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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
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Tue, 17 May 2022 07:01
President Nixon fights the release of his secret tapes. But with the country thrust into a constitutional crisis, Nixon has to make a gut-wrenching decision.
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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. Download the Wondry app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's mid July 1973, and President Richard Nixon is lying in bed in a hospital outside Washington. He stretches out his arms and legs and takes a deep breath. The aches are mostly gone, so is the hacking cough. Nixon almost feels like himself again. And that is a big relief. Because just a few days ago, Nixon's chief of staff found the President in bed coughing up blood. Nixon was quickly admitted to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with viral pneumonia. The President knows that a long infection is nothing to shrug off. Still, it's not the biggest problem on his plate. The aggregate has continued to be a nightmare for Nixon's administration. It started just over a year ago when a group of Nixon's operatives broke into Democratic headquarters. The men were attempting to spy on the Democrats in order to help Nixon win re election. And while Nixon himself didn't order the break in, he did orchestrate a cover up of the crime, all part of an effort to protect his administration and make the scandal go away. But so far, Nixon's efforts have not been successful. The press has continued digging up dirt, and so has the FBI. Nixon's own attorney general appointed a special prosecutor, whose job is solely to investigate the scandal, and see if any crimes were committed. And if that weren't enough, the United States Senate launched its own investigation of the break in. And one of the upper chambers recent hearings riveted to country. Former White House counsel John Dean offered shocking testimony, speaking candidly about the crimes he and other Nixon officials had committed in order to cover up the break in. Dean's testimony was a public sensation and a black eye for Nixon and his allies. Nixon went on to claim that Dean was lying, and for a moment it seemed to Nixon like he'd won over the public. But like everything else with Watergate, one crisis just led to another. In his testimony, Dean implied that Nixon might have a secret recording system in the Oval Office, and it's true. Nixon is recording all of his private conversations. And after Dean's testimony, the Senate questioned President Nixon's former assistant, Alexander Butterfield. Butterfield confirmed the existence of the secret recording system, and now everyone is trying to get a hold of the tapes, the Senate committee, the office of the special prosecutor. Nixon's enemies all want access to the president's private conversations because they believe the tapes could implicate the president in a crime. In his hospital bed, Nixon tosses and turns. This has become agonizing. He's waging a war on multiple fronts, and if he loses, his presidency could be destroyed. He could do irreparable harm to America's democracy. He could even go to jail. But Nixon refuses to let that happen. That's why he's about to meet with one of his closest allies. He needs to figure out what to do about the tapes, recordings that have the power to topple his presidency. Nixon sits up as his chief of staff, Alexander Hague enters the hospital suite. Ah, grab a seat. We have a lot to go through. You have, of course, Mr. President. What's top of mind? Well, first, I need to make a decision about those tapes. Well, sir, the options are the same as before. You could hand them over, or you could keep them. Or third option, you could destroy them. Oh, I can't destroy them. That would make me look guilty. But you'll also look guilty if you refuse to hand them over. Nixon shakes his head. Nah. I'll not give you on the damn tapes. Sir, with due respect, why is this a red line? It's a line I won't cross because it isn't just about the tapes. Or a Senate hearing, or this year's political scandal. This is about the future of the presidency. It isn't the first time Congress has demanded private communications from the president. Mr. Jackson, you know, he had the same dilemma. Mr. President, Andrew Jackson, was in office over a hundred years ago. Ask beside the point what matters is the principle. Just like every other American president, I have the power to withhold information. It's called executive privilege. Privilege. And that principle is at the heart of a strong presidency. But Mr. President, Congress knows that you have a secret system that records your conversations, conversations that could reveal you committed a crime. Hey, I didn't commit a crime. I'm sorry, Sir. I apologize. What I'm saying here is if you claim executive privilege, you might as well burn the tapes. The public won't see it any differently. Well, hey, they're just going to have to. I don't see how the public's opinion can possibly change. That's your job. You have to sell the idea that as president, I must not be compelled to share my private communications. And if Congress wants to fight me on this, they'll damage the most important institution in the country. That's the message. But I need to know, are you with me? Hey, Nonsense. Then he gets up and leaves the room. Nixon throws off his sheets and gets out of bed. It's time to get back to the White House. Time to get back to work. Nixon is the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world. It doesn't matter if Congress or the press are out for blood. Or if public opinion is starting to shift, Nixon refuses to cave to the pressure. He's going to keep fighting, tooth and nail, till the scandal disappears once and for all. