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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 19 Apr 2022 07:01
President Nixon’s reelection campaign hatches a plan. It's dangerous and risky. But it could secure a victory in the upcoming election.
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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's July 1973 in Bethesda, Maryland. Richard Nixon slowly opens his eyes and takes in his surroundings. It's morning. Nixon is in bed, alone. And across the room sunlight is peeking through the blinds, landing on a series of paintings along the wall. Nixon rubs his eyes. He still feels disoriented. But as he slowly wakes up, he realizes where he is. It's not the White House, and it's not a luxurious hotel suite. Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, is laid up in a naval hospital. His body seems to be collapsing. And four days ago, his doctors diagnosed him with viral pneumonia. The infection sounded like it could be serious, but Nixon wasn't immediately concerned about his health. His mind saw something else. An event that's upended his life and may be triggered the pneumonia. It has the potential to destroy Nixon's political career and could even do long term damage to America's democracy. It's an endless nightmare that's consumed Nixon's administration for the past 13 months. It started when five burglars were arrested at the Watergate Complex, not far from the White House. And ever since then, there's been a steady drumbeat of scandal and intrigue. Now it's reaching a fever pitch. And Nixon feels like he's been backed into a corner. He knows he's going to have to make some difficult decisions. Something he's used to as the president of the United States. But these choices could save his presidency or land him behind bars. Nixon smooths his dark, thinning hair and clears his throat. Who's there? Good morning, Mr. President. It's Al Hague. Sorry to disturb you, but I'm here with the legal team. Bring him in. Nixon hoists himself up as Alexander Hague. His chief as staff comes striding into the room. Hague is a former army general with a square jaw and a straight back. Everything about him projects confidence and steadfastness. There are traits that Nixon badly needs right now. All right, what is it, Hague? Tell me you have some good news. Unfortunately, Mr. President, we have a problem. It's Butterfield, your former aide. I have a long infection not to mention. I know who Butterfield is. What happened? Well, sir, the Senate Committee that's investigating Watergate, they... They got to him. Butterfield testified. And what do you say? Hague pauses, taking a deep breath. Mr. President, he revealed the existence of the tapes. Nixon clenches his fist. Outside his inner circle, no one knows that Nixon used a secret recording system in the White House. It was intended to capture his private conversations. But now that the system has public knowledge, Nixon's enemies may now have what they need to take him down. Oh, hey, this is an unmitigated disaster. You know what's going to happen next, yes. We have to assume the Senate Committee is coming to demand the tapes. They want to know what you knew about Watergate. Well, what happens if I say no? Hard to say. But our lawyers agree that there are three options. Number one, cooperate. Give them the tapes. Option two, you refuse any request from the Senate. Keep the tapes. But you'll almost certainly face a court battle. Option three is... Unsavery, huh? That there are no tapes that we destroy them. Hey, it gives us all a nod. I think there's a fourth option, though. A fourth option, sir. Yeah, option number four. I don't get rid of the tapes. Someone else does. Now, if I were to ask you to make the tapes disappear, would you do it? For the presidency? For me? Hey, it looks at the floor and shakes its head. Um, I'm sorry, sir. I'd have to say no. I couldn't put myself in that position. Uh, okay. All right. I can see it's up to me. That's nothing new. The room grows quiet as Nixon weighs his decision. Like so much in the presidency, he is nothing but a series of bad choices in front of him. It's a fact of the job you don't fully grasp until you become the most powerful person in the world. Nixon does believe that up until now he's made the right choices about Watergate. But something about this seems different. Something as small as a tape recorder has shaken his confidence, leaving him riddled with self doubt. This doubt leads Nixon to wish he could go back, change everything. Back before that fateful night, 13 months ago, when a group of two bit burglar set in motion a scandal that would threaten to swallow Nixon a whole. But Nixon knows he won't get anywhere with regrets. And there's no change in the past anyways. So he's going to have to make the best choice among many bad ones. Somehow, he's going to save his presidency. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. 