Recent History of Presidential Scandal and Impeachment


Legislative legacy of Watergate

  • (In addition to the Ethics in Government Act 1978 and its Special Prosecutor provision)
  • Case-Church Amendment 1973 prohibiting further miliary activity in SE Asia without advance approval of Congress
  • War Powers Act of 1973
  • Budget & Impoundment Control Act of 1974
  • Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA, 1971) Amendments of 1974 creating Federal Election Commission
  • Hughes-Ryan Amendment 1974 mandating congressional oversight, CIA reporting, Presidential approval and recordkeeping on covert ops
  • National Intelligence Reorganization and Reform Act of 1978
  • Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA)


A brief Watergate timeline and partial cast of characters

1969-1971: Roots of Watergate

  • May 1969 leak of secret Cambodian bombing campaign --> illegal wiretaps of exec branch officials
  • June 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg (govt contractor via RAND Corp.) --> formation of WH Special Investigations Unit (“the White House Plumbers”), hiring Liddy (ex-FBI) and Hunt (ex-CIA); directed primarily by Charles Colson (WH special counsel).
  • Sept. 1971 burglary of the office of Ellsberg’s shrink Fielding by Plumbers

1972 Burglary and cover-up

  • June 17 1972 (early Saturday morning) burglars arrested at DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex
  • Mon-Fri of the following week: construction of the cover-up by the whole roster of central figures, all of whom (except Nixon) ended up doing prison time:
    • Nixon
    • H.R. Haldeman (WH CoS),
    • John Ehrlichman (WH Domestic Policy Advisor),
    • John Dean (WH Counsel),
    • Jeb Stuart Magruder (Acting/Deputy Director, Committee to Re-elect the President),
    • Robert Mardian (CRP),
    • Fred LaRue (CRP aide to Mitchell)
    • considerable involvement by Richard Kleindienst (Attorney General), John Mitchell (former AG and Director of CRP).
  • June-October Washington Post, especially, reports on links of Watergate figures to White House (where Hunt was on staff as a consultant) and CRP (where Liddy was Finance Counsel, McCord Security Coordinator)

1973 Jan.-Apr.: convictions, confessions, resignations

  • Jan. 30 Liddy & McCord convicted in burglary; others plead
  • Mar. 20 McCord flips, writing letter to Judge Sirica (Chief Judge, US District Court for DC).
  • March: WH meets demands by Hunt for “hush money.” WH officials involved in Plumbers and Watergate cover-up begin to panic about their own exposure.
  • mid-April Dean flips
  • Apr. 29 Nixon speech reporting “investigation”, announcing resignations of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Kleindienst and firing of Dean.
  • (10 Apr. Nixon & staff first learn VP Agnew under investigation on unrelated corruption charges)

1973 May-Dec.: hearings and investigations

  • May 17 1973 Senate Watergate Committee hearing begin; thru June 1974
  • May 19 Archibald Cox appointed Special Prosecutor by AG Richardson
  • June 1973: Dean testimony to Committee; Alexander Butterfield (WH staffer) testimony reveals existence of White House tapes; early discussion of impeachment
  • (Oct. 10 Agnew resigns; Oct. 12 Ford nominated to replace him)
  • Oct. 20 the Saturday Night Massacre: Cox fired; negative reaction leads Nixon to surrender the subpoenaed tapes on Tuesday;
  • Nov. 1 Jaworski named to replace Cox.

1974 Indictments, impeachment, smoking gun, and resignation

  • Feb. 1974 grand jury indictments include Nixon as “un-indicted co-conspirator” (and “Road Map” filed under seal Mar. 1)
  • June trial of Ehrlichman & Plumbers on Fielding burglary
  • July 24 Supreme Court announces U.S. v. Nixon
  • July House Judiciary Committee debates and passes articles of impeachment
  • “smoking gun” tape (of Jun 23, 1972 decision to tell CIA to stop FBI probe) causes remaining Nixon support in Congress to unravel
  • Aug 8 Nixon announces he will resign noon Aug 9
  • Sept. 8 Ford announces Nixon pardon

Other useful Watergate timelines:


Gallup poll on opinion about Nixon


Articles of Impeachment and votes

Nixon impeachment articles

Similar opening and concluding language in each article:
…in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his consitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed…
...In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.


Article 1, obstruction of justice through the cover-up of the Watergate burglary via a list of activities. Adopted 27-11 (D 21-0,   R 6-11).

Article 2, abuse of power—the actual term not used, but rather “Using the powers of his office…engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.” The article enumerates:

  1. Attempt to use IRS to audit political opponents
  2. Use of FBI & Secret Service for illegal surveillance, and destroyed some records thereof
  3. Use of CIA resources and campaign funds for the Plumbers; used Plumbers to interfere with fair trial (Ellsburg)
  4. Failed to stop subordinates he had reason to believe were engaged in DNC burglary & cover-up, “unlawful activities…relating to the confirmation of Richard Kleindienst as Attorney General,” illegal electronic surveillance, Fielding break-in, and illegal campaign finance practices of CRP.
  5. Interfered with FBI, DoJ Criminal Div., Office of Special Prosecutor, DoJ, and CIA. Adopted 28-10 (D 21-0,   R 6-11). (5 Republicans supported both Articles 1 and 2.)

Article 3 contempt of Congress for his failure to respond to subpoenas from HJC. Adopted 21-17 (D 19-2,   R 2-15).

The Committee rejected 12-26 each of two other articles,

  • one charging Nixon with tax fraud, and with using govt funds for improvements to his private homes;
  • one charging Nixon with usurping congressional war powers in undertaking the secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969.


Clinton impeachment articles

The House Judiciary Committee passed Articles 1, 3, and 4 by 21-16, and Article 2 by 20-17. (The only exception to straight party-line voting was Lindsey Graham voting No on Article 2.)

The full House voted as follows:

  • passed Article 1 (perjury before a federal grand jury): 228-206 (R 223-5,   D 5-200,   I 0-1) (The Independent was Bernie Sanders of VT)
  • defeated Article 2 charging perjury in Clinton’s civil suit deposition, 205-229 (R 200-28,   D 5-200,   I 0-1)
  • passed Article 3 (obstruction of justice by encouraging Lewinsky to lie): 221-212 (R 216-12,   D 5-199,   I 0-1)
  • defeated an Article 4 charging abuse of power, referring to Clinton’s “perjurious, false and misleading” answers to a list of 81 written questions posed to him by the HJC, 148-285 (R 147-81,   D 1-203,   I 0-1)

Each charge was said to be “in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

In each case, the article concludes that the president thereby “has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the Presidency, has betrayed his trust as President, and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”

Senate vote -- two-thirds of those voting (67 of 100) is required to convict:

  • Perjury: 45-55 (D 0-45,   R 45-10)
  • Obstruction of justice: 50-50 (D 0-45,   R 50-5)


Useful Clinton invesigation/impeachment timelines

Gallup poll: Clinton job approval


This page compiled by Randall Calvert © 2018. Email comments and questions to calvert at wustl