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. Not only is my wife beautiful, funny and smart, she also has great taste that matches mine, which has made decorating our home together a delight. 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In the wake of Dean's testimony, President Nixon also faced increasing demands to turn over his secret tapes. Many believe that these oval office recordings would prove definitively whether the president had committed crime, but Nixon continued to fight back against those demands. He believed he had the right and the duty to keep his conversations private and with the fight growing more and more heated, the president found himself in the center of a constitutional crisis, one that would force him to make a gut wrenching decision. This is episode five, The Smoking Gun. It's October 20th, 1973 in Washington, D.C. Archibald Cox enters a large room and steps onto a stage where a single microphone sits waiting for him. Cox takes a seat and straightens his jacket. As he leans forward into the mic, he pauses and surveys the audience. The room is packed with reporters. There are TV crews aiming their cameras at the stage and in every direction people look eager and ready to hear Cox address the country. Cox smiles. He's normally not one for the spotlight, but with all the recent developments he'd had no choice but to call this press conference. Once a few months ago, Cox was hired by the Attorney General and tasked with being the special prosecutor for Watergate. It's his job to investigate the scandal with complete independence and follow the evidence wherever it might lead. And recently, no evidence has been more important than President Nixon's secret tapes. Cox subpoenaed the White House for several of the tapes, but the president refused. Instead, Nixon offered what he pitched as a compromise, written summaries of the recordings. For Cox, this presented serious issues. If Nixon handed over summaries or transcripts instead of the actual tapes, it was no telling what would be left out. And making matters worse, the White House tapped a terrible candidate to listen to the recordings and put together the summaries. They suggested using an elderly senator who's famously hard of hearing. It was a ludicrous suggestion and a nonstarter for the special prosecution. So Cox refused the president's counteroffer, but that meant he and his team were now in direct conflict with the president. It's a tough place to be. Cox knows that the fight makes him look partisan. It doesn't help that Cox used to be a top official in the administration of President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat. But Cox has always put ethics and his patriotic duty above partisan politics. And that's largely why he called today's press conference. He wants America to hear his side of the story, to understand that he's not some left wing politician looking to score points. He's just a prosecutor searching for the truth. And if America wants to get to the bottom of Watergate, then Cox needs access to President Nixon's actual tapes, not just written summaries. Sitting on stage, Cox reminds the reporters that there has been and his evidence of serious wrongdoing on the part of high government officials. Their wrongdoings meant to cover up other wrongdoings. Cox lets his accusations sink in. And then he adds that he's not only referring to Watergate. There have been other potential crimes, including other break ins and acts of espionage. The Attorney General of the United States pointed Cox the special prosecutor so he could uncover the truth about Watergate. But Cox tells reporters the president is withholding key evidence that could shed light on potential crimes. And that means Cox can't do his job. There's a brief moment of silence, and then Cox begins taking questions. One reporter near the front raises a hand, asking if Cox is worried that he's about to be fired by the president. Cox shakes his head. He was appointed by the Attorney General. That's his boss. And if you look at the law, it does not appear that President Nixon has the authority to fire him. So for now, all he can do is the job he was assigned, and not worry too much. Another reporter shouts out a similar question, and Cox lets out a weary smile. He knows this question is going to keep coming up, and he can only dodge the issue so many times. He explains to the reporter that the president