Richard Nixon announces that he will resign the office of the President at noon the next day, August 9. He had been engulfed by a major political scandal that began with the bungled burglary and wiretapping of the Democratic Party’s campaign headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972. Senate investigations eventually revealed that the President had been personally involved in the subsequent cover-up of the break-in; additional investigation uncovered a related group of illegal activities that included political espionage and falsification of official documents, all sanctioned by the White House. On July 29 and 30, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, charging that Nixon had misused his powers to violate the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, obstructed justice, and defied Judiciary Committee subpoenas. To avoid almost certain impeachment, Nixon announced that he would resign from office.
The Watergate affair had far-ranging impact, both at home and abroad. In the United States, the scandal shook the faith of the American people in the presidency, but, in the final analysis, the nation survived the constitutional crisis, thus reinforcing the system of checks and balances and proving that no one is above the law, not even the president. In Vietnam, Nixon’s resignation removed one of Saigon’s staunchest supporters-Nixon had always promised that he would come to the aid of South Vietnam if Hanoi violated the terms of the Paris Peace Accords. With Nixon gone, there was no one left to make good on those promises. When the North Vietnamese began their final offensive in 1975, the promised U.S. support was not provided and the South Vietnamese were defeated in less than 55 days.