The Watergate scandal still haunts Washington DC, even 50 years later

I was woken just after 2am by a scratching at the door. Immediately, I am alert. Is it Frank Sturgis, one of the burglars arrested in this same room on the night of June 17, 1972? Is this the ghost of John Mitchell, Richard Nixon’s disgraced former attorney general, searching for some ghostly trace of his lost career? Is it an incarnation after the death of the 37e The US President himself – doomed to haunt the halls of where his downfall began?

Obviously not. A murky investigation reveals another guest, a little less well for the evening, who is struggling to find his own room. But in a place like this, the mind can be feverish.

The Water Gate. Its name rings with harsh echoes of what happened within its walls half a century ago. Even now, after such a chasm of time, he stands out. It’s an austere, unmissable complex on the southwest side of downtown Washington DC — one that doesn’t so much adorn the eastern bank of the Potomac River as it seems menacingly lurking. You couldn’t describe its modernist mass as an eyesore. It’s too dramatic for that. But there’s something about it – perhaps its size, perhaps the sharp concrete “teeth” that guard its balconies, turning its facades into taut smiles – that grabs your gaze and doesn’t let go.

It was built between 1963 and 1971 – as a mixed proposal of residential, commercial and office spaces – according to plans by Italian architect Luigi Moretti. The response was positive. Aesthetically very different from quaint red-brick Georgetown, a half-mile to the northwest, it was chic, desirable — and soon a coveted address for heavy hitters in a city awash with them. His hotel opened in 1965 – another feather in a fashionable hat.

And it is here, of course, that the notoriety was born. Exactly 50 years ago today, the Watergate Hotel was the scene of a burglary that had ramifications far beyond what, in the summer of 1972, was room 214. Back then , it was an office used by officials of the Democratic Party. national committee. Just after midnight on June 17, five men were apprehended looting it. It was, in fact, the second such invasion; an offer to replace faulty wiretaps that had been planted three weeks earlier on May 28.

These bugs were there for the most infamous of political reasons – to glean secrets during an election year. Two years of investigations and recriminations would link the burglars to the Committee for the re-election of the President. Nixon was unaware of the initial scheme, which was concocted by some of the “White House Plumbers” – a covert ops unit that included former FBI student G. Gordon Liddy and former agents of the CIA Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt Jnr – but he was deeply complicit in the desperate attempts at cover-up. As the evidence came in and impeachment loomed, he resigned on August 8, 1974.

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