could exert his influence. Nixon does have the power to fire his attorney's general, and the attorney general can fire Cox, so in that way, the president could exert control over the investigation. Another reporter calls out demanding to know how Cox could possibly expect to succeed in this job. Cox smiles again. And tells the reporter, I thought he was worth a try. I thought he would help the country, and if I lost, what the hell? The reporter scribbled down Cox's remarks. And soon the special prosecutor wraps up the press conference and walks away from the gaggle of journalists and TV crews. He said what he needed to say, making it clear why he's chosen to pick a fight with the president. Getting those tapes is not an act of political warfare. It's just a way to find out what really happened with Watergate. As Cox walks off stage, he feels exhausted from his time in the limelight. A large part of him wishes he could find a couch and pour himself a stiff drink. But Cox can't take any time to relax, not with all the battles now in front of him, and not when he's about to face a heated standoff with the president of the United States. Later that afternoon, President Richard Nixon sits down in the Oval Office across from Elliott Richardson, his attorney general. Richardson has a plain face and brown hair slick to the side. He's been on a job less than six months, and while Nixon normally has a good read on people, he can't make any sense of his new attorney general. He was supposed to be an ally, but so far he's been resisting Nixon's orders. And that's an issue Nixon needs to fix, before he finds himself with yet another crisis. Nixon's squint says he sizes up his attorney general. Elliott, you'll be a lot to explain. Of course, sir, tell me why you're not following orders. You make Cox a special prosecutor for Watergate. I told you to fire him, and yet Cox is still on the job. No, I'm sorry, sir. I can't fire Cox. I made a promise. The special prosecutor would have total independence. I can't go back on my word. It's as simple as that. That's not simple. It's selfish. You realize we're in the middle of a crisis in the Middle East. I do, sir. And we can't afford another issue. And now I've gotten word that you're threatening to resign. Mr. President, I don't believe I should stay in office if I can't carry out your orders. Oh, Elliott, this is reckless. You're putting your personal commitments ahead of the needs of the administration, not to mention the public interest. Richardson shifts in a seat, looking troubled. Sir, I can only say that I believe my resignation is in the public interest. Is that right? You think you're doing a noble deed? Sir, I'm not trying to cause you trouble. I wish there was another way. There is another way. Don't resign. Follow the orders of the president and fire cocks. I cannot, sir. I'm sorry. Nixon clenches his jaws, he rises. Fine. If that's how you feel, I accept your resignation. Get up and leave. Yes, sir. Once Richardson steps out of the Oval Office, Nixon collapses back into his leather chair. He thought he had control of the situation. He thought he could trust his cabinet members, the highest ranking officials in the administration. But once again, Nixon has come to see that he is all alone. He can't rely on anyone, even if they say they're a friend or an ally. And as always, Nixon now has to make an unsaved rechoice, picking one direction from many bad options. The special prosecutor is threatening to undermine the entire administration and Nixon can't let that happen. So the president is going to have to find a way to shut down this investigation. And that might mean taking an extraordinary step. Several hours later, in an office building in downtown Washington, Henry Ruth steps out of an elevator and begins walking toward his office. As Ruth rounds corner, he discovers a scene of chaos and disarray. Ruth is a high ranking official in the office of the Watergate Special Prosecution. As he steps forward, he discovers several of his colleagues standing together, blocked from entering their office. And in front of them is a group of men in dark suits. Ruth gets closer and he realizes the men standing guard are FBI agents. Ruth colleagues are trying to get into their offices to grab files, but the agents won't let them enter. Sweat begins to form on Ruth's forehead as he quickly takes it all in. This is exactly what he feared would happen, a nightmare for American democracy. First, the Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned after refusing President Nixon's order to fire the Special Prosecutor. The deputy Attorney General, the man next in line for the job, did the same. And that meant Robert Bork, the man third in line, would become the acting Attorney General. And as one of Nixon's allies, Bork immediately did the President's bidding. He fired Cox as the Special Prosecutor, and then he abolished the entire office of the Special Prosecution, putting an end to the independent investigation of Watergate. After that announcement, Ruth knew he couldn't waste any time, so he raised to the office, meant to secure all the files from the Special