Watergate Explainer and Why Richard Nixon Resigned From Presidency 45 Years Ago Today

President Richard Nixon resigned from his American presidency 45 years ago on August 8, after a one of the greatest political conspiracies in U.S. history, which became known as the Watergate scandal.

Nixon's resignation was one of the last in a series of events beginning in June 1972, when five men were arrested for breaking into the Watergate complex, which housed the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Richard Nixon
Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon rides in a parade on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 1968. Dirck Halstead/Getty

The men had previously wiretapped the location's phones, as well as stolen highly private documents, to aid Nixon's re-election campaign. They'd only returned again because the phones had not been properly bugged.

Nixon worked hard to cover up his involvement in the break-in. He swore he had nothing to do with it, and was re-elected. All the while, he'd paid off the burglars with hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep his involvement a secret. His role in it all was revealed by journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and their anonymous informant, "Deepthroat." With the help of the whistleblower, who in 2005 revealed his identity and former role as an associate director of the FBI, The Washington Post broke the story.

Eventually, Nixon was required to turn over the "Watergate tapes" of secret recordings, and moves were made to impeach him from the presidency. Nixon resigned on August 8 and left the office formally on August 9.

Today, the Watergate tapes have primarily been kept secret. A handful of audio bits have been released and have revealed a lot of Nixon's own shortcomings, including heavy prejudice against the Jewish community and even calling Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of India, a "bitch."

Of course, there are also moments on the tapes that prove Nixon had ordered the Watergate break-in in the first place.

When Nixon left office, he did not confess his involvement. Rather, he admitted he'd made bad judgment calls during his presidency. Nixon died in 1994.

Most famously, the Watergate story has been dramatized in film All The President's Men, which is inspired by the nonfiction book written by Bernstein and Woodward.