Chronology: 1973

January 1973

Jan 08
The trial of the Watergate Seven (Barker, Gonzalez, Hunt, Liddy, Martinez, McCord and Sturgis) begins in Washington. It is presided over by Judge John Sirica.

Jan 11
Hunt pleads guilty.

Jan 15
Barker, Gonzalez, Martinez and Sturgis plead guilty.

Jan 30
Former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr. are convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident. Both had pleaded not guilty.


February 1973

Feb 07
The Senate votes (77-0) to create the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. The Committee is chaired by Senator Sam Ervin (Democrat, North Carolina). Ervin cultivated a folksy image as a country lawyer, but his supervision of this committee is crucial to the outcome. His deputy is Senator Howard Baker (Republican, Tennessee).

  • Listen to Senator Sam Ervin describe himself as a ‘country lawyer’.

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March 1973

Mar 19-23
James W. McCord writes a letter to Judge John Sirica in which he claims that the defendants had pleaded guilty under duress. He says they committed perjury and that others are involved in the Watergate break-in. He claims that the burglars lied at the urging of John Dean, Counsel to the President, and John Mitchell, the Attorney-General. These allegations of a cover-up and obstruction of justice by the highest law officers in the land blew Watergate wide open.


April 1973

Apr 06
John Dean, the White House Counsel, begins co-operating with the Watergate prosecutors.

Apr 17
Nixon announces that White House staff will appear before the Senate Committee. He promises “major new developments” in the investigation and says there has been real progress towards finding the truth.

Apr 17
An official statement from the White House claims Nixon had no prior knowledge of the Watergate affair.

Easter Sunday
Nixon asks John Dean to prepare a report about the Watergate affair. He sends Dean to Camp David to write the report.

  • Listen to Dean’s recollections of the conversation with Nixon.

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Apr 30
Nixon appears on national television and announces the dismissal of Dean and the resignations of Haldeman and Erlichman, describing them as two of his “closest advisers”. The Attorney-General, Richard Kleindienst, also resigns and is replaced by Elliot Richardson.

  • Listen to Ehrlichman discuss his departure from the White House.

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May 1973

May 04
Nixon appoints General Alexander Haig as White House Chief of Staff, in place of Haldeman.

May 17
The Senate Watergate Committee begins public hearings.

May 18
The Senate Watergate committee begins its nationally televised hearings.

May 25
The former Solicitor-General, Archibald Cox, is sworn in as the Justice Department’s special prosecutor for Watergate. He was nominated by Attorney General-designate Elliot Richardson.


June 1973

Jun 03
It is reported by the Washington Post that John Dean has told Watergate investigators that he discussed the Watergate cover-up with President Nixon at least 35 times.

Jun 13
Watergate prosecutors find a memo addressed to John Ehrlichman describing in detail the plans to burglarize the office of Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.

Jun 25
Testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee, Dean claims that Nixon was involved in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary within days in June 1972. In a seven-hour opening statement, he details a program of political espionage activites conducted by the White House in recent years.

  • Listen to Dean discussing the climate in the White House.

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  • Listen to Dean outlining Nixon’s attitude to finding the money to pay-off the Watergate burglars.

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  • Listen to Dean’s famous reference to the ‘cancer growing on the presidency’.

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July 1973

Jul 07
Nixon tells the Senate Committee that he will not testify before it and will not grant access to Presidential documents, claiming Executive Privilege.

Jul 13
Alexander P. Butterfield, a former presidential appointments secretary, informs the Senate Committee of the White House taping system. He says that since 1971 Nixon has recorded all conversations and telephone calls in his office. A protracted legal battle begins between the White House, the Congress and the Special Prosecutor.

Jul 18
Nixon reportedly orders the White House taping system disconnected.

Jul 23
The Senate Committee and Archibald Cox demand that Nixon hand over a range of White House tapes and documents.

Jul 24
John Ehrlichman appears before the Senate Watergate Committee.

Jul 25
Nixon refuses to surrender any documents or tapes.

Jul 26
The Watergate Committee subpoenas several White House tapes.


August 1973

Aug 09
The Senate Committee takes legal action against Nixon for failure to comply with the subpoena.

Aug 15
Nixon delivers a second Address to the Nation on Watergate. Nixon claimed executive privilege for the tapes and argued that he should not have to hand them over. Archibald Cox and the Senate Watergate committee request the Supreme Court instruct Nixon to surrender the tapes.

Aug 29
Judge Sirica orders Nixon to hand over 9 tapes for Sirica to review in private. This is the first of a number of court battles that Nixon is to lose.


October 1973

Oct 10
Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew resigns after pleading no contest to a charge of income tax evasion. He was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation and a $10,000 fine.

Oct 12
Nixon nominates Gerald Ford, Republican Minority leader in the House of Representatives, as vice-president. At the same time, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld Judge Sirica’s ruling that Nixon should surrender tape recordings relevant to Watergate.

Around this time, Nixon’s own tax returns also come under investigation. Download Nixon tax returns for: 1969197019711972

  • Listen to Spiro Agnew attack the media.

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Oct 19
Nixon offers a compromise to the Senate Watergate Committee, proposing that the Democratic Senator from Mississippi, John Stennis, be permitted to listen to the tapes and prepare summaries for Special Prosecutor Cox.

Oct 20
Cox rejects the Stennis compromise. In a series of events that became known as the Saturday Night Massacre:

Nixon orders his Attorney-General, Elliot Richardson, to fire Archibald Cox. Richardson refuses and resigns in protest.

Nixon orders the deputy Attorney-General, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus refuses and is sacked.

Robert Bork, the Solicitor-General, now acting as Attorney-General, fires Cox. [In the 1980s, Bork becomes a controversial Reagan nominee to the Supreme Court. His nomination is rejected by the Senate.]

Oct 23
Under immense pressure, Nixon agrees to comply with the subpoena and releases some of the tapes.


November 1973

Nov 01
Leon Jaworski is named as the new Watergate Special Prosecutor.

Nov 17
During a press conference, Nixon defends his actions, urges the nation to put Watergate behind it and says “I’m not a crook.”

  • Listen to Nixon’s famous “I’m not a crook” statement.

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  • I’m not a crook – shorter version.

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Nov 21
A gap of 18 and a half minutes is discovered on the tape of the conversation between Nixon and Haldeman on June 20, 1972. Electronics experts report that the gap is the result of at least 5 separate erasures. Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, denies deliberately erasing the tape.


December 1973

Dec 07
White House Chief of Staff, Alexander Haig, says one theory is that “some sinister force” erased the 18 and a half minutes of tape.


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