Prosecution's investigation. But it looks like he's too late. The FBI is now sealed off the office, and refused to allow any of the staff inside. Ruth's coworkers are arguing with the agents, but the FBI refuses to budge. So Ruth himself pushes forward and enters the fray. He identifies himself to the agents, explaining that after Cox was fired, he became the top official in the Special Prosecution. When given his role, he demands to speak with a ranking FBI officer. One of the agents turns to Ruth and says he's sorry, he's just following orders. They were told to seal the office, but Ruth can rest assured that the files will remain secure. One of Ruth's colleagues shouts out that the agent is lying. The FBI is going to destroy the evidence, and that's what the President wants. But the agents have to stand down. The Special Prosecution must be allowed to retrieve their own files. It's for the good of the country. Ruth glances back and forth as his colleagues in the FBI agents argue. Everything is growing more and more tense by the second, and he worries that if it doesn't deescalate, someone could actually get hurt. So Ruth tells everyone to calm down and stay put. He needs to make some phone calls, and he's going to figure this out. Several of Ruth's colleagues step back, and a couple of FBI agents begin to relax. Ruth nods. He's taken some pressure off this volatile situation, but he does need to get to the bottom of this. And he needs to figure out whether the reports are right, that the Special Prosecution is officially over, and that the President has just interfered with his own criminal investigation. Because of that's true, the fight is hardly over. President Nixon is going to face charges of obstruction of justice. 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Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's October 23rd, 1973, three days since the Watergate Special Prosecution was abolished. Inside the Oval Office, President Richard Nixon takes a seat across from a group of advisors. He's joined by his chief of staff, Alexander Hague, along with several legal experts whose advice the president needs as he confronts an unfolding disaster. Nixon's scowls reminding the group that the press and the public are now referring to the recent series of events as the Saturday Night Massacre, mass resignations and firings that led to the shutdown of the special prosecution, and the public outcry has been immediate. The White House was hit with 50,000 telegrams. They were unsparingly critical of Nixon and his decision, and now he's being accused of orchestrating a political massacre, Nixon knows he's in trouble. Nixon rises and begins pacing the Oval Office in a fury. He's well aware that he's quickly becoming one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. The people hate him. I think he's a criminal, and if he doesn't reverse course, everything is going to get worse. So the question Nixon says is, what can he possibly do next? Alexander Hague, Nixon's chief of staff, says that the president's observations appear to be correct. The situation is dire. Even the Republicans are turning against the president and demanding his tapes. But at this point, Nixon can't afford a fight with his own party. Nixon slams a fist down on his desk. After everything he's done for the Republicans now vise, but Nixon is not willing to reward that kind of treasury. So he tells Hague and the legal scholars that his position has not changed. No one is entitled to his recordings. Those tapes include some of his most intimate conversations, along with discussions about national security. He will not break precedent. He will not hand over his personal communications, even if the Republicans are now running with their tails between their legs. Hague glances at the legal scholars. It's clear they're exchanging some kind of silent agreement, something they must have discussed before the meeting. Hague then tells Nixon that his argument about executive privilege doesn't hold water. Maybe it did before. But public opinion has changed. And at this point, if Nixon does not hand over his tapes, he's going to face something much worse than a bunch of angry telegrams. He's going to be impeached by Congress. Nixon blanches at the mention of impeachment. There's nothing worse. Nothing more terrifying than the possibility that Nixon could face an impeachment trial. And he could be the first president removed from office. For a moment, Nixon wrestles with the agonizing possibility. He is not lying. He believes his tapes are protected by executive privilege. It is his right to keep them private and handing them over would set a terrible precedent, but setting in motion an impeachment trial could be even worse and even more destructive. Nixon begins pacing the Oval Office again, trying to make up his mind. And his chief of staff breaks the silence. Hague reminds Nixon that there are hundreds of White House tapes. But the special prosecutor only subpoenaed nine of them. What if Nixon compromised? He could hand over just that tiny batch of recordings. It would appease everyone. And Nixon could move on with his