In the early morning of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC.
The break-in was originally labeled as a “third-rate burglary” by President Richard Nixon’s press secretary. Ultimately, reporters from multiple outlets, including CBS News, were able to trace the break-in and subsequent cover-up all the way to the Oval Office.
The United States Senate formed a subcommittee to investigate the Watergate affair and the House of Representatives was preparing to vote on an article of impeachment when Mr. Nixon resigned as president on August 9, 1974.
In the ensuing decade, 60 Minutes continued to report on Watergate. Below, you can view a collection of interviews 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace conducted with some of the characters central to the affair.
In June 1973, John Ehrlichman, the chief domestic affairs advisor to President Nixon, was interviewed by 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace about his role in and knowledge of the break-in at Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington and the ensuing cover-up.
Ehrlichman, who began working for Mr. Nixon in 1960, told Wallace about Watergate, “The White House had no interest, as such, in covering this thing up. It had no exposure.”
It turned out to be a lie.
Ehrlichman served 18 months in prison for obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and perjury related to his role in the Watergate scandal.
G. Gordon Liddy
G. Gordon Liddy was the man who conceived the bungled break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex rarely spoke to the press until 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace interviewed him in 1975.
The interview only took place after 60 Minutes agreed to meet certain conditions which Wallace stated at the top of his report: “Before Liddy would talk with us, he imposed, and we accepted, a condition: he would answer no question about Watergate he conceived to be substantive.”
Liddy was a former FBI agent, Army veteran, and served as counsel to the Committee to Reelect the President. He spent four years and four months in prison, including more than 100 days in solitary confinement, after being convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping for his role in the Watergate scandal.
After being released from prison Liddy remained scornful of people who cooperated with prosecutors and proud of his role in Watergate.
“Well, he’s evidently a very sick man, and I regret that,” Liddy said of Mr. Nixon to 60 Minutes in 1975. “I think he has demonstrated toward the end of his Presidency that he was insufficiently ruthless in that, in these domestic difficulties in which he was engaged, he did not act ruthlessly.”
Alexander Butterfield, a deputy assistant to President Nixon, stunned the nation in July 1973 when he testified before the Watergate Senate subcommittee that Mr. Nixon had tape recorded conversations in the White House. The recordings played a major role in Mr. Nixon’s impeachment and resignation.
Butterfield, a retired Air Force colonel, told 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace in 1975 that he knew of the devices because he was the White House intermediatory who told the Secret Service to install the recorders inside the Oval Office at the behest of Mr. Nixon.
In an interview with 60 Minutes Butterfield told Wallace he had “never had any regrets” about his testimony or role related to the Watergate investigation.
“I said before the Judiciary that nothing happened at that White House, and I do mean nothing, without the president’s knowledge,” Butterfield told 60 Minutes. “And I think for something of that magnitude to have been scheduled as a break-in of the Democratic headquarters, of course, the president had to know about it.”
In July 1974, the day after the United States House Judiciary Committee voted to send an article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon to the full House, 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace interviewed the president’s chief of staff Gen. Alexander Haig.
“I am confident that if the members of the House assess the charges against the president, against the litmus test of hard evidence, they’re going to find that the evidence is not there to sustain the kind of charges that are before that committee,” Haig told Wallace.
Mr. Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, before the full U.S. House of Representatives could vote on his impeachment.
Egil Krogh served in multiple formal roles during the Nixon administration but his most well-known position was as the head of the White House Plumbers, a team tasked by Mr. Nixon in 1971 as a covert operation to plug security leaks.
Krogh official titles included Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs and Under Secretary of Transportation. He resigned from the administration in 1973 for his role in the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Ellsberg was the whistleblower who revealed the existence of the Pentagon Papers.
Krogh was a lawyer and associate who was brought into the White House by John Ehrlichman. He worked with fellow White House Plumbers G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt on the break-in of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office that preceded Watergate. Hunt and Liddy organized the wiretapping and break-in of the Democratic Committee offices at the Watergate complex.
Krogh testified before the Watergate Senate subcommittee despite not having any formal involvement in the burglary.
In 1974, less than two weeks before he was due to report to prison for the Ellsberg break-in, Krogh was interviewed by 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace.
“I had been repeatedly instructed by Mr. Ehrlichman in 1972 and also in 1971 that all of the activities of the plumbers were to be impressed with the highest national security classification and I was to discuss it with no one,” Krogh told Wallace. “I didn’t. In retrospect, I feel very strongly we would all be much better off if: right at the moment something took place that was wrong, it was exposed; the people involved were investigated; if necessary, prosecuted; and if appropriate, convicted. We’d all be much better off. The cover-up, to me, if that’s in fact what has taken place, has really been the main factor, I think, in bringing so much unhappiness to the country.”
Later in his life, Krogh would go on to teach and lecture on ethics and served as a Senior Fellow at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, D.C.
Donald Segretti was a California lawyer who worked as a political saboteur in the lead-up to the 1972 presidential election, to help Richard Nixon retain the White House
The Watergate investigation revealed the Segretti’s antics were paid for out of a secret fund overseen by Mr. Nixon’s personal attorney, Herbert Kalmbach.
In 1974, 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace interviewed Segretti about his role in Watergate and his relationship with White House counsel John Dean.
“It was an Alice-in-Wonderland world I was living in,” Segretti told Wallace about his previous work. “And I’m really happy it’s over with, and I’m out of that.”
Segretti served four and a half months in prison after confessing to a laundry list of dirty tricks designed to sabotage the campaigns of Democratic Presidential contenders in 1972.
On Friday, June 17 (9:00 p.m. ET/PT), 50 years to the day after the Watergate burglary, CBS will debut a new two-hour documentary that takes viewers inside the extraordinary story of crime and scandal that took down President Richard Nixon. The documentary will also stream on Paramount+.