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It challenged the foundations of American democracy and it would loom large for decades in debates about abuses of power and in discussions of the limits of a president's authority. The watergate break in took place in June of 1972, but the origins of the event can be traced back to at least 1968 when Richard Nixon won his first term to be America's president. While Nixon came away on top, he had only a slim margin of victory and that left him feeling troubled. When Nixon was up for re election, he decided to shift course. As a way to score a larger victory, he gave approval for the creation of a top secret political espionage group to work on his behalf. Among other activities, this group would gather information about Nixon's opponents in order to harm them politically. One of their operations targeted the Democratic National Committee, the organization governing the National Democratic Party. The DNC had its headquarters at the watergate, a newly opened complex that housed apartments, a hotel, and office space. The goal of the operation was to gather intelligence, which Nixon's campaign could use in the lead up to the 1972 election. But despite careful planning, the operation would face unexpected challenges and put President Nixon directly in the line of fire. This is episode one, The Break In. It's the morning of January 27th, 1972 in Washington, DC. G. Gordon Liddy steps into the office of the United States Attorney General. Standing beside a woodpanelled wall, he begins setting up a series of colorful charts. As Liddy places them on an easel, he reviews a speech he's about to give to a group of political insiders, a proposal that sure to get the room talking. Soon several men begin filing into the office. They include John Dean, a young looking attorney working for President Nixon. Aside Dean is Jeb Stewart McGruder, the president's deputy campaign manager. And behind McGruder, taking a seat at the head of the table is John Mitchell, the U.S. Attorney General, and one of President Nixon's closest confidants. Altogether, there's a lot of political power in the room. And for Liddy, that's a good thing. He's planned out a series of top secret operations, which he believes will help the president win re election. The men sitting in front of him could make his ideas become reality. Still, Liddy knows that his proposals may sound risky, even unhinged. It's going to take a real act of persuasion to get these men on his side. But that shouldn't be too hard, because this isn't the first time Liddy has undertaken controversial work, and he's never been afraid to ruffle a few feathers. These days, Liddy is working as General Counsel for President Nixon's re election campaign. He also has an unofficial job. Liddy has been in charge of a group of operatives working to discredit and destroy President Nixon's enemies. Some might say that this is dirty work, but Liddy would call those charges misguided. He used to be an FBI agent, as well as a prosecutor in a district attorney's office. He's seen firsthand how crime can destroy the fabric of life in America. And Liddy believes that right now, America is facing a serious criminal threat. The country appears to be home to a growing rank of subversives, radicals aiming to destroy the world's greatest political order. But this threat is by no means unstoppable. Liddy has an abiding faith in President Nixon, and believes he has the courage to fight back against hippies, communists, and other radicals who are trying to destroy his country. And fighting back, in part, means playing a little dirty. Liddy doesn't have any real qualms about the work. He'll do whatever it takes to keep Nixon in an office and defend the country for another four years. So Liddy begins a rapid fire presentation, outlining a series of missions he believes will help Nixon win reelection. Liddy directs his colleagues to the top of a chart. Their in bold, capital letters are two words, Operation Gemstone. Liddy explains that Gemstone is the ultimate intelligence plan, a collection of missions that will keep radical Democrats out of power. Liddy flips to the next chart and begins describing the components of the plan. First is Operation Diamond. In this mission, Nixon operatives will undercut the antiwar movement. They'll do so by drugging and kidnapping leading peace activists and imprisoning them in Mexico for the duration of the Republican National Convention. That way they wouldn't be able to protest. Liddy flips a page, turning to Operation Ruby. He explains that in this mission, they'll target the top Democrats running for the presidential nomination. They'll embed spies in their campaigns to yield valuable information about the candidates and their strategies. Liddy flips to another page, turning to Operation Sapphire. This is one of the more lurid proposals. Nixon's campaign will use