Forty-four years ago today, Richard M. Nixon announced in a televised speech that he would resign the office of the presidency, having spent much of his second term mired by the Watergate Scandal. He would be the first and only president in history to resign the office.
Nixon and his family then departed by helicopter for their home in California the following day, and Gerald Ford was sworn into office.
According to The Washington Post, the scandal that brought down the president began on June 17, 1972, when five men were arrested for a botched break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex.
Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein kept on the story through the remainder of the year. In November, Nixon won the White House handily.
On Jan. 30, 1973, James W. McCord Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy, former Nixon aides, were convicted of burglary and wiretapping in connection to the break-in.
In May of that year, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities began its inquiry into the scandal, and Archibald Cox took the job of special prosecutor.
John Dean, the White House's legal counsel, testified that the break-in had occurred with the blessing of John Mitchell, the former Attorney General and Nixon campaign manager, as well as advisers H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and that Nixon himself knew, after the fact, about efforts to conceal what had happened. Haldeman and Ehrlichman resigned April 30, along with Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and Dean.
During July 13 testimony to Congress, former appointments secretary Alexander Butterfield mentioned a White House taping system that had been in place since 1971. Nixon reportedly ordered the taping system be turned off a few days later.
On Oct. 10, vice president Spiro Agnew was forced to resign as he faced an unrelated bribery indictment. Ten days later, Nixon fired the special prosecutor, and both the Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, and deputy Attorney General, William Ruckelshaus, resigned. Cox was replaced by a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski.
By December, an 18 1/2-minute-long gap in the White House audio recordings had been discovered. Several explanations were floated, including one that Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, had unknowingly interrupted the recording.
By April 30, 1974, the White House turned over 1,200 pages of transcripts of the audio recordings. Not satisfied, the House Judiciary Committee continued to demand the actual tapes. In July, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Nixon that the president had to turn over the audio tapes.
On July 27, the first of three articles of impeachment were passed by the House Judiciary Committee. By Aug. 8, with pressure on all sides mounting, support eroding and no clear way out, Nixon announced his resignation.