presidency. Nixon choose over the suggestion. He hates the idea. But his chief of staff is correct. He can't alienate members of his own party. He can't risk an impeachment trial. So Nixon agrees. He'll provide that small batch of nine secret tapes. That should silence his critics. And Nixon knows that when all the dust finally settles, he'll be vindicated. And he and his administration will finally get past the nightmare of Watergate. It's July 1974 in Washington, D.C. In the West Wing of the White House, the president's chief of staff, Alexander Hague, sit waiting for a phone call. Hague used to be an army general, and he's accustomed to high pressure situations. But today, Hague feels uneasy, as he thinks about everything that's gone wrong these last eight months. Hague believed that the president could save himself and his administration by releasing some of his secret tapes. Hague thought he would make Nixon look like an honest man, someone with nothing to hide. But the plan backfired. After releasing that first small batch, Nixon was hit with more subpoenas, demanding dozens of additional tapes. Nixon tried to find a compromise and offered transcripts. But the plan went sideways. Nixon decided to have the transcripts edited. They were stripped of profanity, as well as passages the president thought had nothing to do with Watergate. The public and the press were having none of it. They saw those edits as another attempt to cover up the truth. Nixon didn't only lose in the court of public opinion. The Supreme Court set aside Nixon's arguments about executive privilege and in a clash that turned into a full blown constitutional crisis, the justice's ordered Nixon to hand over 64 of his tapes. It was another bruising loss for the president. And it wasn't even close to the end of it. Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, was forced to resign from office. The issue was unrelated to Watergate. Agnew was facing allegations of corruption from his time as governor of Maryland. Still with the resignation of the vice president, the administration took yet another public hit. And that was all compounded when former top White House officials were indicted for crimes stemming from Watergate. John Mitchell, Bob Haldeman, and John Erlichman are now facing charges. The grand jury named Nixon himself as an unindicted coconspirator in the Watergate cover. Hague runs a hand through his silver hair. He knows there's only so much the country can take. The president did go on TV and an attempt to clean up his image. He said he welcomed public scrutiny and made a bold statement, I am not a crook. But even with his public claims of innocence, it appears that Congress has lost its patience. Next month, the House of Representatives is planning to impeach the president. It's the most drastic step Congress can take, and one that could result in Nixon being removed from office. Hague shakes his head as he thinks through this endless parade of disasters. At this point, there's no denying the administration is in total collapse. While Hague is a fighter, he's not sure how much longer he and the administration can hold out. And this phone call might tip the scale. Hague grabs the receiver. Hello? Hi, I'm Fred. Hague takes a deep breath. On the other line is Jay Fred Bazarth, one of the president's lawyers. Hague has been dreading this call all day. Hi Fred, so you've listened to the tape. That's right. The one from June 23rd, one of many that's about to go public. And what's the prognosis? Well, Al, I'm telling you because you need to know it's bad. How bad are we talking? Very, very bad. Hague size. Okay. Well, give me the specifics. All right. In the tape, you can hear the president is meeting with your predecessor, Bob Holderman. Holderman is telling the president that the FBI is getting too close. He's about to discover direct ties between the administration and the Watergate burglars. And Holderman goes on to say that they should make up some kind of story to try to put the brakes on the FBI's investigation. Oh, God, you're kidding me. Oh, it's all on tape. Holderman says they should falsely imply that Watergate has something to do with the CIA. And that way, the FBI would pull back before they could find the administration was involved. They wanted to use the CIA to cover it up. This sounds like a spine, though. You're sure about this. It's all on the tape. The public is about to learn everything. The president was involved in the cover up. How this is the smoking gun. And when everyone's been looking for it. Hague excels and rubs a hand over his eyes. Now, this is it, isn't it? There's no turn around. Well, I don't know. There may be some options. Right. Options. No. Well, thanks for reporting back. I'll be in touch. Hague sets down the receiver and takes a moment to compose his thoughts. This is not the first time Hague has suffered a painful defeat. But something about this one feels different. More painful than the rest. Hague knows it didn't have to come to this. The president didn't need to self destruct. He got bad advice and made some bad decisions. Still he had so many chances to turn