prostitutes to draw Democratic politicians onto a houseboat. Then in Operation Crystal, they'll record the pill of talk to damage their enemies. And finally, Liddy says there's Operation Opal. With this mission, operatives will spy on the campaigns of the Democratic frontrunners for the presidency. Edmund Muskie and George McCoverne. They'll do so using hidden recording devices. Liddy pauses to let his colleagues absorb these complicated and risky proposals. As he studies their faces, he can see they're having some trouble. John Dean, the president's counsel, is even covering his mouth with his hand. He looks like he's in shock. But Liddy was prepared for this. For much of his life, he's been a performer. He was once prosecuting a criminal case and decided to pull out a gun in the courtroom, firing around into the ceiling. It was a wild stunt. But Liddy knows that sometimes a little theater gets people's attention. But looking at Mitchell, the Attorney General, Liddy isn't sure he had the desired effect. Right, Mitchell is the most senior official in the room. And the one who's ultimately going to decide whether this operation will move forward. Right now, he looks unconvinced. Narrowing his eyes, Mitchell says that Liddy's plans are unorthodox. They'd be difficult to pull off and require a lot of manpower. Liddy counters that that might be true. But the missions are doable. And most important, they would hurt Nixon's opponents. Mitchell nods, and asks Liddy for the price tag. How much would Operation Gemstone actually cost? Liddy takes a breath. This might be the hardest part of the pitch. But he tells Mitchell the truth. They probably need a million dollars. Mitchell grimaces when he hears the number. A million dollars is a lot of money, much more than they can spend. Liddy knows it's a lot of money, but he reminds Mitchell that it's an investment. One to help the president win re election. Mitchell shakes his head and rises. He says he agrees with the goals, but a million dollars is too much. Liddy needs to come back in a few weeks with something more realistic. And with that, the meeting is over. Liddy gathers his charts, feeling disappointed. He was sure he'd get approval for this ambitious set of operations. But he knows this is just a temporary setback. He's going to walk out of this room and get back to work. And soon enough, he'll have a new version of Operation Gemstone, one that's even bolder, craftier, and impossible to turn down. It's March 30th, 1972 in Key Biscayne, Florida. John Mitchell sits on a couch, gazing at the shimmering blue water of Biscayne Bay. He's trying to clear his thoughts to get a little piece of mind, leaving Washington and coming to Florida for a short vacation. But Mitchell can't shake his thoughts about work, and he realizes that at this point, there's no use in trying to pretend he can. He won't get any relief until November 8th when the election is finally over. Although he used to be the attorney general, and arguably the most powerful member of Nixon's cabinet, Mitchell knew he could be more useful if he ran the president's re election campaign. He wasn't a terribly difficult decision, because for years now, Mitchell has worked long and hard to support Richard Nixon. That work goes back a number of years. In 1962, Nixon lost his bid to be governor of California. Soon after, he began working for Mitchell's old law firm. Nixon would go on to reenter politics, and Mitchell followed him as an advisor. He managed Nixon's successful run for the presidency in 1968, and along the way, he's helped shape Nixon's public positions as a law and order candidate. That public posture wasn't just a play for votes. Like Nixon, Mitchell believes in American values, and he has a great deal of contempt for anti war radicals in the political left. By working to keep President Nixon in the White House, Mitchell believes he's helping secure a better future for America, and he's willing to work around the clock if that means winning the election. Still, the work is not easy, and Mitchell knows he's about to have to make some difficult decisions, giving the go ahead for some operations that may break the law. Mitchell strikes a match and begins puffing tobacco from his pipe. When one of his aides opens the door, he ushers in Jeb McGruder, Mitchell's trusted deputy. Jeb, take a seat. Now, what do you have for me? McGruder unlatches his briefcase and takes out a stack of documents. It's the new plan, gemstone 3. Give me your take. Well, I'll say this. It's better than the stuff Liddy brought us in January. God, I hope so. Ruby, this totes past that. Those were some of the wildest schemes I've ever encountered. Something out of a dime novel. Some of those proposals, they were on the French. You don't have to sugarcoat it. They were crazy. I suppose so. Anyways, this time he gave us more of a stripped down proposal and had a fraction of the cost. It's only 