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Democracy’s darkest moment: the Watergate scandal

President Nixon tells a White House news conference that he will not allow his legal counsel, John Dean, to testify on Capitol Hill in the Watergate investigation, and challenged the Senate to test him in the Supreme Court on March 15, 1973. A feisty Nixon defended his shredded legacy and Watergate-era actions in grand jury testimony that he thought would never come out. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, it did. (Photo: Charles Tasnadi/AP)

Democracy’s darkest moment: the Watergate scandal

It was famously described by the White House press secretary as a “third-rate burglary,” but it brought down a presidency. On the night of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for allegedly breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in an office and hotel complex whose name has become synonymous with political scandal: the Watergate.

Over the course of more than two years — driven by relentless digging by two young Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; a tough-minded federal judge, John J. Sirica, and ultimately by a congressional investigation whose hearings riveted the nation — the break-in was linked to President Nixon’s reelection campaign, and the subsequent coverup traced to the Oval Office itself.

Impeachment proceedings were begun by the House Judiciary Committee in July, 1974, and a few weeks later, his support in the Senate collapsing, Richard Nixon became the first president in American history to resign. (Jerry Adler for Yahoo News)

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