|Nixon's Watergate scandal|
In 1974, Richard Nixon gained the dubious distinction of having been the first U.S. President to resign before the end of his official term, making the Nixon administration the most disgraced one in American history.
By the middle of 1974, Nixon's presidency had already been tottering because of revelations of corruption and accusations of abuse of power stemming from the Watergate affair. And most of the damage had been self-inflicted. The previous July, it had been disclosed that Nixon had taped his office conversations. However when the court ordered him to surrender the recordings, Nixon stubbornly refused. That October, Nixon offered to give a summary of the tapes to special prosecutor Archibald Cox but Cox refused the offer, prompting the President to order Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Instead, both the Attorney General and his deputy resigned, leaving Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire the special prosecutor. The public was outraged by this blatant abuse of power.
Bowing to public outrage, Nixon gave in partially in November by handing over 7 out of the 9 subpoenaed tapes and claiming the other two did not exist. One of the tapes contained a suspicious 18-minute gap, supposedly the result of a technical slip-up by the tape's transcriber, Nixon's long-time secretary Rose Mary Woods. The tapes revealed the President to be foulmouthed, paranoid, cynical and occasionally anti-Semitic but contained no clear evidence of guilt.
Meanwhile, the Watergate investigation committee was investigating White House and Nixon campaign officials and televised hearings containing confessions and accusations of dozens of conspiracies, from money laundering to illegal wiretapping. And as 1974 progressed, more and more officials were convicted of Watergate-related charges, including former attorney general Richard Kleindienst and former presidential counsel John Dean. Congress began to draw up articles of impeachment. On August 5, Nixon was forced to release another set of tapes which clearly connected him to a cover-up of White House involvement in illegal activities.
On August 8, Nixon resigned and a terse note was delivered to Henry Kissinger the next day: "Dear Mr. Secretary of State, I hearby resign the office of President of the United States. Sincerely, Richard Nixon".