250k. Hmm, what does that cover? It's focused on bugging operations, recording people, including one at the water gate. Have you ever been there? Brand new. No, I haven't, but the DNC is. It's their headquarters. Mitchell shifts on comfortably in his chair. Oh, so Liddy wants to eavesdrop on the Democrats, figure out their election plans. Well, he wants to put together a team and break in. They'd set up a few microphones, maybe take some photos, and yes, uh, get some good information. I could also backfire. I mean, if those bugs were ever traced back to us, just think about it. The president would be ruined. It would be bad. And this is a scheme cooked up by Liddy, the same man with his diamonds and topazs who wanted to kidnap kids and hold them in Mexico. So be straightforward with me. I don't think I trust Liddy. He seems a little crazy. What do you think? Well, I think he, I think he is a little crazy. And I don't, and personally, I can't stand the guy. But this might be one of those times where we've got to push forward. The president is not happy with the amount of political intelligences he's been receiving so far. He definitely wants more. This might be the way to get it. Mitchell stares out the window at the sparkling bay. This is no small risk, but Magruder is right. Okay. Tell Liddy he can have his quarter million. I just hope he uses it wisely. After Magruder leaves, Mitchell packs his pipe and lights a match. He's still uneasy about the plans he's just set in motion. And it's not something he can discuss with the president. Nixon has to remain totally isolated from any illegal activities. These are hugely consequential decisions. Mitchell is making them without his boss's knowledge by design. Still, as he takes another long drag from his pipe, Mitchell reassures himself that the potential rewards of this mission do outweigh the risks. He made the right call. No one has ever won a presidential election by playing it safe. It's April 12, 1972 in Washington, D.C. G. Gordon Liddy sits alone in a basement office across the street from the White House. He looks over a desk that's cluttered with notes, maps, and folders. Among the masks is a series of photographs showing tall buildings with sleek curves. Liddy furrows his brows as he studies the photos of the Watergate complex. Soon a group of men are going to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters there, and bug their office. It's Liddy's responsibility to develop the plans. So for days, Liddy has been studying these materials. He believes he's worked out a good way to go about it. The burglars will enter the complex through an underground garage. They'll head up the stairwell to the sixth floor where the DNC offices are located. Once there, the team will plan their bugs and photograph any documents of interest. But they will have to play it safe. The team will have a lookout stationed in a hotel across the street. That lookout will have binoculars and a walkie talkie. You'll be able to alert the team if any security or police run the way. Liddy himself will wait nearby in the Watergate hotel following everything by walkie talkie. Liddy thinks it's a solid plan, even if it was developed on a tight timeline. Normally, Liddy would have wanted monster prepare for a mission like this. But Jed McGrooter, the president's deputy campaign manager, said the DNC offices needed to be bugged as soon as possible. So now, Liddy has to finalize just a few more important details, including some technical decisions that could make a break the operation. But that will have to wait. As James McCord, a former agent for the CIA, has come to pay Liddy a visit. McCord is a tall man, the sharp features, and as he enters the room, Liddy remembers why he's so glad to have McCord as part of the operation. Not only is he head of security for Nixon's reelection committee, he's an expert in bugging and surveillance, skills that are key for the mission. McCord takes a seat and Liddy pulls open a desk drawer and removes a tan envelope. A stick with cash, funds that Liddy picked up from the office of President Nixon's reelection committee. Liddy slides the envelope to McCord and tells him that there's over $80,000 inside. He wants McCord to buy a top of the line custom transmitter, the kind of technology that'll allow them to pick up almost all the sound in the DNC's office. But Liddy is surprised when McCord shakes his head in disagreement. He says that a room bug is a bad idea. It has to be powered by batteries and all batteries eventually die. Liddy pushes back, insisting a transmitter is their best option. But McCord says that with his extensive experience with surveillance, it would be much better to bug the phones. But something about a phone bug doesn't feel right. Liddy had the whole operation planned out and this changes things. McCord insists it's the better idea. And Liddy knows he has to defer to his expert's judgment. So