ford

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The Robinson Library >> Richard Nixon's Administration, 1969-1974

This page was last updated on January 15, 2019.