this around. But it's too late for any of that. There's no use in thinking about what could have been. There's only the present moment. And Hague knows right now. President Nixon is about to be forced out of office. A couple of weeks later, Richard Nixon shuts his eyes as he prepares to step back into the Oval Office. He breathes slowly, trying to calm himself. He notices the musty smell of the old paintings on the wall, the sweet perfume of all the old wood. Something that makes the White House one of the most historic buildings in the world. Nixon opens his eyes, suddenly feeling steely with resolve. This is his domain. And even if he's feeling jittery, he is still the commander in chief, still the most powerful person in the world. He's about to take a big meeting, maybe the most important meeting of his entire career. But Nixon is a winner. And this time will not be any different. As Nixon enters the room, three of the country's top Republican standing item. John Rhodes, the Republican leader of the House. Hague Scott, the leader in the Senate. And Barry Goldwater, the senator from Arizona, and the 1964 presidential nominee. Nixon tells the three men to take a seat. As he stands before them, Nixon reviews the latest developments. The tapes are out. The public knows that he and his former chief of staff tried to block the Watergate investigation. And at this point, an impeachment in the House of Representatives is all but certain. After that, the Senate will take up a trial. If they decide Nixon is guilty, he'll be removed from office. But if he's acquitted, he'll be able to serve out the rest of his term. As he stares at the Republican leaders, Nixon makes it clear that this is the moment of truth. When the party either stands with the president, the man elected by the people, or the moment when members of the party reveal themselves to be cowards. So Nixon asks, which is it going to be? Barry Goldwater, the former presidential candidate, looks grim. He says he wishes he could offer better news, but Nixon only has 15 votes in the Senate, maybe 18. At this point, it's simple math. If he goes through a trial, he'll be sure to have the 34 votes he needs to fend off the Democrats and remain in office. But Nixon barks back that no tally is ever final until the votes are cast. There's always a way to find more support. Goldwater shakes his head, so he wishes that was the case. But the charges are too much. The president is going to be impeached for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. It's possible that Nixon can beat the first and third charges, but there's no way he can skirt the charge of abuse of power. Not with the evidence that's come out. The case is too strong. Goldwater admits that he himself would vote to convict Nixon of that crime. Nixon is stunned. And as he looks at the other two senior Republicans, it's clear neither of them is going to push back. It doesn't matter what Nixon says, or whether he tries to bully them into submission. The Republicans are done with him. Nixon shakes his head in disbelief. He wasn't born a member of the political ruling class. He was never a Kennedy, never a Roosevelt. Nixon made his own fortune, coming up from nothing. That meant he had to learn how to fight, to be dogged, ruthless, to never throw in the towel. But as he gazes across the Oval Office now, Nixon is suddenly hit with a sad, poignant feeling. Maybe this is it, the time to let go, to stop the fighting, and accept the bitter faith that he's been telling. But that feels too sentimental. Nixon nearly bursts out in a rage as he tries again to press his argument to make inroads with Republican leaders, but it doesn't take long for the conversation to hit another dead end. The party simply does not have the votes. Nixon wants to keep fighting, to keep arguing, to keep cajoling, to keep pleading and threatening and pushing. But it's at that moment something shifts inside him. Nixon suddenly feels weightless, unmoored. And as he staggers to his seat, he finally realizes what's happening. He's giving up. Nixon looks up and dismisses the Republican leaders from the Oval Office. And he's alone once again. Nixon heads to his desk and sits down with a pen and a piece of paper. It's time to start writing a speech. Time to say farewell to the White House, to Washington, and to the American people. 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? 