Liddy nods and says fine, they'll bug the phones instead. McCord grabs the envelope of cash and rises. As he heads for the door, Liddy reminds him to move fast on all the purchases. The Watergate break end is only weeks away. McCord nods curtly and exits the room. Liddy returns to his maps and photos and begins thinking about the plan again. He's unsettled by the change McCord insisted on and even McCord himself. He's talented but he presents a risk. He's an easily identifiable member of the Nixon campaign team unlike all the rest of the Watergate operatives. If something goes wrong and McCord is caught during the break in, he could be tied directly to the Nixon administration. It's a chilling thought but Liddy brushes it away. He doesn't have much of a choice. The former CIA agent is the only bugging expert Liddy knows and he doesn't have time to find a replacement. McCord will have to do. And besides, Liddy knows there's no real reason to be concerned. He's gained out these plans a million times. They're foolproof. As long as the team follows the plan, they'll complete the operation and get valuable intelligence on the Democrats. And when all of a sudden done, President Nixon will continue on to his second term in the White House. The best weddings are always filled with unforgettable moments and personal thoughtful touches. Like my friend Cecilie's wedding where the groom toss the bouquet. 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Ask our listeners this very question while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening. Brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives. Even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus and if this new season isn't enough you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's May 28th 1972 in Washington DC. It's nearly midnight and James McCord is walking through the parking garage of the Watergate complex. The space is large and silent and the former CIA officer moves quickly under a row of fluorescent lights. He glances over his shoulder and his accomplices. Like McCord they're wearing black suits and blue surgical gloves. They're all experts in burglary and most of them men are Cuban American. McCord assumes they've worked CIA missions in Latin America but he's not sure. He's been careful not to ask too many questions. What McCord does know is that he's about to begin one of the most important operations of his entire life. Tonight he and his team are going to break into the Democrats headquarters, going to conduct a brazen act of political espionage. But when they're done the Democrats will be hobbled and the run up to the election. The moment later McCord arrives at the door leading from the garage to the stairwell. He takes a deep breath, grabs the door handle and pulls it open. McCord grins as he gazes at a brightly lit stairwell. Earlier today he came here alone when the door was still open. He placed a strip of masking tape over the latch to prevent the door from locking when it closed. The tape's still there now and that means his work went undetected. He and his men are free to enter. McCord begins climbing the stairs with his men in tow. Soon they arrive at the sixth floor where the stairwell door is locked. McCord steps aside and a fellow burglar with a pressure wrench approaches the door. He grips the lock with the wrench and twists. Within just a few seconds the door pops open and McCord and the other men enter the office of the DNC. Right away the men fan out at the darkness pulling out flashlights from their jackets. McCord makes his way around from desk to desk and begins dismantling several telephones. He reaches into a briefcase and pulls out small listening devices. One by one he installs these bugs in the office phones, only pausing to glance at his fellow burglar as they shoot photographs of DNC documents. McCord finishes placing all the bugs and tells the others it's time to go. But as they gather at the stairwell, McCord notices someone's missing. Felipe de Diego, the stout Cuban American who was guarding the hallway. McCord's heart starts to pound. He asks the group whether anyone has eyes on their missing man. No one answers. So McCord unclips the walk he's talking on his belt. He whispers into it and he has a problem. Before he can explain the device crackles back and McCord hears the voice of G Gordon Litty. Litty explains that de Diego was caught by a guard in the hallway. He was escorted out of the building. But the guard assumed de Diego was alone because he didn't return to the sixth floor. De Diego was released and is safe and sound. McCord exhales in relief. But Litty reminds him it's time to hurry back. Their work is done and they need to get out of the water gate. McCord nods and says they're on their way. Then he and his team begin descending in the stairwell. McCord grins. The mission was a success. They pulled it off and come Monday when the Democrats