Throughout history, several US Presidents have faced the threat of impeachment. Was President Nixon impeached?
President Richard Nixon was not impeached, as he resigned from office in August 1974 when his involvement in the Watergate Scandal was exposed. Articles of impeachment had been approved and he faced almost certain impeachment if he remained in office.
For more on Richard Nixon and how he became the first President to resign, read on.
Richard Milhous Nixon was born in California on January 9, 1913. He was a standout student at Whittier College and Duke University Law School before entering a law career.
Nixon served in World War II in the United States Pacific Fleet. Following the war, Nixon embarked on a political career and was elected to Congress. He was elected to the Senate in 1950 and, in 1952, he was chosen as General Eisenhower’s running mate.
Eisenhower won the election and Nixon became Vice President of the United States. He lost his first Presidential election in 1960 to John F. Kennedy. He was again the Republican candidate in 1968, this time successfully, and became the 37th President.
Nixon’s term included significant achievements such as the moon landing in 1969 and improving international relations with China and the Soviet Union. Nixon also signed a treaty agreeing to limit the stockpile of nuclear weapons.
This successful term in office gave Nixon a strong platform in the 1972 election. He defeated Democratic candidate George McGovern in one of the most lopsided presidential elections in the history of the United States.
Nixon’s second term soon became embroiled in controversy. On June 17, 1972, a group of burglars had been arrested while breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at Watergate in Washington, D.C.
It was revealed that the group had ties to Nixon’s reelection campaign. They had been stealing documents and wiretapping phones in an attempt to gain private information.
The break-in on June 17 occurred after there were technical issues with the wiretaps. A security guard called the police, who caught the group trying to install a new microphone.
In August 1972, Nixon made a public statement that the White House had no connection to the incident. The public took him at his word.
In the early months of Nixon’s second term, the truth was revealed. He arranged for the burglars to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to withhold information from the authorities.
Additionally, the White House planned to use the CIA to disrupt the FBI investigation into the incident. The break-in was less significant than Nixon’s willingness to use his presidential powers to obstruct the course of justice.
Two reporters from the “Washington Post”, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, exposed the reality of the incident. They received information from an informant, “Deep Throat”, who was later revealed to have been former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt.
A grand jury heard from a group of Nixon’s aides. The aides revealed that Nixon secretly taped all of his conversations in the Oval Office of the White House. Prosecutors knew that the tapes were the key to exposing Nixon’s actions.
Nixon tried desperately to keep the tapes from being handed over to prosecutors, claiming that his presidential privileges meant he did not have to comply.
Archibald Cox, an independent special prosecutor, was one of the most vocal in demanding the tapes. Nixon called for him to be fired, with a number of members of the Justice Department quitting in protest.
In 1974, seven of Nixon’s former aides were indicted due to their role in the Watergate scandal. Still, it was unclear if they Nixon himself could be indicted due to his position as president. In July of that year, Nixon was ordered to surrender the tapes by the Supreme Court.
Nixon still failed to cooperate and the House Judiciary Committee moved to impeach him for violating the Constitution, abuse of power, and obstruction of justice. Facing impeachment, Nixon surrendered the tapes on August 5, 1974. They confirmed the suspicions that had surrounded the president for the prior two years.
With his reputation in tatters, Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, becoming the first US President to do so. Nixon’s Vice President, Gerald Ford, became the new president and soon pardoned Nixon for the crimes he had committed.
Several of Nixon’s aides were not pardoned and received prison sentences. Nixon never confessed to any crimes, instead stating that he exercised poor judgment as president.