As 40th anniversary approaches, key figures remember Watergate - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

As 40th anniversary approaches, key figures remember Watergate scandal

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Next Sunday is the 40th anniversary of Watergate. The Nixon White House called it a third-rate burglary. But the crime, and subsequent cover-up, would lead to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

On Monday night, The Washington Post sponsored a panel discussion about the legacy of the break-in, with not all, but some of the President's men and the two reporters who helped to expose the scandal.

"What's interesting," says Bob Woodward. "Try to step back a little bit. Richard Nixon did not understand what the presidency was."

"This story was like getting into a warm bath," adds Carl Bernstein. "And it got hotter and hotter and hotter, so you were able to withstand the heat."

Bernstein and Woodward were the maverick Washington Post reporters who, 40 years ago, blew the lid off the Watergate scandal - exposing widespread corruption orchestrated by Richard Nixon and some of his closest advisers.

"I authorized a covert operation in July 1971," Bud Krogh told the audience of several hundred on the 11th floor of the Watergate Office Building - five floors above the office suite burglarized the night of June 17, 1972.

Krogh was a White House lawyer who helped to direct the "plumbers," Nixon's band of burglars and thieves who carried out the Watergate and earlier break-ins.

"It was carried out," Krogh explains (referring to the break-in at Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. Ellsberg had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, Washington Post and other news outlets. The Pentagon Papers was a secret White House history of the Vietnam War).

"Nothing was found," Krogh goes on to say. "But what that constituted at that time, and I've looked back on this a lot over the last few years, was a major breakdown in integrity. My personal integrity and that of the unit for which I worked."

He spent four months and two weeks in jail.

Woodward went on to talk about the work of the "Plumbers."

"And one of the operations was to get somebody to climb the telephone pole behind Joe Craft's house. He was a columnist for the Washington Post. And tap his telephone. Now if they had been caught at that, maybe there wouldn't have been a Watergate," says Woodward.

President Nixon's White House counsel John Dean also spoke at the seminar.

"The cover-up really starts within moments of the White House learning about the fact that five men have been arrested here in this building wearing business suits, rubber gloves, money stashed in their pocket and that there from the re-election committee," says Dean.

Nixon won reelection in November 1972. In August 1974, he became the first and only United States President to resign from office.

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