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Tomorrow, he's going to resign as President of the United States. It's a heartbreak not just for Nixon, but also for his family. As she's tried to make sense of the news, his 26 year old daughter Julie broke down in tears and threw her arms around her father. It was a tender moment. And with his daughter weeping on his shoulder, Nixon finally felt the full weight of his guilt and shame. And he's been fending off since the beginning of this watergate scandal. But now the evening is growing late, Nixon only wants to see one person, his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. Together, the two of them have had some enormous accomplishments in foreign policy. They're close allies, and in these final hours in the White House, Nixon is looking for a final moment of counsel. Nixon clears his throat. Henry? Yes, Mr. Brooks. It's OK, you can come in. The door swings open, and Kissinger enters. His wavy black hair is neatly combed, and his eyes behind his thick glasses look mournful. Mr. President, I'm glad we get to spend this time together. I agree. I wouldn't have it any other way. So it's true. Tomorrow. Ah, I can't even say it. That's OK, I'll say it for you. I'm going to announce my resignation. Kissinger stares at the floor. This isn't fair. I know you did your best, and you should know. If they give you hell out of your leave office, I won't hesitate. I'll resign as Secretary of State. Henry, please. That's the worst thing you could do for me. You're irreplaceable. You have to stay on. Kissinger nods, but remains silent, waiting for Nixon to lead the conversation. Take a look around this room. You know when Lincoln was president, this was his office? That desk over there, that was Lincoln's desk. There's a copy over there of the Gettysburg address in Lincoln's own handwriting. It is incredible, sir. Incredible. You think about Lincoln? He kept our republic together. He paid for it with his life. It's such a legacy. Suddenly Nixon begins to tear up. But what are they going to say about me? What would they say when I'm gone? Mr. President, I think they'll say you were a man above all. A great man who faced great challenges. You know, this doesn't have to be over. I could keep fighting. I got fight left in me. Yes, you could. Every American has the right to defend himself against criminal charges. So why don't I? Why am I giving up? Why am I walking away from being the president of the United States? Sir, I apologize if I'm overstepping, but you must be in a lot of pain. Nixon pinches his eyes shut as a warm tear comes creeping out. I can only imagine. And you're strong, so strong. But at some point, everyone has a limit. Fighting those charges would be unbarrel for you and likely for the country. Yes, for the country, too. I can't do it. I can't fight. Nixon stands and wipes the tear from his eye. That doesn't make you weak, sir. That makes you moral, kind, generous. Kind of leader, the country has always needed. You're right, Henry. You're right. Nixon approaches Kissinger and reaches out his hand. I'm done fighting. Henry, would you join me in a prayer? Would you do that? Kissinger nods, and together he and Nixon kneel on the ground. Nixon bows his head and shuts his eyes. As he begins to say a prayer, for the first time in months, he feels calm and free. Nixon is ready to let go. It's the evening of August 8th, 1974, in Washington, D.C. It's nearly 9 p.m. and at this hour, the newsroom of the Washington Post is normally still humming. But tonight, the space is eerily quiet. Everyone's gone home. And for reporter Bob Woodward, it's no surprise why. In just a few minutes, President Nixon is going to go on live TV and announce his resignation. Bob knows it's coming. And everyone's done their reporting. Still Woodward didn't want to go home himself. Neither did his reporting partner Carl Bernstein. They belong in the newsroom, where they've broken so many stories over the last couple of years. They've had some ups and downs. Together the two reporters helped reveal that Watergate was a political operation, orchestrated by President Nixon's reelection campaign. Woodward and Bernstein revealed how Watergate was part of a larger operation of spying and sabotage. When Nixon's allies broke the law and tried to cover it up, throughout it all, Woodward and Bernstein faced attacks from the White House. Their reputation took a nose dive when they made a mistake in one of their most high profile pieces. They became enemies of the President, but they never gave up. And now it's time to watch the culmination of their work. Woodward heads to the office of the Post's managing editor. The TV is on, and the paper's top brass are waiting for the President's speech to begin. But as Woodward takes a seat on the floor, the Post's publisher, Catherine Graham, issues a stern warning. Nixon may be resigning, but no one is allowed to gloat. Woodward chuckles at the warning. Graham may be so proper sometimes, but she is right. This is no time for gloating, making fun of Nixon at his lowest moment. Still, Woodward does believe it is a time to celebrate. The press did their job, and so did government. And under the most intense pressure, everyone continued to do the right thing. The President is resigning, but that's assigned that the government held strong. That America's institutions can withstand the worst of the worst threats. Woodward makes the case, and several of his colleagues nod in agreement. But the paper's executive editor, Ben Bradley, shoots back with another reminder. All that may be true, but still, there will be no gloating when Nixon resigns. Woodward nods at the command. There's no disagreement. A few minutes later, the group turns to the TV, where President Nixon suddenly appears, seated in front of a blue curtain. President lifts a stack of papers, and begins reading, addressing the nation. Nixon explains that he's always tried to do what was best for the country, and he tried his best persevere through the Watergate scandal. But now he has to abandon that effort, because it's apparent, he can no longer govern effectively. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective, that noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office. Hearing Nixon's final words, Woodward lets out a deep breath. Nixon is done. And at noon tomorrow, America will have a new President, Gerald Ford. Finally, the country can move on from this divisive and rancorous scandal. But Woodward himself will probably never be able to move on. Not entirely. He knows he's likely to spend the rest of his life thinking and talking about these last two years. He's probably okay with that. That's what it means to chronicle American history. Sometimes you're there for the big moments. And if you get lucky, if you stumble into history, you owe it to the world, and to future generations to keep telling those stories as long as they still matter. And they still matter. On August 9th, 1974, Richard Nixon officially resigned the presidency. That same day, Vice President Gerald Ford took the oath of office. Addressing the nation, Ford offered a message of both healing and faith in American government. My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. Immediately upon taking office, President Ford had to confront a fraught political question. Deciding whether former President Nixon should be pardoned for his crimes. In the end, Ford did issue a full and unconditional pardon. He argued that his decision was intended to promote national unity. Still Ford faced a strong backlash after issuing the pardon. And some believe that Ford's decision may have cost him the 1976 presidential election. And while Nixon avoided any criminal charges, many involved in Watergate weren't so lucky. Altogether, the scandal led to 69 indictments and 48 convictions. Former Senate to prison included G. Gordon Liddy, one of the architects of the burglary, along with his partner E. Howard Hunt. Former White House officials John Erlichman and Bob Haldeman also served time in prison as did John Mitchell, the former attorney general of the United States, and head of Nixon's reelection campaign. And although he blew the whistle on Watergate, White House counsel John Dean didn't escape punishment. Dean went on to serve four months in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. Watergate was a defining moment in the careers of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but both journalists went on to have storied careers, writing bestselling books, and continuing to offer commentary about the legacy of Watergate. And in the years since their initial reporting, another secret finally emerged. In 2005, Mark Felt, the former associate director of the FBI, sat down for an interview with Vanity Fair. Felt was 91 years old, and during the interview, he confirmed what many government insiders had long suspected. Felt admitted that he was the secret informant, known as Deep Throat. Over the years, historians have disagreed about Felt's motivations. Bob Woodward believed that Felt acted out of loyalty to the country and the FBI. Researchers argued that Felt was attempting to work the political levers of power, trying to secure a job for himself as the permanent director of the FBI. After resigning the presidency in facing public scorn, President Nixon tried to make amends for his actions. He admitted that the Watergate cover up was a mistake, and added, it is a burden I shall bear for every day of the life that is left to me. Nixon died on April 22, 1994, following a stroke. Upon his death, then President Bill Clinton called Nixon a statesman, who sought to build a lasting structure, a peace. From Wondering, this is episode 5 of Watergate, from American Skin. In our next episode, I sit down with Katherine Olmstein, a historian who's written extensively about Watergate. We'll discuss the shocking investigations that followed in the aftermath of President Nixon's resignation, and we'll look at how these hearings help fuel a new generation of political conspiracy theories. If you like our show, please give us a 5 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 ad free by subscribing to Wondering Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondering app. We'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 this show is by filling out a small survey at Wondering.com slash survey to tell us what topics we might cover 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, all the Presidents men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and King Richard by Michael Dombs. This episode contains reenactments and traumatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me Lindsay Graham for airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barons, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Christina Malzberg. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Our senior producer is Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marsha Louis for Wondering.