On this day in 1974, the House of Representatives charges President Richard M. Nixon with the first of three articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice after he refused to release White House tape recordings that contained crucial information regarding the Watergate scandal.
In June 1972, five men connected with Nixon’s reelection committee, the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), had been caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. A subsequent investigation exposed illegal activities perpetrated by CREEP and authorized by senior members of Nixon’s administration. It also raised questions about what the president knew about those activities. In May 1973, the Senate convened an investigation into the Watergate scandal amid public cries for Nixon’s impeachment. Nixon vigorously denied involvement in the burglary cover-up, most famously in November 1973 when he declared, “I am not a crook.” Although Nixon released some of the tapes requested by the Senate in April 1974, he withheld the most damning of them, claiming executive privilege. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court rejected Nixon’s claim of executive privilege and ordered him to turn over the remaining tapes. When he refused to do so, the House of Representatives passed the first article of impeachment against Nixon for obstruction of justice. On August 5, with the impeachment process already underway, Nixon reluctantly released the remaining tapes.
On August 8, 1974, Nixon avoided a Senate trial and likely conviction by becoming the first president to resign.