start talking about their election strategy. Nixon's team will be listening to every word. Two weeks later, G Gordon Litty takes a seat across from President Nixon's deputy campaign manager, Jeb McGruder. The two men haven't always had a good working relationship, but right now McGruder looks especially angry, ready to explode. So far, the bugging operation at the water gate that Litty orchestrated has been a flop. It's not just that the bugs are malfunctioning. But when they have picked up on you, it's only been a stream of trivial conversations. Democratic staffers discussing their weekend plans or complaining about their inlaws, ordering lunch. Litty knows this isn't what McGruder or their boss, John Mitchell, had in mind when they approved the break in. Litty needs to somehow make it right. But when he tries to speak, McGruder interrupts him. He's furious at the results of the water gate break in and chastises Litty for using low quality bugs. Litty wants to defend himself. He initially wanted to go with a more powerful device, something that would catch audio throughout the DNC's office. He was talked out of it by James McCord, a former CIA officer and supposed expert in bugging. But now Litty realizes he shouldn't have deferred to McCord or changed the plans. So Litty just drops his head and quietly admits he's also disappointed. He wanted this operation to produce a gold mine of intelligence, something that could destroy the Democrats. But Litty reminds McGruder it's not time to give up yet. They could still fix the malfunctioning equipment. They'd need to get a technician into the DNC's office, but that wouldn't take long just a quick in and out job with McCord and only a few others. McGruder shakes it to him. The deputy campaign manager argues that they shouldn't focus on bugs. They've spent enough time listening to staffers babble about their families. What they need McGruder says is material, photographs of actual documents with a real political value. McGruder then slams down his fist and says he wants to know exactly what DNC chair Lawrence Obrion has hidden in his office desk. Take all the men, all the cameras you need, McGruder says. He wants good information. For a moment, Litty processes the order. If he understands it right, McGruder is asking for another full break in at the Watergate. That's a risky operation. But as Litty thinks about it, he realizes it would also offer him a chance to correct everything that's gone wrong. That's an opportunity he can't turn down. So Litty nods his head and confirms the plan with McGruder. He'll talk to his men, they'll rig group, and within the week, they'll return to the Watergate. It's just after 1am on June 17th, 1972, about four and a half days later. Inside room 214 of the Watergate hotel, G Gordon Litty paces in circles. He's gripping a walkie talkie and nervously chewing on the corner of his lip. Right now, another break in at the Watergate is underway. Litty knows there's no margin for error. After the dismal results of their last attempt, this mission has to succeed. But Litty hasn't heard much from the team. He's thinking about breaking radio silence, using his walkie talkie to check in with the crew when there's a banging on the door. Litty sprints to the peephole and looks out. It's James McCord, his bugging expert waiting in the hallway, along with two of the other burglars. Litty only needs a glance once to see something has gone terribly wrong. Litty flings open the door and McCord hurries in with the others, announcing they have a problem. Earlier today, McCord entered the Watergate garage and put masking tape over the exit door latches. It's what he did for the last break in, and that allowed them to keep the doors unlocked. But tonight was different. When McCord came back to the door in the garage, the tape was gone. Someone took it off. It's unclear who. He could have been a security guard, but he also could have been just someone from the mail room. He did see several mailbags stacked nearby. McCord made a split second decision. He left behind some man to work on picking the stairwell lock, but raised back to Litty to find out whether they should keep moving full. Litty turns to E Howard Hunt, the second most senior member of the team. Hunt is also a CIA agent. He's gone and graying. It appears to be troubled. Oh, Gordon, this is red flag. We got to turn back, call it off. Howard slowed down. Let's talk for a second. There's nothing to talk about. The tape was there. Now it's not. I don't like it. I don't like it either, but we come this far. It does not matter how far we come, Gordon. It's not smart. In all likelihood, a security guard removed that tape, and that means they know someone was trying to get into the building. But it could have been a guy in the mail room, or maybe a maintenance guy. We can't get spooked over a piece of tape. I say we keep going. Hunt sits up with a look at fury. No, no, you send McCord back in there and you're putting us all in jeopardy. Damn it, Howard. I'm not going back to McGruder empty handed. We need to take care of this tonight. Hunt looks at the ground, shaking his head. Well, you're the boss here, Litty. If that's your decision, so be it. But I've said my piece. For Litty, there's nothing more to discuss. He tells McCord to go back to the water gate. He and the men need to finish the operation. The court nods that he heads out the room, his partner's trailing behind him. Suddenly feeling drained, Litty collapses onto the bed. He might have just made the most courageous decision of his entire life, or the most reckless. He's not sure, but it's out of his hands. All he can do is wait. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there. And we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wundery Plus in the Wundery app. It's June 17, 1972, 1.30 a.m. at the Watergate Complex. Frank Will steps into an elevator, presses the button for the eighth floor. As the elevator car rises, Will straightens a crease in his uniform and looks at his reflection in the elevator door. Will's is a 24 year old security guard at the Watergate. He's African American, has a thin dark mustache and equally dark rings under his eyes. It's no mystery why he looks exhausted. Will's has spent the better part of the past year working the graveyard shift for security. The hours are rough, and the job only pays minimum wage. But so far the work is fairly easy and uneventful. Will steps out of the elevator, and approaches a co worker who guards the offices for the Federal Reserve Board. Hey, is the FRB doing any maintenance or anything up here? Not that I know, Frank what's going on? I don't know. It's just something down in the garage. I was doing my rounds, right? And I got to the stairwell in the garage, but there's a piece of tape sticking out of the door. So I walk over and get a little closer, yeah, it's a piece of tape, but someone put it over the door, over the latch part, where it locks. Okay, yeah, that's weird. Well, it's more than that. So I see the tape, I pull it off, I walk away, and I go take a break. But when I come back, I decided to take another look and guess what? It's taped up again. The other guard shoots Will's a skeptical look. Oh no, that is weird. Maybe it was movers. Sometimes they do that because they don't have keys. Movers at two in the morning. I don't know, man. It feels like something might be going down. You think someone's in the building? You want to find out? I'm thinking we should call the cops. Yeah, yeah, that's the right call. Will's nods and hurries back to his desk. He's feeling nervous now, and hopes the police can come quickly, because Will's has only a can of maize to protect himself. And if he and the other guards are outnumbered, can a pepper spray isn't going to be enough? Minutes later, James McCord creeps through the dark in the DNC's office on the sixth floor of the water gate. He points his flashlight at cabinets, bookshelves, desks. McCord even glances at the trash bins. If there's anything that could compromise President Nixon's enemies, McCord intends to find it. For McCord, it's essential for this operation to be a success. This, their first break in turned out to be a disaster, and that was largely McCord's responsibility. He was afraid he was about to be fired from Nixon's reelection committee. He wasn't, and is glad to have the chance to prove himself. But when he discovered the tape he placed in a doorway had been removed, he had some doubts. Still Gordon and Liddy ordered the operation to continue. So McCord and the other men are moving ahead, and McCord wants to get results. A moment later, he spots a colorful stack of press forms for the Democratic Convention. He doesn't know if these documents are significant, but he pockets them anyway. Then he hears a clattering in the dark. McCord spins and points his flashlight in the direction of the sound. He's relieved when he sees it's one of his Cuban and American associates, a lean man with a thick mustache. He announces they've just broken into the office suite belonging to Lauren Sobrian, the head of the DNC. McCord grins, Sobrian is the prime target, so he harries into the office himself. He reaches Sobrian's desk and opens a drawer. But just as he starts to begin pull out documents, he hears something else, like someone running. McCord spins around and sees his colleague Frank Sturgis. His eyes are wide, furiously whispering that someone's coming. In a panic, McCord steps away from the open desk drawer and crouches. There's no use hiding. Bright flashlights suddenly pierce the darkness, and a man's voice bell is out saying he's a police officer. Everyone has to come out right now. McCord shuts his eyes and mutters a curse. This can't be happening. But it is, so McCord and his men slowly stand up with their hands raised in surrender. Soon, three officers dress in civilian clothes, approached with guns drawn. Out of the corner of his eye, McCord notices one of his associates whispering into his walkie talking. McCord assumes the man is warning G. Gordon Lee that the cops have arrived. Right at this moment, handcuffs are being put on McCord's wrists. The team shouldn't have retaped the doors. That must have raised so many suspicions, and they must have called the police. It was a fatal mistake. McCord's Seconds later, G. Gordon Lee drops his walkie talking onto the floor. He feels dazed and paralyzed. The operation has unraveled. Now, standing in a hotel room in the water gate itself, Lydia is unsure what to do. He half expects his hotel room to get kicked in any minute now. With his heart racing, Lydia feels the tight grip of a hand on his shoulder. He turns around and looks at Howard Hunt, the former CIA officer who warned him not to go ahead. Hunt speaks quickly and firmly. He tells Lydia they have to pack up and leave now. Lydia nods suddenly alert. Hunt is right. They have to get out of here before the cops come. They have to insulate themselves from the burglars and protect the president from any possible association with the crime. Lydia darts over to the bed, which is covered in charts and surveillance gear. He gathers everything and tosses it into an open suitcase on the floor. But as he hurries to pack, Lydia grows more desperate and afraid. The room is a mess. There are papers everywhere scribbled with notes. The room is littered with cigarette butts and ash trays and glass surfaces covered with fingerprints. Lydia works in a frenzy, picking up as much as he can. But when he looks up, he finds that Hunt is standing by the door with a packed suitcase. He says they've done all they can. They have to leave. Lydia nods and follows Hunt into the bright silent hallway. The men scan the corridor, no one's inside. Then they race to the elevator and head down to the ground floor of the hotel. As they walk through the lobby, Lydia tries to look as inconspicuous as possible. And luckily, no one stops them. Once they're outside in the parking lot, the two men hurry to Hunt's Pontiac Firework. The night air is humid, Lydia starts a sweat, struggling to keep up while lugging the suitcases. Hunt opens the trunk of his car and barks in order. Lydia doesn't question it. He piles everything inside and runs to the passenger door. Hunt slides behind the wheel. And before they can say another word, he peels out of the parking lot and drives into the night. As Hunt drives down Virginia Avenue, Lydia notices a line of police cars heading to the water gate. Their lights flashing red and blue. Lydia sinks into the seat, sighing. None of this seems real. It can't be true. Soon Hunt turns onto a side street and pulls behind Lydia's car. Lydia opens the door and starts to get out. But then he stops. He wants to know if Hunt has any idea what they should do next. Hunt doesn't mean it's worth. He tells Lydia to go home, then he needs to get himself in the alibi. His mouth dry, Lydia nods. As soon as he closes the door, Hunt speeds off into the night. For what feels like an eternity, Lydia stares into the darkness. Operation Gemstone, his master plan has become a nightmare. His burglars have been arrested and soon the police might arrest him too. Who knows what kind of questions they'll start asking. Lydia always thought of himself as a soldier, serving his commander in chief. He would do whatever was asked of him, whatever the president needed. But tonight, Lydia failed to do his duty. Because instead of protecting the president, Lydia may have just placed him in danger. From Wondry, this is episode one of Watergate from Americans Camp. In our next episode, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein begin investigating the Watergate burglary as key White House officials race to cover up their involvement. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like. American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and add free by subscribing to Wondry Plus in Apple podcasts or in the Wondry app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support the show is by filling out a small survey at Wondry.com slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle and Initially. And thank you. If you'd like to learn more about Watergate, we recommend the books Watergate by Fred Emory and King Richard by Michael Dops. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all of our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosted, edited, and executed to produce by me Lindsay Graham for Airship. Audio editing by Molly Bond, Sound Design by Derek Barons, Music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Hannibal DS, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven, Executive Producers, Stephanie Jens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marshall Lewy for Wondry.